Stuck in a soapy labeling rut

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Oct 21, 2021
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I render the fat of animals I have raised and USDA butchered. Namely Beef, pork, and lamb. I have built up a good supply of different types of tallow and have had the soap properly made into 4 categories. 3 of which will be sold publicly through a small co-op market.
My soap is "true soap" as monitored by the CPSC. I still want to ID the post saponification ingredient list for transparency. I am cool with all of the labeling requirements but am hung up on "identity" of the commodity and naming an ingredient in the label or name of one of them. Let me explain.
I have 2 types of body soaps. 1 beef tallow, 1 pork tallow.
I have one "shampoo" bar that is primarily beef tallow (with some other oils).
And my baby. Sheep tallow shave soap. This will be marketed primarily online to my fellow shave snobs who can appreciate its value and properties. But. I wanted to name it Sheep Fat Shave Soap. My fellow shave snobs know the difference between vegan and tallow soaps and want to know where it comes from. One of the labeling requirements I am finding is that "Ingredients may not be named in the product Identity".
This statement conflicts with Mrs Gale pasted from her website below.

FOR SOAP, the identity of the product may not include the name of one ingredient, unless that ingredient is present at a “substantial or significantly effective amount”.

And it is. This is what makes it Sheep Fat Shave Soap. I really don't want to have 2 font letters that say Shave Soap. Then 20 font letters pointing to the unrequired ingredient list that says SAPONIFIED SHEEP TALLOW!

This leads me to the pork and beef tallow bars. If pork and/or beef tallow are the primary fats used to make the body bar, can my product identity be Pork Tallow Body Bar and Beef Tallow Body Bar? I want to be transparent and I want my customers to know exactly what was used to make what they are considering purchasing. But I don't want to run afoul of the CPSC.

This leads me to the shampoo bars. If I label it's identity ans "Shampoo Bar", then it becomes a cosmetic and not a true soap and falls under a whole different category that I don't want to enter. So, without violating a law, how to I label a shampoo bar, designed to wash hair, and still have it be a "true soap"?
My only thought was to label it as "hair soap".

I'm only a farmer branching into the soap world. But I want to be legal yet unique and transparent. How could I best label these soaps for consumer purchase? I will have a separate bio about our farm and meat store separate to inform customers on how the source ingredients for their soap was acquired.
I believe you are overthinking this, or there is some misunderstanding. The soap labeling rule per Marie Gale says you can't use the name of one ingredient unless it is there in a substantial or significant amount. That means you can use the ingredient in the name if it is there in substantial amount.

Since you indicated that one or more types of tallow is always a primary (presumably by percentage) ingredient in each of your soaps, then you may use that ingredient name in the soap names.

Perhaps the other statements you are reading are specific to other types of products, and not soap? Soap is in its own category from a federal law standpoint, unless you elevate it to a cosmetic by the claims you make (and assuming you don't have local or state rules with more stringent requirements).

I also agree with the name "Hair Soap" instead of "shampoo." Hopefully you have researched the very negative outcomes for many people who have tried hair soap, and you are aware of the significant risks of selling that product. I'm a person who can and did use hair soap for years with no problems, but we are the minority. Plenty of threads on here discussing those issues. To quote Star Trek, should you choose to engage, best to raise the shields. ;)

Good luck with the labeling and marketing; sounds like you have a great plan for marketing local and sustainable products, ones that I would buy if I a) lived nearby and b) didn't already make all my own soap and other products.

What about adding tallow balm (for skin) and beard balm to your product lineup? Both are fairly easy to make with the same ingredients you are probably using for soap.
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Thank you so much for your help Ma'am. We specifically made these soaps with the idea to stay clear of the cosmetic rules. But this being a new endeavor for me, and totally out of my element I didn't want the soap police to come knocking because I just got sloppy on my labeling.
So for labels, we decided on the following;
Beef Tallow Soap
Pork Tallow Soap
Hair Soap
Sheep Fat Shave Soap

The Hair Soap might just be sold from our store on an as needed basis.

We aimed for the best quality with the fewest ingredients, that are understandable and affordable for us commoners. And the best part is it is a free byproduct of send my grass fed animals to butcher.

Thanks for the advice on the other products. We will research them to see if we can add them. But at this point I am encouraging customers to shave!

Again, thank you for your help.
You are very welcome, and I’m excited for you! Tallow and lard soaps are my personal favorite. I also render my own, although not from my own animals.

I’ve just gotten serious about my shave soap recipe, and I’ve not tried sheep tallow. Since I only shave my legs and not my face, a face-shaver’s feedback and suggestions are so helpful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about that from the perspective of a “shave soap snob.” 😂
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Please do not take this as a criticism or that I am coming from a contentious place. It is an oft-discussed topic here at SMF, regarding both shaving soap as well as what is or is not a cosmetic under U.S. law, and these two soaps (shaving and shampoo) are the most glaring examples of cosmetics in the repertoire of artisan soapmakers. Unfortunately the regulations are not always easy to wade through, and the same can sometimes be true of references we research online trying to find the answers. Besides that, often there are so many who don't follow the regulations, for whatever reason (often simply the result of misunderstanding or misinterpretation) that new soapmakers and well as long-time soapmakers can often be mislead into following less than ideal examples of how to properly market or label their products.

So here goes, the part that may look contentious, but that is not my intent. My intent is to clarify where these two soaps fall in the U.S. Regulations: Shaving soap falls into the cosmetic category (link) (another link), so if you are labeling the shave soap correctly, it should not be a problem to also do the same for the shampoo bar. Some folks don't want to take my word for it, but will take DeeAnna's word, or at least Marie Gale's word for it ("Examples of cosmetics are perfumes, makeup, moisturizers, shampoos, hair dyes, face and body cleansers, and shaving preparations." - link). But even when we all fail to convince, then reading the (often hard to decipher) U.S. Code of Federal Regulations is the logical next step. (link to pertinent CFR below)

See that shaving soap is listed as a cosmetic under Title 21 of the CFR - skip down to "(vi) Shaving soap (cakes, sticks, etc.)." Hair products and shampoos are listed several times in that same FDA document. Shampoos made of soap are still a hair product aka shampoo and subject to FDA cosmetics labeling. Some soap sellers may not adhere to the product labeling regulations, but that does not mean they are right, nor does it mean they won't get a letter from the FDA and the ensuing hassles that follow.

Personally, I would have issue with any soap that has an ingredient in the name of the soap, and then that ingredient is not listed in the ingredient list on the back of the label. I would suspect the soapmaker did not use said item in the soap, or that they did not understand labeling regulations. If that is what you mean by not wanting to list the ingredient twice, (once in the product name and once in the ingredients declaration), then you'd be in violation of that requirement. If that is not what you meant, I am sorry I misunderstood.
@earlene those are excellent points, and I do agree that anything labeled as a "shave soap" has to meet cosmetic labeling regulations, unlike plain ole bar soap. I apologize for not making that clear in my post, as I should have.

My initial take is that labeling a bar soap as "hair soap" is different than labeling it as "shampoo bar." However, I don't sell "hair soap" so I haven't looked closely to determine if the regulations make it clear that such distinctions don't change the cosmetic nature based on the intent of use. It would be important to confirm either way before selling.

Regarding the OP's intent as to ingredient labels, I understood him to be saying that he fully intended to include all ingredients on the label, based on this remark: "I still want to ID the post saponification ingredient list for transparency."

My understanding was that his objection was to the potential requirement to use an extra-large font for any ingredients that were also part of the soap's name, i.e., "Tallow Soap." If I misunderstood what he was saying there, my apologies, and yes, he should still include the word "tallow" in the ingredient list, even if it is in the name.

Again, I did read his post as saying that was his intent, and that his only objection was to the bigger fonts that might be required within the ingredient listing if "tallow" was in the soap name. EDITED TO ADD: I am not seeing where the bigger font would be required as long as the named ingredient is used in a substantial proportion of the entire recipe. If someone knows more on this specific point and wants to chime in, that would be great.
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First off, I was being facetious/sarcastic in that I REALLY wanted to put the term Sheep Fat in the label of my sheep fat shave soap because it is unique and a major selling point. If I couldn't put it in the label, I would make the ingredient list HUGE just to highlight the sheep fat. So, it's a moot point. Sorry to distract.

So I concede. My shave soap is a cosmetic. As is my shampoo bar. Once I am versed in doing the correct label I will then do the shampoo bar correctly.

So, could someone post a picture, or a checklist of the minimum mandatory requirements for my handmade artisan sheep fat shave soap. My HOPE is that I can make the correct ingredient list, in predominance of quantity, in post-saponified non-inci verbiage. IE Soponified Sheep tallow, Saponified Stearic Acid, etc etc. Simple, readable, minimal ingredients is my goal. Reading a list of what looks like chemicals can be a turn off to consumers. The book I have does not explain it to the degree that I can comprehend.

I think I found it.


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Good job finding the information and posting it, Tallowism. And my apologies if I made an error in assuming what you meant by your question.

I agree that using Sheep Fat Shave Soap is a definite plus for your product. My preferred shave soap (a liquid soap with lanolin, but no animal fats) is the best I've ever used for shaving my legs, which I attribute primarily to the inclusion of lanolin in the formula. So I can certainly understand the draw of sheep fat shaving soap, considering that's where my lanolin is coming from, too.
I read the various posts and links and also the FDA info about soap vs cosmetic vs drug and read the following: "Under the FD&C Act, cosmetic products and ingredients, with the exception of color additives, do not require FDA approval before they go on the market." But further reading says that if it would be considered a cosmetic (as I'm agreeing that shave soap is) then it must adhere to labeling regulations. So if your product would be considered a cosmetic, and you adhere to the labeling regulations, then you are ok to sell it and don't have to apply for NDA approval (because it's not considered a drug.) Am I getting the gist of what the FDA is saying?
I believe that you are understanding correctly, @Christa10. Prior approval of the product formula is not required (except for the color additives, which are addressed elsewhere in the regulations with a listing of approved additives.)
Thanks. I'm glad of the clarification because I do make a shave soap.

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