Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Derived Ingredients

What Is It?

Numerous ingredients derived from the palm tree ( Elaeis guineensis) are used in cosmetics and personal care products, including Elaies guineensis (palm) oil, Elaies guineensis (palm) kernel oil, hydrogenated palm oil, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and other fatty acid oils (see additional details in “Safety” tab).

Why Is It Used?

Oils derived from edible vegetables, fruits, seeds, tree and ground nuts have been safely consumed by and applied to the skin of humans for thousands of years.

Elaeis guineensis (palm) oil, Elaies guineensis (palm) oil, hydrogenated palm oil and hydrogenated palm kernel oil are primarily used as occlusive skin conditioning agents. The hydrogenated palm oil ingredients may also be used as nonaqueos viscosity increasing agents.

Scientific Facts

Crude palm oil is one of the richest natural sources of beta carotene, which gives crude the oil a deep red color. During the refining process, beta carotenes are completely removed from palm oil. Palm oil is used mainly for the manufacture of cooking fats and margarine.

Safety Information

United States

Expert Panel

The safety of palm oils and palm-derived fatty acid oils have been assessed by the Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety (formerly the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel) on several occasions. In 2000, the Expert Panel evaluated available scientific data and concluded that Elaeis guineensis (palm) oil, Elaeis guineensis (palm) kernel oil, hydrogenated palm oil and hydrogenated palm kernel oil are safe as used in cosmetics and personal care products.

In 2017, the Expert Panel assessed the safety of 244 plant-derived fatty acid oils, including additional Elaeis guineensis palm-derived ingredients, as used in cosmetics and personal care products, concluding that the following 15 ingredients are also safe as used at current concentrations:

Elaeis guineensis (palm) oil Elaeis guineensis (palm) butter* Sodium palm kernelate
Elaeis guineensis (palm) kernel oil Palm kernel acid Sodium palmate
Hydrogenated palm kernel oil Potassium palm kernelate Sodium hydrogenated palmate
Elaeis (palm) fruit oil* Potassium palmate Palm acid hydrogenated palm acid
Hydrogenated palm oil Potassium hydrogenated palmate Sodium palm kernelate

* Ingredients not in current use. Were these ingredients to be used in the future, the expectation is that they would be used in product categories and concentrations comparable to others in this group.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers “cocoa butter substitute primarily from palm oil” Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use as a direct food additive (21CFR184.1259; 21CFR172.861). Palm oil is also permitted to be added directly to food and is on the list of indirect food additives allowed to be used in paper and paperboard that comes into contact with food (21CFR176.210).

European Union (EU)

All of the palm oil ingredients reviewed by the Expert Panel are marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union and used as occlusive skin conditioning agents in cosmetics.


Although a large number of oils derived from the Elaeis guineensis palm were included in the Expert Panel’s safety assessments, they all are mixtures of triglycerides that contain fatty acids and fatty acid derivatives, the safety of which has been established in cosmetics and personal care products. Thus, the Expert Panel safety assessments discussed above focused on the basic chemistry, manufacturing and production methods, uses, and irritation and sensitization potential of these oils. Although nuts, fruits and vegetables themselves may cause allergic reactions in certain individuals, the refined oils derived from these plants generally pose no significant safety concern and their general biology is well characterized due to extensive use in food materials.

The Expert Panel expressed concern about potential pesticide residues, heavy metals and other plant species that may be present in botanical ingredients. They stressed that the cosmetics industry should continue to use current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs) to limit impurities.

In addition, because final product formulations may contain multiple botanicals, each possibly containing similar constituents of concern, formulators were advised to avoid reaching levels of plant constituents that may cause sensitization or other adverse health effects.

Link to more safety information on botanical ingredients.


Find out more about the regulation of food additives by the FDA:

Search the Code of Federal Regulations

EU Cosmetics Inventory

Expert Panel for Cosmetic Ingredient Safety