BBC's latest documentary aims to expose beauty's 'big secret'

According to the British broadcaster, L’Oréal was the only cosmetics company willing to be involved in the palm oil film

Excessive packaging is now a hot consumer talking points, thanks to the BBC highlighting the environmental impact of plastic pollution with Blue Planet, narrated by David Attenborough.

But now the broadcaster has turned its attention to the beauty industry, and what is inside the bottle, with its latest conservation documentary.

Unmasked: Make-Up’s Big Secret is attempting to educate and call on consumers to put pressure on brands to open up about their palm oil supply chain.

While it is not the first time the ingredient has been the centre of a damning documentary, this time the BBC is raising awareness among its younger audience by airing the 22-minute film on its Gen Z and millennial focused channel BBC Three.

Presented by make-up artist and salon owner Emmy Burbridge, the episode sees the 28-year-old travel from Somerset to plantations in Papua New Guinea to learn about the damage done by palm oil farming to the environment and local communities.


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The feature focuses less on how deforestation threatens orangutan populations, the often repeated argument made by campaigners, and more on how small landowners turn to unsustainable farming as a last resort to support their families.

But rather than urge consumers to shun palm oil altogether, the aim of the documentary is to inspire viewers to switch to brands that use sustainable palm oil, as the ingredient is still considered the best option compared with sunflower or coconut, which would need up to ten times more land to produce the same amount.

Consumers are also encouraged to turn to online activism to spread the message among fellow beauty shoppers and petition brands to be transparent about their suppliers.

The film highlights that the beauty industry is lacking certification and language that easily informs consumers whether the palm oil in their products is sourced sustainably.

It notes that major brands need to drive change. According to the filmmakers, from the cosmetics companies that were contacted, L’Oréal was the only firm willing to be interviewed.

Alexandra Palt, Sustainability Director at L’Oréal, explained: “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.''


Unmasked: Make-Up's Big Secret is available on BBC Three now.

Join Lilian Garcia Lledo, Assurance Manager - Europe at Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, at the Cosmetics Business Regulatory Summit to discover how you can sustainablu source palm derivatives. Click here to find out more.

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