“It has the scent of violets, the taste of olive oil and a colour which tinges food like saffron but is more attractive”
– Ca’da Mosto, a 15th century explorer on discovering palm oil.

Sounds pretty seductive, eh? I ripped that from a pro palm oil website.

Today’s soap:

360g olive oil
240g coconut oil
180g palm oil
30g cocoa butter
243g water
115g lye

It’s been sitting in a lunchbox mold for a while now and looks stunning: creamy, dense, smells very nice indeed, which is rather a shame, because I now feel like I’m probably not going to use palm oil again. I was a bit conflicted about using this oil at all (what if I love it? then I’ll want to keep buying it, rainforests be damned!) but it is, you know, here already, might as well give it a whirl, it doesn’t mean I have a problem, I can stop anytime. Anytime!

I read a lot – a LOT – of recipes for soap that include palm oil for its sudsy, but not drying, and bar hardening qualities, but also increasing amounts of anti palm oil sentiments, which I guess is due to the environmental concerns surrounding the production of palm oil, where it has often been the case that vast tracts of rainforest are torched so as to make room for palm plantations for oil production for use in fuels, soap and food. Some of the oil suppliers I looked at offer “sustainable” palm oil, and if it is indeed produced in a sustainable way, that must be a good alternative if you feel you simply can’t go on without it.

Lush has decided to go palm oil free, releasing this neat little press release which contains this odd line:

“Lush has teamed up with a small soap specialist in the UK to develop what is claimed to be the world’s first palm oil-free soap base.”

Hopefully that’s bad writing, not delusion, because you know, there’s a lot of soap out there without palm oil in it (so maybe they mean commercially available, in the vast quantities that Lush requires).

Lush is a funny thing though, isn’t it? I like Lush, let it be said, in fact I just bought a shampoo bar and some shower gel from them this week (the shampoo is for my poor scalp, and gel is for the husband for Xmas)(snow fairy! it’s the bright pink plus sparkles one that I bought for myself years ago but he is crazy for it, claiming it smells like hockey card bubblegum)(don’t tell anyone though, alright?), and of course their bath bombs are quite magnificent, but I’ve been slobbering all over their catalogue and two things caught my eye. First, they use a lot of seriously premium oils for perfuming: rose and jasmine at least, in a quite a few products and that stuff is expensive. Far too expensive for the home soaper to use, and frankly the thought of using rose oil (rose oil!) in my soap makes me feel a little bit like throwing up, because I make cold process soap and the saponification process would eat up that attar and spit it out, and I’d have spent hundreds! of dollars for nothing…but you know what…*lightbulb!*I reckon Lush mills or rebatches soap to get those awesome fragrances. I think that’s how you’d get the scent, without it being cooked off. Milling is when you take a soap, and grate it or grind it, heat it up a bit, adding scent and other goodies, and remolding it. It’s a way of making soap if you’re not into the bubbling cauldrons and lye hazards of cold and hot process soap (and isn’t actually soap making in my opinion)(maybe soap crafting) but you’d like to make something a bit nicer than shop soap. Now, where was I? Oh yes….the super expensive oils. I was going to say something about all their products being overpriced to cover the cost of these very expensive ingredients, so you might as well buy the ones with rose in them.

The other thing is that Lush makes a lot of noise in their advertising about their ingredients list. Compare it to other soaps, they invite, you’ll be amazed, etc:


Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Perfume, Sodium Stearate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Titanium Dioxide, Benzoin Resinoid (Styrax Benzoin), Rose Absolute (Rosa centifolia), Cassie Absolute (Acacia farnesiana), Glycerine, Sodium Chloride, EDTA, Tetrasodium Editronate, Benzyl Benzoate.

Holy sodium lauryl sulfate, batman! That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Looks like there’s some palm oil deriviatives in there, as well as our old friend sodium lauryl sulfate, which hippies don’t like. So while I acknowledge that Lush do say “…see the difference between Lush soap and your average bar..” and I know they mean your average supermarket bar, it still makes me chortle. You can do way better at home, yourself, although you’ll have to live without the rose and jasmine absolutes.

While searching for marzipan scent (which I found! hurrah!), I saw someone looking for chardonnay flavour oil on a forum. Ew! What on earth could it be for? Lip balm? For that it’s-nine-o’clock-and-I’ve-already-had-a-drink scent and flavour?

Palm Oil Action