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What is Real Soap? What is Pure Soap?

Updated: Jan 16, 2022

real soap pure soap, image of soap sign

Pure Soap and Real Soap

There seems to be a lot of confusion about soap. Why do a lot of people say it is harsh on your skin? Others will claim that soap is not harsh, as they point to a none harsh soap. So we set out to find out the facts about soap. We ran into pure soap, real soap, and cleansing soap products which use the name but are not real soaps.

The difference between Real Soap and Pure Soap

Although the letters will come flying in, we do not see any difference between real soap and pure soap. The two terms define the same thing, what is soap? There may be people who claim a purity of ingredients of real soap to be a pure soap, but we see that is subtle and more of a marketing distinction.

What is Soap?

Soap is first seen in Egypt, 1550 BC. The Egyptians combined vegetable and animal and oils with alkaline salts to create substance we would recognize as soap. By the Ancient Roman era, according to Natural History (Pliny), many cultures had traditions using soap for cleansing. All the cultures used the same basic ingredients.

Humans have demanded soap cleansing for over 3500 years. The making of this soap has evolved, but the ingredients have always been associated to the combining an alkali such as lye to fats or oils.

The historical use and making of soap are why we believe that real soap and pure soap are the same. The ingredients are historically basic, so we take the meaning to link basic with pure.

Back to the Question, What is Soap?

So in our modern days, enter the US FDA and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

Now is the time to bring up what the FDA calls traditional soaps and synthetic detergents

  1. Real soap and pure soaps are made the traditional way as we outlined above.

  2. Synthetic detergents are all the rest of the cleansing array of product not made with traditional or basic, pure ingredients.

Big deal you say? We agree, but we are trying to shed some light on why the internet is so confused by this distinction.

Now we Add Regulations for More Confusion

The FDA outlines the regulatory definition of Soap in three conditions:

  • The Ingredients ~ The product must be made from “alkali salts of fatty acids” to be regulated as “soap”. That process gives us the soap when you combine fats or oils with an alkali; such has lye.

  • 2. Which of the ingredients cause the cleaning action ~ Only the cleansing from those alkali salts of fatty acids can be the cleaning agents. If any other cleaning agent is added, the resulting product is not soap. Interesting enough, the product can still be called soap on the label! Hence a reason for confusion.

  • 3. The product’s intended use ~ To be regulated as soap, the product only is labeled and marketed for use as soap. If any other purpose is on the label or in the marketing, then the product will be labeled as Cosmetic or a Drug. So if you see “Moisturizing,” the product is regulated as a Cosmetic. If the product is the treatment for a condition, it is governed as a Drug.

Natural or Organic Ingredients

Soap does not change the laws and regulations already enforced by the FDA. The information does make this claim about Natural or Organic, “It’s important not to assume that using only ingredients from plants will make your products safe.”

True Soap, Pure Soap – The Bottom Line

Anything product not meeting any one of the three Criteria:

  1. The Ingredients

  2. The Cleansing Source

  3. The Intent of the product

Is just a designer cleanser, and not a traditional soap! [Although the word soap can be used to market it.]

Is that so terrible? No, of course not. We should be happy to have so many options and choices.

We hope that clears up what is a pure soap and a real soap! If not consider this:

Real soap, pure soap from the historical legacy and FDA regulations, means soap is harsher than the other cleansing products designed for a purpose, or made to be less harsh than soap – although the word soap can still be used on the product.

Now, aren’t you glad we took the time to research the topic to clear it up for you?


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