Beware of Fake Natural Soap – A Practical Guide to Soap Ingredients

“If it isn’t natural, don’t say it is.” We’d love it if soap and skincare companies did business according to those words. But they don’t, and if you’re like us, you’re frustrated with companies calling their products natural when they’re not. Whether you’re buying skincare products for your company or for personal use, the only way to know if a product is truly natural is to understand the ingredients it contains.

“Voluntary” Standards Mean Anything Goes

The biggest problem is, there’s no official definition for “natural” and, believe it or not, the only recognized standards are voluntary ones. Companies are free to make up their own rules, calling their products “natural” no matter what the ingredients are. You can’t simply trust what it says on a product’s packaging and you can’t assume a product is natural just because it’s sold at a natural products store.

The Whole Foods Premium Body Care Standard

The highest and truest standard for “natural” is organic certification. For many companies, though, “natural” is a more attainable standard. Whole Foods has developed its own “Premium Body Care” standard to define “natural.” Two organizations, the Natural Products Association and the Natural Ingredients Resource Council, also offer strong standards for “natural.”

The Whole Foods standard forbids the use of synthetic fragrances in skincare products. Elsewhere, though, synthetic fragrances are commonplace in products marketed as natural. Here’s a simple way to spot synthetic fragrances. If you see any of these terms on a product label – fragrance, fragrance oils, perfume, or parfum, even on a product labeled as natural – you know the product contains synthetic fragrances. The only truly natural scent ingredients are pure essential oils.

Can You Even Trust Unscented?

“Fragrance-free” and “Unscented” can also be tricky label terms to trust. Many products calling themselves Unscented, Fragrance-Free, or Sensitive Skin, have fragrance listed among their ingredients. Even more deceptive is the use of an ingredient such as Malto as a fragrance mask. Once you know what to look for, truly natural soap is easy to distinguish from fake. Here are four basic rules of thumb to keep in mind when trying to decide if a soap is natural or not.

  • It’s made from vegetable oils (if you see “tallow” or “tallowate” in the ingredients, this means animal fats)
  • It’s scented with essential oils only, or if unscented, is truly absent of scent
  • It contains no synthetic pigments, dyes, or preservatives
  • The ingredients sound like plant names

Whether you need natural soap for your personal use or wholesale soap for your business, be sure it is truly natural. “Mostly” and “Sort of” don’t count. Soap is either truly natural or it’s not.