Palm Oil – The High Cost of Beauty

Female palm oil workers, Author benkataro, Source Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Generic)

Palm oil is the most popular vegetable oil on earth, widely touted for its health and beauty benefits.

Palm oil is used in such everyday products as lipstick, shampoo, ice cream, chocolate, margarine, instant noodles, and pizza dough [1][2]. Claims are made that palm oil can prevent cancer, stem heart disease, treat dementia, slow aging, and aid weight loss [3].

The uncontrolled clearing of rain forests for palm oil plantations has led to a significant loss in these bio-diverse habitats.  Now, an investigation by the Associated Press has confirmed that the mistreatment of female palm oil workers in Malaysia and Indonesia is commonplace [4A]:

  • Many women work without pay to help their husbands or fathers meet unrealistic daily quotas.
  • Women routinely perform some of the industry’s most physically taxing jobs, sometimes carrying loads so heavy they can cause uterine collapse. Infertility, miscarriages, and stillbirths are the result.
  • Women, also, spray dangerous pesticides without protective gear. Activists say some have lost their sight, as a consequence.
  • Added to this, women frequently face sexual harassment. This can range from suggestive comments to outright rape.  In fear for their jobs, victims rarely report such abusive interactions.  Families may actually force victims to marry their rapists, if a pregnancy occurs.

Palm oil from the plantations where such violations occur has been reliably traced to the supply chains of L’Oréal, Avon, Procter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson, among others [4B].

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us…” (Ps. 90: 17).

Most of us do not give much thought to such supply chains.  We go about our daily lives, and take for granted the work others do for us.  But God sees their sacrifice and their suffering, even if we do not.

His affirmation to abuse victims everywhere is that they are beautiful and valuable in His sight.

[1]  World Wildlife Federation, “Which Everyday Products Contain Palm Oil?”,

[2]  Ethical Consumer, “Brands and Companies that use Palm Oil”, 3/28/19,

[3]  Web MD, “Palm Oil”,

[4A and 4B]  Associated Press, “Rape, abuses in palm oil fields linked to top beauty brands”, 11/18/20,



Filed under Abuse of Power, Christianity, Rape, Religion, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women

30 responses to “Palm Oil – The High Cost of Beauty

  1. Petrina

    Thank you for sharing this important info. Many of us do not realize or think of other’s toil and suffering to provide the things we use nearly every day and take for granted.

  2. It appears that one’s vanity is often linked to another’s suffering. We should use some of our vain time considering our actions.

  3. As the giants says there is no exploitation in their supply chain but in reality there is nothing sustainable about palm oil that is produced using child labour and forced labour.

  4. Allan Halton

    Something else I’ve known nothing about! Thanks, Anna. I long for the Day when the Lord comes to judge the earth, and all the mountains and hills break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field clap their hands.

  5. Very important info, there are a lot of people who doesn´t know about it.

  6. I really enjoyed this article Anna it’s well researched and well written. It’s all true about palm oil as you say, there is a huge human cost in the things we make. There is also a massive cost to the animals of the forests as well, which is the focus of my website, if you would like to have a look. I’m following you now, you have a great website, take care

  7. Thank you for sharing this tragic situation. I like, many, did not realize or think of the pain, terrible working conditions and suffering to provide the things we use daily. Things that we all take for granted. I was not aware such places still existed.

  8. theburningheart

    Unfortunately, corporate companies around the World, use not only for palm oil, but for many other jobs, cheap labor, where the worker has no protection, or rights, of any kind, and where their life, and health is in danger, and get paid low salaries, even for the average low cost of living, on their country, exploitations wages, abuse, and criminal exposure to chemicals, and other dangers are the norm, rather than the exception, and the reason most companies prefer to work abroad, no regulations, of any kind, and cheap labor, maximize their profits, and that’s all they care. 😦

    • Dear Anna and theburningheart,

      I concur with both of you. Such flagrant disregards for human rights, gender equality and environmental justice are really alarming and deplorable, and should be condemned by the United Nations and other related organizations and agencies.

      Thank you, theburningheart, for your comment, and Anna, for your care and effort in raising those issues on your blog.

      Happy Easter!

  9. Francisco Bravo Cabrera

    Again, our western (superior) culture plundering and destroying the Third World. It’s not bad enough that we’ve created the Third World, now we’re making sure they never progress or develop. How little we really value human life. Capitalism, or Super Capitalism, as it now exists, is a major destructive force that kneels only to their god, money!

    Incredible! But a great post that brings to light these crimes against humanity.

    Thank you! All the best my friend,

    • “How little we really value human life.” That captures the sentiment precisely, Francisco. Our own convenience governs. We have returned to the Social Darwinism of the 19th Century, a self-interested capitalism on steroids — the welfare of others be damned.

  10. There is so much truth behind all this.. Many wouldn’t even think that this much is there at stake.. Thanks for sharing this info.

  11. Indeed.
    How will humankind collectively survive when so many of us, as individuals, figuratively shrug our shoulders when it comes to relinquishing our personal superfluous consumptions (e.g. gratuitous palm oil products) that contribute to environmental and human-landscape destruction?

  12. I love seeing the many ways we can fight injustice (e.g. posts like this one). You might want to check your link connection on WP bc I could not tap into your site through the link by a comment you’d left. I hit a dead-end and had to Google your blog.

  13. So sad thanks for bringing this to public attention

  14. You really uncovered something very important with this.

  15. I just read about it, I had only a faint idea about the suffering but after reading it I feel that not only the beauty industry but us as consumers have a lot to account for!

    Thank you for bringing the issue to light.

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