Palm oil is a common ingredient in many household products, but it often hides under a complex web of names.

Palm Oil Undercover: A Guide to Hidden Ingredients

Palm oil is a common ingredient in many household products, but it often hides under a complex web of names.

This can make it tricky for consumers who want to avoid it due to environmental concerns. Here's a breakdown of why palm oil is bad and how to identify it in the ingredient list:

Why Palm Oil is Bad

  • Deforestation: Palm oil production is a major driver of deforestation in Southeast Asia, destroying critical habitat for endangered species like orangutans and elephants.
    • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Clearing forests for palm plantations releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

      Identifying Palm Oil in Ingredients

      The following list includes some of the most common names for palm oil derivatives. If you see any of these on a product label, there's a good chance it contains palm oil:

      • Fatty Acid Derivatives: Look for terms like "palmitate," "laurate," or "stearate" - these could indicate palm.
        • Emulsifiers and Surfactants: Ingredients with "cetearyl," "ceteareth," or "PEG" might be palm-derived.
          • Alcohols: "Cetyl alcohol" or "stearyl alcohol" can have palm origins.

            Beyond the List:

            Unfortunately, the list isn't exhaustive. Some palm oil derivatives have complex chemical names or "E numbers" (used in Europe).

            Tips for Palm-Free Shopping:

            • Download Label-Scanning Apps: These apps can decipher ingredient lists, highlighting potential palm oil derivatives.
              • Seek Out Palm-Free Certifications: Look for labels with certifications like "RSPO Palm Free" to ensure no palm was used.
                • Contact the Manufacturer: If you're unsure, reach out to the brand directly to inquire about palm oil usage.

                  By being aware of these hidden ingredients, you can make informed choices about the products you buy and help reduce the demand for palm oil.

                  Click Here to Watch "Palm oil: buy or boycott?"

                  In the meantime, here are some alternative names for palm oil derivatives.
                  Below are some examples of how palm oil may be referred to on packaging (from

                  This doesn't mean that all these ingredients are definitely palm oil, (for instance E471 may be palm oil, coconut oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil or canola oil), but they could be.

                  The list is from the Orangutan Alliance. 

                  Acetic and fatty acid esters of glycerol (472a/E472a)

                  Acetylated Monoglycerides

                  Alkylamidopropyl betaine

                  Alkyl alcohol

                  Alkyl betaine

                  Alkyl ether sulfate

                  Alkyl Polyglucoside

                  Aluminum Myristates/Palmitates

                  Aluminium stearate

                  Aluminium, calcium, sodium, magnesium salts of fatty acids (470/E470a; E470b)

                  Amidopropyl betaine

                  Ammonium laureth sulphate

                  Ammonium lauryl sulphate

                  Amphoteric surfactant

                  Anionic surfactant


                  Arachamide mea

                  Ascorbyl palmitate (304)

                  Ascorbyl stearate

                  Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate (vitamin C)

                  Azelaic acid

                  Beta Carotene

                  Behentrimonium Methosulfate


                  Butyl Myristate

                  Butyl stearate

                  Calcium lactylate

                  Calcium Myristate

                  Calcium oleyl lactylate

                  Calcium stearate

                  Calcium stearoyl lactylate


                  Capric triglyceride

                  Caprylic acid

                  Caprylic / Capric Glycerides

                  Caprylic triglyceride

                  Caprylic/capric triglyceride

                  Caprylic/capric/stearic triglyceride

                  Capryloyl glycine

                  Caprylyl glycol

                  Carboxylic acid soap

                  Carotene (Sometimes made from palm)

                  Castile soap (often from palm)

                  Castor Isostearate Beeswax Succinate

                  Ceteareth (2-100)

                  Ceteareth mbsfl laurethulanate 

                  Ceteareth mbhe laurethulanate

                  Cetearyl alcohol

                  Cetearyl ethylhexanote

                  Cetearyl glucoside

                  Cetearyl isononanoate

                  Cetearyl and Sorbitan Olivate



                  Cetostearyl Alcohol

                  Cetrimonium Bromide

                  Cetremonium Chloride

                  Cetyl acetate

                  Cetyl alcohol

                  Cetyl chloride

                  Cetyl ethylhexanoate

                  Cetyl hydroxyethylcellulose

                  Cetyl lactate

                  Cetyl Myristate

                  Cetyl octanoate

                  Cetyl palmitate

                  Cetylpyridinium chloride

                  Cetyl ricinoleate

                  Cetyltrimethylammonium bromide

                  Cetyltrimethylammonium chloride

                  Citric and fatty acid esters of glycerol

                  Cocoa butter equivalent (CBE)

                  Cocoa butter substitute (CBS)

                  Cocamide DEA

                  Cocamide MEA

                  Cocamidopropyl betaine



                  Coco Polyglucose

                  Cocoyl Sarcosine

                  Conditioning emulsifier

                  Decyl Glucoside

                  Decyl Myristate

                  Decyl oleate

                  Diacetyltartaric acid esters of monoglycerides

                  Diacetyltartaric and fatty acid esters of glycerol

                  Dicaprylyl ether

                  Dicocoylethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate

                  Dihydroxystearic acid

                  Diisostearyl Malate

                  Dilinoleic acid

                  Dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate

                  Di-ppg-2 myreth-10 adipate?

                  Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate

                  Disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate

                  Distilled Monoglyceride Palm


                  Elaeis guineensis

                  Emulsifiers: E304, E422, E430, E431, E432, E433, E434, E435, E436, E470, E470a, E470b, E471, E472, E472a, E472b, E472c, E472e, E472f, E473, E474, E475, E476, E477, E478, E479, E480, E481, E482, E483, E493, E494, E495

                  Emulsifying wax

                  Epoxidized palm oil (uv cured coatings)


                  Esters of Myristic Acid

                  Ethoxylated Lauryl Alcohol

                  Ethoxylated Monoglycerides

                  Ethoxylated SMS

                  Ethoxylated SMO

                  Ethoxylated STS

                  Ethyl lauroyl arginate (243)

                  Ethyl myristate

                  Ethyl palmitate

                  Ethylene glycol diesters

                  Ethylene glycol monoesters

                  Ethylene glycol monostearate

                  Ethyl hexyl Esters-2


                  Ethylhexyl hydroxystearate

                  Ethylhexyl Isononanoate

                  Ethylhexyl Myristate

                  Ethylhexyl Palminate

                  Ethylhexyl palmitate

                  Ethylhexyl stearate


                  Etyl Palmitate

                  Fatty acids

                  Fatty acid methyl esters (FAME)

                  Fatty alcohol alkoxylate

                  Fatty alcohol sulphates

                  Fatty amines

                  Fatty isethionate

                  FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil

                  Fractionated Palm Oil


                  Glycerin or glycerol (442)

                  Glycerol esters

                  Glyceryl cocoate

                  Glyceryl dioleate

                  Glyceryl Dimyristate

                  Glyceryl distearate

                  Glyceryl laurate

                  Glyceryl Linoleate

                  Glyceryl monostearate

                  Glyceryl myristate

                  Glyceryl oleate

                  Glyceryl polymethacrylate

                  Glyceryl Rosinate

                  Glyceryl stearate

                  Glyceryl stearate SE

                  Glycol distearate

                  Glycol stearate

                  Guineesis (palm)

                  Hexadecanoic acid


                  Hexyl laurate


                  Humectant 422

                  Humectant glycerol

                  Hydrated palm glycerides

                  Hydrogenated palm glycerides

                  Hydroxy Stearic Linolenic

                  Isoamyl Laurate

                  Isobutyl Myristate

                  Isocetyl alcohol

                  Isocetyl Myristate

                  Isocetyl stearate

                  Isodecyl Myristate

                  Isodecyl oleate

                  Isononyl Isononanoate

                  Isopropyl esters

                  Isopropyl isostearate

                  Isopropyl Myristate

                  Isopropyl palmitate

                  Isopropyl titanium triisostearate

                  Isostearamide DEA

                  Isostearate DEA

                  Isostearic acid

                  Isostearyl alcohol

                  Isostearyl Hydroxystearate

                  Isostearyl isostearate

                  Isostearyl Myristate

                  Isostearyl neopentanoate

                  Isotridecyl Myristate

                  Lactic and fatty acid easters of glycerol

                  Lactylated Monoglycerides

                  Lauramide DEA

                  Lauramide MEA

                  Lauramine oxide

                  Laureth (Laureth-1, Laureth-2, Laureth-3, Laureth-5, Laureth-6, Laureth-7, Laureth-8, Laureth-9, Laureth-10, Laureth-11, Laureth-12, Laureth-13, Laureth-14, Laureth-15, Laureth-16, Laureth-20, Laureth-21, Laureth-25, Laureth-30, Laureth-38, Laureth-40, Laureth-50)

                  Lauric acid

                  Lauroyl Lactylate

                  Lauroyl Lysine

                  Lauroyl sarcosine

                  Lauryl Alcohol

                  Lauryl Alcohol Ethoxylates

                  Lauryl betaine

                  Lauryl dimonium hydrolysed collagen

                  Lauryl lactate

                  Lauryl glucoside (from palm)

                  Lauryl Myristate

                  Lauryl pyrrolidone

                  Lauryl Sarcosine


                  Lecithin Isopropyl Palm Oil

                  Levulinic Acid

                  Linoleic acid

                  Magnesium myristate

                  Magnesium stearate

                  Metallic salts of lactylic esters of fatty acids

                  Methyl Myristate

                  Mixed tartaric, acetic and fatty acid esters of glycerol

                  Mono and di-glycerides of fatty acids

                  Mono glycerides of fatty acids

                  Monoglyceride citrate


                  Myreth 3 Myrisrate


                  Myristic acid

                  Myristic Cetrimonium Chloride Acid


                  Myristyl myristate

                  Myristoyl Sarcosine

                  Myristoyl Sarcosinate

                  Myristyl alcohol

                  Myristyl myristate

                  N-Butyl Esters

                  Nonionic surfactant

                  Octadecanoic acid

                  Octyl palmitate

                  Octyl stearate


                  Octyldodecyl myristate

                  Octydodecyl stearate

                  Octyldodecyl stearoyl stearate

                  Oleamide MIPA

                  Oleic acid

                  Oleyl betaine

                  Oleyl Myristate

                  Oleoyl Sarcosine

                  Olivem 1000


                  Oliv-wax LQC

                  OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil


                  Palm fruit oil

                  Palmitoleic acid

                  Palm kernel amidopropyl amine oixde

                  Palm kernel amidopropyl betaine?

                  Palm kernel cake

                  Palm Kernel Diethanolamide 

                  Palm kernel oil

                  Palm Kernel Olein

                  Palm Kernel Stearin

                  Palm oil

                  Palm olein oil

                  Palm stearine



                  Palmitamidopropyl betaine

                  Palmitamidopropyltrimonium chloride

                  Palmitic acid

                  Palmitoyl acid

                  Palmitoyl alcohol

                  Palmitoyl myristyl serinate

                  Palm oleic acid

                  Palmitoyl oligopeptide

                  Palmitoyl oxostearamide

                  Palmitoyl tetrapeptide

                  Palmitoleic acid

                  Palm Methyl Ester

                  PBS Base




                  Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil

                  PEG-150 Distearate

                  Pentaerythritol tetra caprai caprylate

                  Pentaerythrityl tetracaprylate/tetracaprate

                  Pentaerythrityl tetraisostearate

                  Peptide complex

                  PG dicaprylate/caprate

                  PHPKO – Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil

                  PKO – Palm Kernel Oil

                  PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein

                  PK oleic acid

                  Planta cleanse

                  Polyaminopropyl biguanide stearate

                  Polyethylene (40) stearate (431)


                  Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids

                  Polyglycerol esters of interesterified ricinoleic acid

                  Polyglycerol-2 oleyl ether

                  Polyglyceryl-3 dilisostearate

                  Polyglyceryl-3 Palmitate?

                  Polyglyceryl-4 isostearate

                  Polyglyceryl-4 laurate

                  Polyglyceryl-4 oleyl ether

                  Polyglyceryl-10 heptahydroxystearate

                  Polyhydroxystearic Acid

                  Polysorbate 60 or polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate

                  Polysorbate 65 or polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan tristearate

                  Polysorbate 80 or polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monoolate







                  Potassium Cetyl Phosphate

                  Potassium Myristate

                  Potassium stearate

                  Propanediol dicaprylate

                  Propylene Glycol Alginate

                  Propylene glycol esters of fatty acids

                  Propylene glycol laurate

                  Propylene glycol monoester

                  Propylene Glycol Myristate

                  Propylene glycol stearate

                  Retinyl palmitate

                  Saponified elaeis guineensis

                  Saturated Fatty acid




                  sodium alkyl sulfate

                  Sodium cetearyl sulphate

                  Sodium cocoyl glutamate

                  sodium cocoyl glycinate

                  Sodium cocoyl isethionate

                  Sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate

                  Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)

                  Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye

                  Sodium lactylate; sodium oleyl lactylate; sodium stearoyl lactylate

                  Sodium laurate

                  Sodium laurel

                  Sodium laureth sulfate

                  Sodium laureth sulphate

                  Sodium laureth – 1 sulphate

                  Sodium laureth – 2 sulphate

                  Sodium laureth – 3 sulphate

                  Sodium laureth-13 carboxylate

                  Sodium lauroamphoacetate

                  Sodium lauroyl lactylate

                  Sodium lauryl

                  Sodium lauryl ether sulphate

                  Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate

                  Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate

                  Sodium lauryl sulfate

                  Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate

                  Sodium lauryl sulphate

                  Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate

                  Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate

                  Sodium Myristate

                  Sodium palm kernelate

                  Sodium palm kerneloyl isethionate

                  Sodium palmate

                  Sodium palmitate

                  Sodium polyarylsulfonate

                  Sodium stearate

                  Sodium stearoyl Fumarate

                  Sodium stearoyl glutamate

                  Sodium stearoyl lactylate

                  Sodium Trideceth sulphate

                  Solubiliser PS20

                  Sorbitan Caprylate

                  Sorbitan Cocoate

                  Sorbitan Diisostearate

                  Sorbitan Distearate

                  Sorbitan ester

                  Sorbitan isotearate

                  Sorbitan laurate

                  Sorbitan monoglyceride

                  Sorbitan monolaurate

                  Sorbitan monopalmitate

                  Sorbitan monostearate (491)

                  Sorbitan oleate

                  Sorbitan olivate

                  Sorbitan palmitate

                  Sorbitan sesquioleate

                  Sorbitan trioleate

                  Sorbitan tristearate

                  Sorbitan tristearate (492)

                  Sorbitan triglyceride

                  Stearalkonium bentonite

                  Stearalkonium chloride

                  Stearalkonium hectorite

                  Stearamide MEA

                  Stearamidopropyl dimethylamine






                  Stearic acid

                  Stearic acid or fatty acid (570)

                  Stearoyl sarcosine

                  Stearyl alcohol

                  Stearyl dimethicone

                  Stearyl heptanoate

                  Stearyl Stearoyl Stearate

                  Stearyl tartarate

                  Stearyltrimethylammonium Chloride

                  Stearoyl lactic acid

                  Stearoyl Sarcosine

                  Steartrimonium chloride

                  Succinylated monoglycerides

                  Sucrose esters of fatty acids

                  Sucrose stearate

                  Sucroseesters of fatty acids

                  Sulphonated Methyl Esters

                  Surfactant CCG


                  TEA-lauryl sulphate


                  Tetradecyloctadecyl Myristate

                  TMP esters

                  Tocotrienols (Vitamin E)

                  Tocopherols (Vitamin E)

                  Tocopheryl linoleate


                  Triacetin (1518)



                  Tricaprylyl Citrate

                  Tridecyl Myristate

                  Trifluoroacetyl Tripeptide-2

                  Triisostearoyl polyglyceryl-3 dimer dilinoleate



                  Vegetable emulsifier

                  Vegetable glycerin

                  Vegetable Oil

                  Vitamin A palmitate

                  Vitamin C Ester

                  Yeast with 491

                  Zinc Myristate

                  Zinc stearate 

                  Obvs Skincare avoids palm oil because of its environmental impact. Palm oil production can lead to deforestation and endangerment of wildlife. Obvs chooses to use alternative ingredients that are more sustainable.


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