Not so ‘Super’drug

Superdrug. A cruelty-free shoppers dream. On your high street, reasonably priced, against animal testing, clearly labelled as suitable for vegans. Nothing to worry about. Or is there?

While hunting down palm oil free skincare I spent a couple of months emailing Superdrug to try and get answers about their ingredients in just four products. They found it very difficult to help.

Palm Oil

I have a few Superdrug items and after checking against Palm Oil Investigations’ ingredients list I realised they all had potential palm oil ingredients. Ingredients included Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Glyceryl Oleate, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Cetearyl alcohol, and Ethylhexyl palmitate.


I originally emailed on December 28th 2015 asking whether these were palm oil derived and if so, were they sustainably sourced? A month later on January 23rd an email confirmed that some Superdrug own brand products do contain palm oil derivatives. Unfortunately, not whether the products I asked about did, or which ingredients were, or any idea as to where it comes from.

A day later they clarified that:

Superdrug uses a very small amount of Palm Oil in its own brand products however we are committed to working with our suppliers to switch where possible, and have recently changed many of the products in our Vitamin E range so that they contain certified sustainably sourced palm oil derivatives.  We will continue to drive this programme forward as more materials become available.
My understanding of this statement is that no Superdrug own brand product outside of the Vitamin E range has had any change to sustainable palm oil.
The Vitamin E range is also not completely sustainable in its palm oil use as they say ‘many of the products’, not all.
Nearly two months later on February 26th they sent me an email saying they are unable to confirm how much of the palm oil they use is sustainable. They still have not answered what constitutes ‘sustainable’ to Superdrug, or which ingredients are palm oil derivatives.
My only advice can be to avoid Superdrug products if you want any chance of avoiding conflict palm oil. They don’t know where their palm oil comes from or how much they’re using.


As well as containing conflict palm oil derived ingredients, Superdrug apparently still use the extremely harmful microbeads in their facial scrub.

What are plastic microbeads? 
Microbeads are really tiny plastic particles, usually smaller than two millimeters.  The composition of microbeads can vary and often includes polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon. Bottom line, it’s all plastic!

Check out this wonderful short animated video from
Story of Stuff 
on the impact of microbeads

If you’re unsure whether a product contains microbeads, check ingredients labels!

For example, the Superdrug Tea Tree Exfoliating Scrub (not listed as vegan online) cites walnut shell granules as its exfoliant, and the Naturally Radiant Micro Polish Scrub (suitable for vegans) advertises blueberry seeds are doing the work, but the ingredient lists also include polyethylene as the third/fourth item. I’ve emailed to ask for confirmation this is microbeads.

Sometimes the ingredients list isn’t event clear. The B. Refined Exfoliating Cleanser doesn’t state microbeads on the website description, or include these standard ingredient names, but the tube itself says “microbeads buff away old skin cells”. I’ve had to email to ask what these are made of.

You could take a punt on the Refreshing or Oil-Balancing Facial Scrubs as these promise ‘100% natural exfoliants’, but they do still probably contain conflict palm oil.

If you’re looking for palm oil free skincare and truly natural exfoliants, check out my other posts. Also I highly recommend Mica Day’s blog and she has a post here on microbead alternatives.

I hope in future we can trust in these ‘cruelty-free’ brands more without having to interrogate each individual ingredient.



6 thoughts on “Not so ‘Super’drug

    1. Hi, thank you so much for reading. It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog but I’m planning to revive it for 2019. You mention these are on the green list (March 2018) but I think they’re in the orange now, which means they’ve got plastic in but the company is working on removing it. I’ll see if I can get a new answer!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s