Soap is not always what it seems

When is soap not soap?IMG_5256

No, it’s not a riddle. It’s a question that professional soapmakers deal with all the time.

Just because something is bar-shaped and lathers up doesn’t make it “soap”. 

First it has to be made of mostly oils (or fats) and some kind of alkali. When making bar soap, that alkali is sodium hydroxide. When making liquid soap, we use potassium hydroxide. But to be soap, it has to come from oils and alkali. We call that “true soap”.

Other bars may lather, but they’re sometimes made up mostly of detergents. So technically not soap. Ever notice how some of the biggest names call themselves “beauty bars” and “body bars”. That’s why. Not soap.

262239_178102155585692_8208587_nBut even “true soap” can be not soap.

How can soap become something else? If any soap makes a claim like that it is “moisturizing” or “deodorizing”, it is considered to be also a cosmetic.  So in that case, it’s both.

Why do soapmakers care?

Because the labeling rules are different for soap than they are for cosmetics. Professionals have to be careful that they are labeling their soaps in the right way if they are selling them to the public.

Now you know the answer!IMG_1967

And the next time you buy some soap, take a look at the label and see if you can tell. Is it true soap? Or a cosmetic? Or both?

6 thoughts on “Soap is not always what it seems

  1. So what about Melt and Pour vs Cold Process/Hot process are they all considered “True Soap”? I make only Cold Process soaps since I want to control all of the ingredients that go into my finished bar. Just like my favorite mentors from the Nova Studio. So I know I make a “true soap” and as such, as long as I make no cosmetic claims, I don’t have to label all of the ingredients. I do anyways, since my customers tend to want to know everything. But how is a melt and pour product classified?

  2. I use melt and pour soap bases but I use a very good supplier who uses only sustainable vegetable oils, and lye. I add the essential oils and any color if I choose. I will probably make my own cold process soap eventually, but I am not sure if I could top this base from the supplier!

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