Soap Labeling Practices

Written by Leanna Serras

If you mosey down the personal care products aisle of the grocery story, you are sure to find several types of soaps. There are soaps that are either “pure”, meaning just basic soap of fats and an alkali, or are enhanced with a many number of other ingredients. The FDA puts a regulation on one, but not the other. Below are the descriptions for “true” or “pure” soap and deodorant soap and their relation with the FDA.

Pure Soaps

True” or “pure” soap, as defined by the FDA as having the bulk of the nonvolatile matter consisting of an alkali salt of fatty acids. The product’s detergent properties also have alkali-fatty acid compounds. “True” or “pure” soap is labeled, sold, and represented solely as soap and nothing more. 

These particular products are not regulated by the FDA, but rather the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is under the authority of the Hazardous Substances Act. “Pure” soap falls under the Consumer Product Safety Commission because it is labeled as a noncosmetic product, which is part of their jurisdiction. If a product doesn’t make any cosmetic representations, and doesn’t claim to affect the structure or functions of the body or even treat a particular disease, then for these reasons it is beyond FDA regulation. However, if a product has a cosmetic claim on a “pure” soap, this product will fall under FDA regulation and will require a list of all the ingredients. The FDA defines a product as being cosmetic if its intended use is to be applied to the human body for cleansing and beautifying. 


Deodorant Soaps

Deodorant soap is a product that not only cleanses the body, but contains fragrances that mask body odor as well.

When consumers search for deodorant soap, they not only look for a product that can get rid of the dirt and grime, but will also leave on their body a refreshing scent or fragrance. If you are dealing with a bit of body odor, deodorant soap not only helps with this problem, but will also help in the fight against bacteria, which is the culprit behind odors. Whether or not you need to scrub your body more than once a day will all depend upon the individual chemistry makings of your body.  It will also depend upon your lifestyle, whether you are an avid athlete or someone who doesn’t include a lot of physical activity in their life. 

In regard to deodorant soap, the FDA clearly defines this product as being cosmetic due to the fact that its purpose is not only intended for cleansing, but for beautifying, deodorizing, promotion of attractiveness, or even altering one’s appearance. Since deodorant soap is defined as a cosmetic product under FDA standards, all rules for a cosmetic will apply, therefore a list of ingredients will be needed. 

A consumer’s choice of whether to purchase “true” or “pure” or deodorant soaps will depend upon personal needs, wants, and conveniences. Someone who happens to be allergic to cologne or perfumes will most likely not purchase deodorant soaps and will opt for a more natural soap. Also, some of the harsh chemical ingredients may be too rough on sensitive skin, and may cause eye irritation as well. It is best to pay close attention to the label of ingredients in order to find a product that will be best suited for you. 

To learn more about “pure” and deodorant soaps, and how the two groups are regulated, the following resources may be helpful: