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Uncover the differences between natural and organic soap products.

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

What do the labels "natural products" and "organic products" mean? They are not interchangeable; each has a specific definition and significance. In this article, we will examine the meanings, and regulations, and how they apply to handmade soap.


What are Natural Products:

Natural products are substances from plants, animals, or minerals that are minimally processed and do not contain synthetic or artificial ingredients. They generally retain their original form and may contain natural compounds, nutrients, or extracts. However, it is worth noting that the term "natural" lacks strict regulation, and products labeled as such may still contain synthetic components.

When a product claims to be "natural," people typically understand it to mean that it is made from natural sources and contains minimally processed ingredients without synthetic or artificial substances. As a result, people often expect or assume certain things when they come across a product labeled as "natural."


1. Natural Products: When people refer to a product as "natural," they usually mean that it comes from plants, minerals, or other natural substances, rather than being man-made or synthesized.


2. No Synthetic Ingredients: Often, people associate natural products with the absence of synthetic or artificial ingredients, like synthetic fragrances, dyes, or preservatives. They assume that the ingredients are naturally occurring or derived from natural sources.


3. Natural Qualities: Natural products are often unprocessed, maintaining the original qualities and properties of the ingredients. Consumers assume that natural products have undergone minimal chemical alterations and are closer to their original form.


4. Environmentally Conscious: Natural products are commonly associated with being environmentally friendly or sustainable. People expect that the ingredients are grown or harvested using sustainable practices that minimize environmental impact.


5. Healthier and Safer: Some people believe natural products are inherently healthier and safer than synthetic or artificial ingredients. They choose natural products with the belief that they are gentler on their skin, less likely to cause adverse reactions, or have fewer potential health risks.

It is crucial to remember that the word "natural" does not have a universal regulation, and no standard definition exists. This lack of regulation gives manufacturers the freedom to use the term as they wish, resulting in differences in the actual composition and features of products labeled as "natural." As a result, it is recommended that consumers thoroughly examine the list of ingredients and purchase products from reliable and knowledgeable sources.


What are organic products?

They are agricultural goods that are produced using specific methods. Organic farming practices focus on natural fertilizers, crop rotation, and biological pest control methods. These products are grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, or artificial additives. They undergo strict regulations and certifications to ensure they meet organic standards. Countries like the United States and the European Union have specific regulations and labeling requirements for products that claim to be "organic."


What US agency regulates the use of the word organic on products?


This is where it gets difficult to follow, which may be why some soaps mislabel their products. In the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for regulating and overseeing organic products. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 established organic standards that the USDA now implements and enforces. The USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) manages the organic certification process and sets the requirements for organic production, handling, and labeling. They also accredit and supervise third-party certifying agents who inspect and certify organic farms, processors, and handlers. These agents assess compliance with organic regulations and grant organic certification to qualifying operations.

Products that have met the USDA's organic standards and have been certified by an accredited certifying agent can display the USDA organic seal, which features the words "USDA Organic."


But this is for food; what about handmade soap?


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates and oversees Cosmetics in the United States. The FDA ensures that cosmetics are safe, properly labeled, and manufactured according to the law. Cosmetics are defined by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) as products applied to the body for beautifying, cleansing, or promoting attractiveness. This includes personal care items, fragrances, hair care, skincare, and makeup. Cosmetic regulations require that manufacturers label their products with the necessary information, warnings, and ingredients to ensure safety. However, unlike drugs, cosmetic products do not require pre-market approval from the FDA before being sold to consumers. The FDA can take action against cosmetic products that pose a risk to public health, are misbranded, adulterated, or make false claims.


Can soap be labeled as organic?


After learning about the different agencies and their roles, you may wonder if soap can be considered organic. The answer is yes, as long as it meets specific requirements and is certified as organic by a recognized certifying agent. This certification process ensures that the soap and its ingredients comply with specific organic standards that the governing body sets.

For soap to be labeled as organic, it must be made using organic methods and ingredients. This involves using organic agricultural ingredients, such as organic oils, butters, and botanical extracts, that are cultivated without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Non-agricultural ingredients must also be on the approved list of substances allowed for organic production, including lye, which is used in all true soaps and is considered safe for organic production. (see article: Sodium hydroxide in soap: Is it safe for the skin?) It is important to note that using the term "organic" without proper certification or meeting the necessary requirements could be misleading and in violation of regulations.


Does this apply to small-scale soap makers?


Yes, small-scale soap makers must meet the same requirements as large-scale producers and obtain organic certification from a recognized certifying agent. The certification process applies to all soap makers, regardless of their production scale, but it comes with additional costs contributing to a soap's high price. However, certification assures consumers that the soap has been produced using organic practices and meets the defined organic standards. It allows soap makers to use the term "organic" on their product labels, providing credibility and assurance to their customers.


Does Salem House Provisions offer any soaps labeled organic or natural?


The answer is no. However, we have two soap options - Loaded Goat and Farmhouse - that we think could satisfy the requirements and be certified organic. But obtaining organic certification would raise the price for our customers, so we've opted to adhere to the regulations set forth by the regulating agencies and not call our products organic. We believe in being transparent about our product ingredients, and by doing so, it allows you to make the best product choice. If you have questions about our products, contact us through email.

When it comes to natural soaps, without an industry-standard definition, to say you are natural does not mean a lot. But, if you go off what was stated above, "What do most people think when a product says it is natural" we believe that most of our soap products are natural by most people's standards. Again there is the problem: what one person considers natural vs. another may be two different things. So we have decided not to label products as Natural because there is no clear definition. Again, we believe in being transparent about our product ingredients and manufacturing methods. This way, you decide if we meet your definition of natural.


At Salem House Provisions, we believe in transparency by listing all ingredients used in our products. We also prioritize sourcing our raw materials from ethical and sustainable suppliers. Our business values of honesty and integrity are not only reflected in our old-school packaging but also in our approach to conducting business. We want to be your source for your bath products, but more importantly, we desire to be a trusted source of information.



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