About 8 months ago, I found myself intrigued by ingredient labels on beauty products. Once I got involved with some local animal shelters, I decided I needed to make a switch to all cruelty-free products (I explain more about that story on this blog post).
As I started reading ingredients, I realized the soap I was using, wasn’t really “soap,” as described by the FDA, at all!
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate, Lauric Acid, Sodium Isethionate, Water, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891).
What I immediately understood: That’s a lot of sodium. Where are the oils? Ok, Titanium Dioxide is a white colorant used in sunscreen? Tallow…isn’t that animal (specifically, beef) fat? Um, isn’t Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate a detergent? (Read more about ingredients.)
That’s not SOAP. Along with it not being soap, I was washing myself with BEEF FAT. It’s very common in soapmaking, but to me, it was repulsive.
The FDA defines soap as:
Whether a product is a “soap” in the traditional sense, or is really a synthetic detergent, helps determine how the product is regulated. So, let’s take a look at how “soap” is defined in FDA’s regulations;
To meet the definition of soap in FDA’s regulations, a product has to meet three conditions:
What it’s made of: To be regulated as “soap,” the product must be composed mainly of the “alkali salts of fatty acids,” that is, the material you get when you combine fats or oils with an alkali, such as lye.
What ingredients cause its cleaning action: To be regulated as “soap,” those “alkali salts of fatty acids” must be the only material that results in the product’s cleaning action. If the product contains synthetic detergents, it’s a cosmetic, not a soap. You still can use the word “soap” on the label.
How it’s intended to be used: To be regulated as soap, it must be labeled and marketed only for use as soap. If it is intended for purposes such as moisturizing the skin, making the user smell nice, or deodorizing the user’s body, it’s a cosmetic. Or, if the product is intended to treat or prevent disease, such as by killing germs, or treating skin conditions, such as acne or eczema, it’s a drug. You still can use the word “soap” on the label.
In a simple explanation – SOAP = fats + lye.
I immediately switched to handmade soap and swore I would learn how to make my own! Since then, I have learned to make my own soap, and it’s amazing knowing exactly what ingredients are inside each bar, and recognizing the beautiful properties of each of those ingredients.
Here is an example of our Organic “Walk in the Woods” Soap:
Ingredients: Elaeis Guineensis (Organic Palm) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Organic Coconut) Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Organic Safflower) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Organic Sunflower) Seed Oil, Aqua (Water), Sodium Hydroxide (Lye), Thymus hiemalis (Organic Lemon Verbena Botanical Additive), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Cedrus Atlantica (Cedarwood) Bark Oil.
Every ingredient is natural, and easily understood, even with the INCI nomenclature. I also hated the idea of using animal by-products, which is why I swore our company never would. Even though our Walk-in-the-Woods Soap includes more than fats plus lye, the additives are easily recognized – I used lemon verbena dried botanicals, and lavender and cedarwood essential oils. Now that’s soap.
I challenge you to read the ingredients on the soap you’re using right now. Are you shocked? I know I certainly was, but if it’s going on or in body, I want to recognize what it is!