Handmade Soap and Health Claims

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JillGat

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As soapmakers, we are sometimes asked by customers to recommend soaps that are beneficial for certain skin conditions. We, of course, aren't supposed to promise medical benefits from our soap, else we would have to categorize them as a drug. However, because of these requests, we may sometimes have the opportunity to encourage folks to get important medical evaluation that they might otherwise not pursue.

Here is my personal experience. More than a year ago, I developed a rash on my ring finger. I asked around about it and was told this was common; either an allergic reaction to my wedding ring or dermatitis caused by bacteria building up under the ring. So I stopped wearing my wedding ring. The rash didn't go away.

While at a general health check up, I pointed it out to the doctor and she gave me a prescription for acyclovir cream (not cheap!). I thought that odd, because acyclovir is a treatment for herpetic lesions, and herpes tends to be episodic; not chronic like my rash was. It didn't work. I went back and she wrote me a prescription for a strong cortisone cream she said "would knock it out." It didn't. Was at an appointment with another medical provider and showed it to him and he suggested I try an over the counter anti-fungal, like for athlete's foot. I did, and the rash persisted. Couple of months later, I was at the doctor's office for another reason and asked her whether I should see a dermatologist about this rash. She said no, it's a common contact dermatitis and I should just be sure to keep it moisturized. She said it would take too long to get in to see a dermatologist, it would cost a lot, and they would most likely tell me the same thing.

A few months later, I decided to make an appointment to see the dermatologist anyway. He did a biopsy of my rash. I was called today by the dermatologist, saying that the biopsy found squamous cell carcinoma. I've had it for at least 18 months, without diagnosis or treatment. I was given an appointment for next week for electro-desiccation and I may need to use a topical chemotherapy cream. (Do not look up pictures of electro-desiccation... I'm just sayin'.)

My point here is NOT that soapmakers should be attempting to do any kind of diagnosis or treatment for skin cancer. My point is that we all run into people who shy away from "Western Medicine" and are looking for natural remedies for health conditions. They may think natural soaps - with essential oils, etc. - are the answer. For some minor skin problems, this might be true. Generally speaking, our homemade soaps contain much gentler ingredients than commercial soaps. But sometimes these folks will come to us IN LIEU OF seeing a licensed medical provider, for symptoms that may be caused by more serious underlying conditions.

I think it is important to urge those with skin conditions that are not resolving to see a medical provider to rule out more serious conditions. If they are not getting results, they should SEE A DERMATOLOGIST. Many general doctors are not experienced or educated about skin conditions, that can be caused by everything from lymphoma to syphilis. I wish I hadn't delayed seeing a specialist for my rash and I hope it hasn't progressed because of this delay.

Thanks for reading.
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dibbles

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I’m glad you decided to be proactive and will be getting the treatment you need. Good luck with your procedure, and thanks for sharing some valuable advice.
 

cmzaha

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I totally agree with you and many times in the forum I mention to people they should see a Dermatologist. Modern medicine is NOT BAD. JillGat I am so glad you persisted and found the right Dermatologist and I hope it goes well for you. We just have to be persistent today.

I have severe eczema but when I was under severe stress with legal family issues my legs broke out with lesions that I had never experienced before and would not heal. For over two years under the care of a dermatologist, they are finally 90% healed. But not all Dermatologists all equal I had one tell me it was flea bites and I told her it was not, and she ignored me. I never went back to her. The one I stayed with did biopsy some of the lesions which fortunately turned up negative. It was a form of my eczema caused by stress. She gave me some liquid gold Steroid lotion samples which started the healing process then followed up with a Steroid Tape. Both of the prescriptions are amazing. When I say the Lotion is liquid gold I mean liquid gold, she told me it is somewhere around $1700 for a small tube and she saved the samples she was given for me. So yes, sometimes we need medical doctors and modern medicine.
 

rdc1978

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As soapmakers, we are sometimes asked by customers to recommend soaps that are beneficial for certain skin conditions. We, of course, aren't supposed to promise medical benefits from our soap, else we would have to categorize them as a drug. However, because of these requests, we may sometimes have the opportunity to encourage folks to get important medical evaluation that they might otherwise not pursue.

Here is my personal experience. More than a year ago, I developed a rash on my ring finger. I asked around about it and was told this was common; either an allergic reaction to my wedding ring or dermatitis caused by bacteria building up under the ring. So I stopped wearing my wedding ring. The rash didn't go away.

While at a general health check up, I pointed it out to the doctor and she gave me a prescription for acyclovir cream (not cheap!). I thought that odd, because acyclovir is a treatment for herpetic lesions, and herpes tends to be episodic; not chronic like my rash was. It didn't work. I went back and she wrote me a prescription for a strong cortisone cream she said "would knock it out." It didn't. Was at an appointment with another medical provider and showed it to him and he suggested I try an over the counter anti-fungal, like for athlete's foot. I did, and the rash persisted. Couple of months later, I was at the doctor's office for another reason and asked her whether I should see a dermatologist about this rash. She said no, it's a common contact dermatitis and I should just be sure to keep it moisturized. She said it would take too long to get in to see a dermatologist, it would cost a lot, and they would most likely tell me the same thing.

A few months later, I decided to make an appointment to see the dermatologist anyway. He did a biopsy of my rash. I was called today by the dermatologist, saying that the biopsy found squamous cell carcinoma. I've had it for at least 18 months, without diagnosis or treatment. I was given an appointment for next week for electro-desiccation and I may need to use a topical chemotherapy cream. (Do not look up pictures of electro-desiccation... I'm just sayin'.)

My point here is NOT that soapmakers should be attempting to do any kind of diagnosis or treatment for skin cancer. My point is that we all run into people who shy away from "Western Medicine" and are looking for natural remedies for health conditions. They may think natural soaps - with essential oils, etc. - are the answer. For some minor skin problems, this might be true. Generally speaking, our homemade soaps contain much gentler ingredients than commercial soaps. But sometimes these folks will come to us IN LIEU OF seeing a licensed medical provider, for symptoms that may be caused by more serious underlying conditions.

I think it is important to urge those with skin conditions that are not resolving to see a medical provider to rule out more serious conditions. If they are not getting results, they should SEE A DERMATOLOGIST. Many general doctors are not experienced or educated about skin conditions, that can be caused by everything from lymphoma to syphilis. I wish I hadn't delayed seeing a specialist for my rash and I hope it hasn't progressed because of this delay.

Thanks for reading.
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Its a little frustrating that your primary care doctor was such a gatekeeper for the dermatologist. I totally understand trying to keep costs down, but like second or third time I think they should have relented.

My mother had a cough for like a year and no one would refer her to a specialist. Like NO ONE. I was so frustrated for her because you can just imagine having a persistent cough in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Thankfully she was able to resolve it, but I felt so bad for her. She was so self conscious about it.
 

Peachy Clean Soap

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JillGat so sorry you had such a hard time w/ many Dr.'s how frustrating to say the least' Im glad you finally got a DX & was treated. I hope you have perfect health moving forward.
 
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Relle

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My recent experience was I got a referral from the GP for a lesion near my elbow that needed to be looked at by my a dermatologist. They said it would be 6 months for a consult - after a few questions - Is it bleeding, have you been here before etc. I got the appt for two weeks after that. I had 6 biopsy's over my body, 3 came back as malignant BCC's and the elbow one was treated with the cream for 6 wks. While removing the one on my head, she said there was something close to the one she was removing that needed a biopsy (this was not picked up on the original consult).
I received a phone call that all was well with the ones removed but need to come back as the biopsy was another BCC. Now I have to go back on 7th April to get that done. I've had to wait 8 wks as I had trouble with my head, I woke up two days after the surgery and thought my dressing had dropped over my eyes, but my eye and face was swollen. I was put on antibiotics and stronger pain killers for the throbbing of the head. My incision is still not healed. I was told I might get a black eye from the BCC near my left eye, but that was OK.
So, even the specialists find things they are not sure of.
 

Catscankim

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@JillGat is this your own experience? If so, I am terribly sorry.

I don't think that recognizing that someone has a medical issue and pointing out that they need to see a physician for it has anything to do with making a claim about your homemade soap. Going from the title of this thread here.

My friend's mom (in her 90s) owns an antique shop. This antique shop sells my soap. One day I told my friend "your mom smells like really strong pee"...this is a very active 90 year old lady. She owns a store, plays saxophone, plays pool, and drinks beer lol. SUPER cute. I was concerned so I brought it to my friends attention. Turns out that she had a problem with a pessary that she was seeing a dr for. Not soapy advice.

Now if I told her that her mom smells like pee, and I could give her a soap to make her NOT smell like pee because I can fix the UTI that she had, then I would be making a claim about my soap, so that is why I am a little confused about the title of this thread. Did you post this elsewhere as well, because I see 4 replies marked on it.

Again, I am sorry for this experience. I hope all is well. Not all western medicine is bad, there are just some people who practice it badly. I think of myself as someone who believes in a little bit of both mindsets of medicine.
 

JillGat

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@JillGat is this your own experience? If so, I am terribly sorry.

I don't think that recognizing that someone has a medical issue and pointing out that they need to see a physician for it has anything to do with making a claim about your homemade soap. Going from the title of this thread here.

My friend's mom (in her 90s) owns an antique shop. This antique shop sells my soap. One day I told my friend "your mom smells like really strong pee"...this is a very active 90 year old lady. She owns a store, plays saxophone, plays pool, and drinks beer lol. SUPER cute. I was concerned so I brought it to my friends attention. Turns out that she had a problem with a pessary that she was seeing a dr for. Not soapy advice.

Now if I told her that her mom smells like pee, and I could give her a soap to make her NOT smell like pee because I can fix the UTI that she had, then I would be making a claim about my soap, so that is why I am a little confused about the title of this thread. Did you post this elsewhere as well, because I see 4 replies marked on it.

Again, I am sorry for this experience. I hope all is well. Not all western medicine is bad, there are just some people who practice it badly. I think of myself as someone who believes in a little bit of both mindsets of medicine.
Soap is not curative. If one has sensitive skin, some soaps are less irritating than others. It's the reason I started making soap. My concern is that, believing soap (and/or other products JUST because they are "natural") will effectively treat or cure health problems may cause some people to delay diagnosis and treatment of potentially serious conditions.

And yes, I posted a version of this on my FB page, then copied and edited it here. I think the "4 comments" must have been part of what I copied. Sorry about that! Removed.
 

KimW

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JillGat I am so sorry this happened to you and I'm glad you were able to get a proper diagnosis. I do pray and hope all will go well with treatments and that you will soon enough be healthy once more!

When we moved a few years ago, the one thing that made me the most anxious besides leaving our church family was leaving our GP. He is a well read Dr. with his own office and his own practice. When my insurance changed and he was no longer in our coverage, I paid out of my pocket to see him rather than going to a covered clinic. He told me his concern with modern medicine is that doctors no longer have the time or permission to talk with a patient and touch a patient and think about a patient. Since I played sports (into an age when I shouldn't have been! lol) and was always getting myself knocked about, he had to refer me to more than one specialist. Since he kept himself so well versed on his skill, his diagnosis and his consultation of how it might be treated was correct every time - and he always referred me to like doctors who did not have their time and methods managed by a clinic.

Don't get me wrong - all Dr.s are not equal and there are some fantastic clinics out there. But, in my experience, if you have something going on that's either out of the norm or not "fantastical", the clinic/HMO/hospital most usually falls short when it come to diagnosis. If you're young and healthy, the managed clinics can be a real blessing when you have something non-life threatening or minor. But otherwise, if you're a healthy looking 19 year-old, you're seen by 5 different doctors who insist you must have appendicitis and they don't relent until you full drop your pants in front of them and all of the ER to show them your scar - and only then do they call a senior doctor who actually touches you and figures out you probably have a severe UTI and possibly bladder or kidney infection and you should be admitted, watched for shock and put on an IV until they get the test results back. Yeaaahhhhh. Sorry for the rant...no offense to anyone!!
 

Richard Perrine

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I believe that making safer, more wholesome soap has nothing to do with the experience the OP had. There are chemicals in commercial soaps that I used in the laboratory that clearly have safety alerts attached to them. Making more natural soaps is simply smarter. As I read the OP's post, I made the only observation I could....why in the world was he prescribed drugs for viral conditions by a doctor who had made no attempt to determine what it was in the first place and why did it take multiple visits to finally determine that it was cancer? If anyone makes false or unsubstantiated claims to the treatment or prevention of disease regarding their soap, it should always be seen with suspicion. If the last year-plus has readily revealed, anyone can make claims and there will be a lot of people who will believe them whether true or no.
 

Arimara

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I believe that making safer, more wholesome soap has nothing to do with the experience the OP had. There are chemicals in commercial soaps that I used in the laboratory that clearly have safety alerts attached to them. Making more natural soaps is simply smarter. As I read the OP's post, I made the only observation I could....why in the world was he prescribed drugs for viral conditions by a doctor who had made no attempt to determine what it was in the first place and why did it take multiple visits to finally determine that it was cancer? If anyone makes false or unsubstantiated claims to the treatment or prevention of disease regarding their soap, it should always be seen with suspicion. If the last year-plus has readily revealed, anyone can make claims and there will be a lot of people who will believe them whether true or no.
At the bold, except when it makes the skin of the intended party worse. My daughter uses a specific brand of soap made for sensitive skin because it works best for her. Her skin is too sensitive for soaps without gentler surfactants in them.

@JillGat I'm glad your dermatologist caught that. I don't always shy away from western medicine but I do not like or trust MOST general doctors that I have come across. With me being aphasic, I have the added bonus of having doctors who have never dealt with patients trying to talk who have never NOT been able to talk before (not fun and patience is a valuable virtue people need). Sometimes, it's better to IGNORE what some doctors say, especially for concerns like your skin or if you have persistant joint pain or something like that, and seek the advice from a practitioner who specializes in dealing with issues of the body (like in your case with the dermatologist).
 

Richard Perrine

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Absolutely agree! Natural products are also made up of chemicals (natural) and people have allergies to those as well.
 

rdc1978

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I believe that making safer, more wholesome soap has nothing to do with the experience the OP had. There are chemicals in commercial soaps that I used in the laboratory that clearly have safety alerts attached to them. Making more natural soaps is simply smarter. As I read the OP's post, I made the only observation I could....why in the world was he prescribed drugsy for for viral conditions by a doctor who had made no attempt to determine what it was in the first place and why did it take multiple visits to finally determine that it was cancer? If anyone makes false or unsubstantiated claims to the treatment or prevention of disease regarding their soap, it should always be seen with suspicion. If the last year-plus has readily revealed, anyone can make claims and there will be a lot of people who will believe them whether true or no.
I'd be so scared making any claim about any of my soap. I probably go the other way and over-explain things. I only promise that my soap will smell good and while its not the best soap, its the best soap I could make.

In modern medicine I think GPs and now more than ever NP and PAs are supposed to operate as gatekeepers, especially for some HMOs. So they will go through everything it could possibly be and see how you respond to therapy. Once all common offenders are ruled out because it doesn't make anything better THEN they will send you to the specialist. And some doctors, certainly not all, but some have their own little ego and pride. Healthcare in our country is a business and using gatekeepers can be a costsaving measure.

Its funny, my insurance does not require a referral to see a specialist, but nearly everytime I want to see a specialist we go through the same song and dance about getting one because they have all been screwed over by another insurance company.
 

JillGat

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I believe that making safer, more wholesome soap has nothing to do with the experience the OP had. There are chemicals in commercial soaps that I used in the laboratory that clearly have safety alerts attached to them. Making more natural soaps is simply smarter. As I read the OP's post, I made the only observation I could....why in the world was he prescribed drugs for viral conditions by a doctor who had made no attempt to determine what it was in the first place and why did it take multiple visits to finally determine that it was cancer? If anyone makes false or unsubstantiated claims to the treatment or prevention of disease regarding their soap, it should always be seen with suspicion. If the last year-plus has readily revealed, anyone can make claims and there will be a lot of people who will believe them whether true or no.
Thanks, Richard. Also the earlier person who posted this [[I don't think that recognizing that someone has a medical issue and pointing out that they need to see a physician for it has anything to do with making a claim about your homemade soap. Going from the title of this thread here.]]

I see how the title of my post was confusing now. My main point was that, as soap makers, some of whom sell at farmers' markets, etc., we are sometimes approached by people who are asking for soap that might help them with a health condition. Instead of promising any kind of cure via soap (which I know most people here already never do), sometimes this is a great opportunity to recommend that they get medical follow up.

And yeah, I agree that it's kind of outrageous that it took so long for me to get a diagnosis or even a recommendation that I see a dermatologist. I had to do that on my own.
 

earlene

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@JillGat , I am so glad to hear that you have had this diagnosed and treated! Of course, it is sad that it had to take so long to identify.

I don't think that recognizing that someone has a medical issue and pointing out that they need to see a physician for it has anything to do with making a claim about your homemade soap. Going from the title of this thread here.

Kim
, in JillGat's post I see more than a couple of things that address the thread title topic, which I think is entirely appropriate given that there are numerous soapmakers who DO make claims and do NOT suggest people see a specialist.

As soapmakers, we are sometimes asked by customers to recommend soaps that are beneficial for certain skin conditions. <snip>... because of these requests, we may sometimes have the opportunity to encourage folks to get important medical evaluation that they might otherwise not pursue.
<snip>
Middle portion condensed for brevity & to include what I read as implied within her text:

Her skin condition looked benign to others (including some medical professionals) and what should not happen is that when a client says to a soapmaker/soap seller "I have (name that skin condition). What soap would you recommend?" some soapmakers DO say, try this soap or try that soap (pine tar soap, for example), INSTEAD of saying something like, "You really should see a skin specialist (dermatologist or other, depending on your country)"

She continues to say

My point is that we all run into people who shy away from "Western Medicine" and are looking for natural remedies for health conditions. They may think natural soaps - with essential oils, etc. - are the answer. For some minor skin problems, this might be true. Generally speaking, our homemade soaps contain much gentler ingredients than commercial soaps. But sometimes these folks will come to us IN LIEU OF seeing a licensed medical provider, for symptoms that may be caused by more serious underlying conditions.

I think it is important to urge those with skin conditions that are not resolving to see a medical provider to rule out more serious conditions. If they are not getting results, they should SEE A DERMATOLOGIST.
So, IMO, JillGat's post really is about how important it is to encourage customers to seek medical advice for skin conditions instead offering what they are seeking, which is an easy fix. Sometimes people ask the wrong questions, but that doesn't mean we should give them the wrong answers. And if we give a soap that they asked for to treat their skin condition, we really ARE making a claim, even if we don't say it verbally; it is implied by our action.
 

Arimara

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I was going to post a link to it, but I wont. There is a soap maker on Etsy who claims that her products have ingredients that "have proven to" work better than chemotherapy and other modern treatments for lung cancer.
Please report her. I wonder if she knows what it's like to see someone die of cancer because that's the experience she's encouraging for foolish customers.
 

GemstonePony

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I was going to post a link to it, but I wont. There is a soap maker on Etsy who claims that her products have ingredients that "have proven to" work better than chemotherapy and other modern treatments for lung cancer.
I totally agree with not giving disinformation a platform.
Also, I have a sister who is a nurse, a sister who is a chiropractor and does alternative therapy, and a sister-in-law pharmacist, and this type of stuff drives me bonkers. Natural/traditional medical malpractice gives natural medicine a bad name, just as much as western medical malpractice gives western medicine a bad name.
 

amd

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Generally speaking, our homemade soaps contain much gentler ingredients than commercial soaps. But sometimes these folks will come to us IN LIEU OF seeing a licensed medical provider, for symptoms that may be caused by more serious underlying conditions.
I agree. I had a customer (friend) who was buying sugar scrubs like crazy. I finally asked her if she was gifting them or if there were a lot of people in her house using them. She said no, she uses it every day because her skin is so dry she needed to exfoliate every day. Now I know a lot of makers out there who would just take her money and carry on, but I am not that maker. I told her that no one needs to exfoliate every day and if her skin is that dry, she really needed to see a doctor or dermatologist because it may be an underlying skin condition. She finally did make the appointment and discovered the dry skin was likely a symptom of the diabetes she discovered she had. She told me that she probably would not have ever gotten checked out until something major happened if I hadn't pushed her to do it (and I was horrible, I texted her daily until she finally made the appointment! LOL good thing she is a friend of many years). She's still a customer, just not as frequent as she once was. And because of her, I do very clearly tell people that I have recommended usage for a reason, and if they have concerns they should see a doctor.
 
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