Unmasked: Make-up’s Big Secret – BBC Stories

What helps make our lip gloss
shiny and colourful, our face cream soft
and our foundation smooth? In many cases, it’s palm oil. It’s in 70% of beauty products. Some people say it should be banned.
But why? It’s just, like, mountains,
literally everywhere. My name’s Emmy, I’m 28
and I’m make-up artist. And I’m going to the other side
of the world to see where palm oil
comes from. People don’t want you to know
the real story, and that’s very obvious. Nobody sees this. We don’t appreciate
kind of what goes into… ..putting things on our face
or what we use to, like, wash with. This side of it should be
shown more. It’s tearing down
the world’s rainforests
and destroying people’s homes. There’s no hope for the future
for them. That’s it for him and his family. I want to know if there’s
a better way to make my make-up. I grew up here in Frome. I went to school and college
and now I run my own beauty salon. Oh! I just fell over! Sorry. I use quite a wide range of brands. I’m going to be using
some liquid foundations, eh, a lot of highlighters. We’re going to be kind of
looking at more of a radiant look. I remember being young
and looking at my mum in the mirror, watching her do her make-up,
and just copying, you know. It’s amazing.
What would we do without it, really? If you’ve got a spot, cover it up. Just relax your lip. Open.
That’s it. I don’t know what
I would do without mascara. Oh! I was on a desert island,
that’s one thing I would take cos I’d look like a mole! Make-up is a massive part
of my life. It can transform you, it can
make you feel good about yourself and it’s creative. I’ve really noticed
more and more of my clients asking if the products I use
are cruelty free and what they’re made of. I’ve tried to ethically
source a good brand for our salon that is cruelty free and vegan. It’s becoming so much more, erm… ..asked about. Is it? Yeah. Do you know that palm oil’s
in so many products? Mostly in things like lipsticks
and more oilier products, so foundations probably, mostly. There’s a human in my forest
and I don’t know what to do. Last year, palm oil made the
headlines after this Iceland advert was banned from being shown on TV. The supermarket decided
to stop using palm oil in its own label products. It’s in foods like peanut butter,
biscuits and instant noodles. And what interests me the most is
that it’s also in 70% of cosmetics. So should I give up all my make-up,
or is there a better way? It’s quite hard because
there’s quite a few things that, eh, I’d like to take. Erm, and obviously
it’s hard to know if there’s palm oil
actually in them. I did a bit of research about that. And it’s really hard to find out
if it’s in it because it’s hidden under
so many different names. So it just makes it
so hard to be able to know if it’s definitely in it or not. We approached loads of cosmetics
companies to be in this film. Only one agreed to take part. Palm oil,
if it’s done in the right way, is definitely the best solution. But under the condition
that it is done in a sustainable and responsible way. Palm oil,
if it’s done in the right way, is definitely the best solution. It was a huge surprise for me
to hear that. I’m heading to Papua New Guinea to
find out where palm oil comes from. Excited! And how we can make it
more sustainably. I’ve never flown further
than Europe before. So this is a huge adventure for me. Just like, so many new palms
that have been planted. A huge area. Huge, huge area. And here’s the thing. Palm is actually
the most productive oil around. For the same amount of sunflower
or coconut oil, which are the main alternatives, you need up to ten times more land
than for palm. So why does palm oil
have such a bad reputation? Despite being so productive,
the main reason is deforestation. It’s said to have been responsible
for the loss of 8% of the world’s forests
between 1990 and 2008. Papua New Guinea is home
to the third-largest rainforest in the world,
after the Amazon the Congo Basin. This is one of the largest
palm oil plantations in the country. To make way for it, the forest has
been cut down huge chunks at a time. Nobody sees this. We don’t appreciate
kind of what goes into… ..putting things on our face. Love me. I love. What we use to, like,
wash with and… This side of it
should be shown more. I just feel sad. I just feel upset. I just feel sorry. Come on! You know, the wildlife,
the people…’s all changing. A long, hot, bumpy drive
into this massive plantation and I started to hear from people
saying their lives had suffered because of palm oil. These people signed an agreement
with a big oil company. In return for leasing their land,
they were promised a lump sum of cash, improved homes
and a better school. Hello. Emmy. Emmy, OK.
Nice to meet you. Someone from the company come in,
promised… This village elder told me
they haven’t received the full money they are owed
and the housing and school
haven’t materialised. Bewani Oil Palm Plantations told us it had paid the right money
to various landowner companies, but it was up to them
how they distribute the monies. The company also said
it had invested in housing
and schools in the area. Around the plantation
I saw constant reminders of what we’re doing to the forest. In other areas we filmed,
children were working barefoot
on the plantations. There is no rules for children or
anything. They have to bring children here to
work in the palms so they will have money. We also met others,
some clearly very sick. Bewani Oil Palm isn’t a certified
sustainable plantation. It told us it acted legally
and did not allow child labour. It said the area
had been neglected for decades, but it had brought jobs and benefits and was committed to addressing
all the needs of the villagers. We used to live by the forest.
The forest was our source of food. It was just like our supermarket. But now the company came,
we lost everything. I mean, like,
you can hear the difference from the rainforest behind us,
from the wildlife. But here there’s just no sound.
It’s so upsetting. This looks empty. Huge areas of Papua New Guinea’s
rainforest have been cut down to make way
for palm oil plantations.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. What we decided, and I think
also the NGOs and everybody agrees on that today, palm oil,
if it is done in a sustainable way, is a very good vegetable oil.
The alternative is not to say,
no palm oil. No, the alternative is to challenge
the whole supply chain to do palm oil in a sustainable way
and in a responsible way. There are a number of companies
doing this. They’re producing
sustainable palm oil, which means agreeing
not to cut down any more forests and treating their workers fairly. I flew to a different part
of Papua New Guinea to see how one company does it. So it’s half past four
in the morning. I’m up nice and early to go on
a trip to a palm oil plantation, so that we can see the workers
basically starting their work. And I’m super excited
to see what’s going to happen. Just a bit of…foundation
and some eyeliner! It’s probably going to sweat off,
I would imagine. We’re going this way?
Yeah, yeah, just go up to the vans. Every day the workers
gather at first light. Heavenly Father, we praise
and we thank you for this new day. Bless all those helping us, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Amen. Why do you think you were crying? It just made me
feel emotional about… ..I don’t know,
just how they work so hard, you know, for what,
for what they have. This is all to bring us
a product that will go in lipstick? Yeah, yeah. Literally. People have no idea how…
where it comes from, how it starts. The forest here was destroyed
over 50 years ago, but this palm oil company has said
that they won’t cut down any more. These guys are the fruit cutters. It’s a skilled job
and incredibly hard work. They use a 14-metre-long
extendable metal pole with a scythe at the end
to harvest the palm. Every time
one of these bunches landed, I could feel the ground shake. Each bunch weighs around 25kg and has hundreds
of individual fruits. The bits that fall off
are picked up by women,
known as loose fruit Marys. The orange flesh becomes crude
palm oil, which is used in cooking. But the white centre
is the bit I’m interested in. Palm kernel oil is the one
that is used in cosmetics more. And it’s more expensive, erm,
to harvest cos there’s not a lot of it
compared to palm oil. So it feels a bit like
a vitamin E kind of oil. That’s just so cool. Am I pretty? It’s just crazy that this one little
fruit produces so much globally. Along with promising
not to cut down any more trees, sustainable palm oil companies also
have to treat their workers fairly. On this plantation, they are given
safety equipment, breakfast
and transport. I feel happy because the company
provides water. Yeah. And, like, transport
for the children to go to school. I feel one of the most important
things is that with palm you get the most oil
from the least land. So growing the alternative
like sunflower or coconuts here instead of these palms, would mean
this plantation would have to be up to ten times bigger
to produce the same amount of oil. This is the mill,
where the fruit is turned into oil. I’m getting eaten here!
I hate flies! I wouldn’t survive in the jungle,
that’s for sure. SHE LAUGHS The centre of the fruit
becomes palm kernel oil. On a busy day, they produce
6,000 tonnes of oil here. It’s then pumped into tankers and shipped all the way
to Liverpool to be processed. And onto the rest of the world
to go into food and beauty products. Demand for palm oil
is growing from cosmetic companies. But how do you get more oil
without cutting down more trees? The answer is science. In a lab in the heart
of the plantation, I got to see
these modified seedlings. They’re being crossbred
and could eventually produce up to ten times as much fruit
on the same amount of land. Seeing this today
has definitely made me feel like the palm industry isn’t as dark
as what it’s made out to us. All these have to be hand planted, because you need to make sure
you’ve got the pumil facing the right way up. Mm. Sorry, what’s a puminil, Jamie? Pumil – it’s the emerging leaf. And if you plant it upside down,
that’s not real good! But it’s easy done! Erm, and then… 12 weeks this week? So it’s 11 weeks
at the moment. Right. So one more week in the nursery
and then… These young trees are then planted
where old palms used to be. Thank you for, obviously,
showing us around. I think a lot of questions
that my clientele would have is, how would they find out if palm oil
is actually in their product and how would we go about knowing if it’s
come from a sustainable company? That’s one of the major problems
for us, is that we go to a lot of time,
trouble, erm, you know, our ethos, if you like, the very way
that we work, is to be sustainable and we get no recognition.
Unlike, for instance, some of the coffee companies that
are Rainforest Alliance accredited, or some of the tea producers,
and they can stick the badge on and everybody has comfort that
that’s come from a sustainable
source. With our industry
that doesn’t happen. Yeah. And that disconnect’s
a very big problem. For me as a consumer, it
is very difficult to know which products actually contain
sustainable palm oil. There is a logo from the
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, RSPO for short, but it rarely
makes it onto our cosmetics labels. So how will we know? Local people have lived in
and relied on the rainforest for thousands of years. I came to do a bit of exploring. It’s so beautiful. Lots of wet ground. A lot of
wet ground, cos, you know… Shade. Shade. This is Nick’s land.
It’s about as far away from Somerset as you can get. This spider was bigger than my hand. The most massive spider
I think I’ve ever seen. They can give you pain. They won’t kill you?
They won’t kill you. What if it jumps?! It’s incredible. It’s beautiful. Words can’t describe this place. So full of noises and beauty,
it was really quite overwhelming. What really moved me was how deep
the connection to the forest is. Nick and his family can grow
lots of fruit and veg on their land and sell what they don’t eat.
But it’s not enough to survive. He told me that he had to cut down
a large part of his sacred forest to plant palm,
so that he could support his family. And it’s a big family.
He’s got eight kids and a bunch of grandchildren. Have you discovered a new blusher,
Emmy? Yeah! I think this… It’s a new rouge,
as they call it. Yeah? Cutting down the trees had been the
hardest thing in the world for him. It’s very beautiful. Yeah. I can see why you want
to protect it. Upset, to destroy the forest
and the trees, and I see the birds flying around, crying around. But I’m sorry for that. We need plants… ..and medicines,
all this, so I destroyed my forest to plant that
because it’s money for us. Sorry.
SHE SNIFFS We’ve just seen like
so much corporate stuff. So it’s just, erm… ..we don’t see
this side of it, you know? They don’t show that side of it. I see your tears falling down.
I know. I feel something.
You feel upset too? Yes. Thank you. It was so interesting
to hear that this family didn’t know anything
about what palm oil goes into. I thought I’d show them. In the UK, we call this lip gloss. This makes your lips shiny. Can you see it’s shiny? Yeah. Yeah! Nice, yeah. Pretty! What do you think about that, about seeing this
has come from the palm kernel? But it felt strange because
they don’t need make-up here. You can have it.
You can keep it, OK? The boys are going to love you! THEY LAUGH Before I came out here, I never knew
the whole story behind palm oil. Now I have seen the real impact
of it, and it’s definitely had an effect on me. We take a lot for granted. I think this trip has made me
feel very differently about, kind of, how I… I see what we’re using,
the world, how it works, and if I can try and make
a change to what I’m doing, then hopefully others will follow. We asked some of the biggest
and most popular cosmetics brands about their use of palm oil. L’Oreal, The Body Shop and Barry M, say
100% of the palm oil they use is sustainable. And Coty, the company
that owns Rimmel, say 20% of the palm oil they
use is sustainable and they say
they want to make that 100% by 2022. Chanel, Estee Lauder and Lush
didn’t respond. So what can we do as consumers? Some environmental groups
like Greenpeace and the WWF say boycotting palm
isn’t the way to go, because so many people’s incomes
rely on it and the alternatives could be worse. But we can start checking
the ingredients in what we use and look out for products
that contain sustainable palm oil. If done sustainably,
it’s helping the environment and it’s also helping the people
that work for the company to live a better life. And if your favourite brand
doesn’t use sustainable palm oil, you could put pressure on them
by asking them, why not? Palm oil isn’t going away
any time soon, so it’s up to us to decide
what we do about it. Since the palm oil trip and learning about, kind of, what
goes on behind the scenes, I think that’s made me more conscious
to actually look at what I’m using, but also, yeah, for the salon
as well, that’s really important. I would never have done that before. This time last year, I was just
maybe looking into cruelty free,
vegan, and now it’s, like,
I’m trying to make sure that I’m looking into
what I’m actually using. It’s so difficult. I still find it really difficult
to actually find out if it’s in my products. So I’ve written to the company
which I use skincare for, in the salon.
So I’m still waiting to hear back. I haven’t heard back. It’s been,
obviously, nearly a month. Yes, it’s quite, like, a big deal
to go and write to the company, but I think it’s really important.
Like, once you start doing that, then other people
will start doing it. So I hope that’s what will happen. If you can’t find out
if it is sustainable, then shout about it,
do something about it.