What Does 'Natural Soap' Mean?

What Does 'Natural Soap' Mean?

There are many soaps available online that are listed as “natural soap” or “all natural soap”. But what does that really mean?

Since there is no universal definition or standard of identity for the term “natural soap”, it is not regulated by the government, and soapmakers and marketers can use the term as loosely or as strictly as they wish. Because of this, there are a couple of different loose definitions that exist.

Many people believe that a natural soap should only use ingredients that are easily pronounced, easily procured, and easily recognizable. Under this definition, olive oil would be considered a natural ingredient while Pentasodium Pentetate (“a chelating agent used in cosmetics and beauty products to prevent various mineral components from binding together and negatively affecting the formulation” via Truthinaging.com) would not be considered a natural soapmaking ingredient.

Others believe that natural soap should only use ingredients that are plant-derived. If an ingredient comes out of a laboratory then they would not consider the product to be “all-natural”.

Companies that recognize that the “natural” soap market is profitable often try to make claims of being natural. Because no government agency is currently policing the term “natural soap” in marketing or packaging, consumers need to do their own research.

We consider Goat Milk Stuff soap to be natural because we strive to keep it so. We use a variety of food-grade ingredients such as coconut oil and olive oil in our soaps. We use different ingredients for different soaps because we know that a large number of people struggle with allergies. Using different formulas allows us to have different options for people with allergies. You can see the ingredients page for all the ingredients we use and to find which soaps are safe for you if you are allergic to specific ingredients.

Quality Goat Milk

We only use raw goat milk from our own herd of healthy, pasture-raised goats instead of powdered milk or milk that comes from a herd of confined animals. We don't pasteurize, homogenize, dehydrate or chemically alter our goat milk. This makes it the most natural milk we can possibly use and leads to great benefits for your skin.

Ingredients Goat Milk Stuff Avoids

In addition to using the safest, most natural ingredients possible, we also avoid any ingredient that we are not comfortable with using on our own skin. This includes ingredients such as:

  • Chemical preservatives
  • Artificial colors (dyes)
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Triclosan (used in anti-bacterial products)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and other foaming agents
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates

What about Sodium Hydroxide?

Let’s talk for a moment about the lye we use to make our soap. In order to make soap, you need to put your ingredients through the saponification (soapmaking) reaction. This reaction requires sodium hydroxide (lye) for bar soap and potassium hydroxide for liquid soap. So the question becomes, is lye a “natural” ingredient?

Lye can actually be made entirely by nature, absent of any human intervention. When a forest fire is started by lightning, it creates ash. The rain combining with that ash can create lye. Sure, the lye would be hard to collect and use, but that process can make lye.

In pioneer times, people would run water through wood ashes to create their own lye. Because they didn’t know the exact strength, lye soap (as it was called) was often lye-heavy and pretty harsh on your skin.

Today, we don’t make our own lye, but instead get it from a chemist. This means that we know exactly how strong the lye is so that we can use the exact right amount to make a moisturizing, not harsh, bar of goat milk soap. But if lye comes from a chemist, it can’t possibly be considered natural, can it?

That’s up to you. As we’ve mentioned, there is no definition of “natural”. Some people consider lye a natural ingredient and some don’t. But it’s one of the reasons we tend to describe our soap as “natural” and not “all-natural”. Semantics? Perhaps. But we always strive to be as honest and authentic as possible.

What about the colors in Goat Milk Stuff soaps?

Many of our goat milk soaps have color added. We do this to help people visually identify the soaps they are using. We often receive emails from first-time customers who have ordered our soaps online and gotten so excited when they received them that they took all of the soaps out of their bags (which have the scent identification).  They then get confused as to which soap is which scent. They can simply send us a picture and we can identify the soaps for them by their color.

When coloring the goat milk soaps, we avoid any use of dyes and artificial colors. Instead we use food (such as alfalfa or beet powder), oxides, micas, and ultramarines to naturally color the soaps.

The foods we use to color the soaps would be considered "all natural" by everyone. But what exactly are the others? Oxides and ultramarines are pigments. These are able to be mined from the earth. But when mining them, it is possible to also mine contaminants with them. So like lye, we instead get them from a chemist to make sure that they are pure.

And remember when we mentioned earlier that some people consider something to be natural only if it comes from a plant? Well, oxides and ultramarines technically come from minerals. Does that count as "natural" in your mind?

Mica is likewise mined from the earth, but because it is very expensive to do so, the mica that is mined is usually put into electronic products.  Those we use in our soaps also come from a chemist and are mineral-based.

Essential oils vs Fragrance oils

Another reason that we describe our soap as “natural” and not “all-natural” is because we do offer some fragrance oil scented soaps in addition to all of our unscented and essential-oil-only goat milk soaps.

Essential oils are scents that are purely plant-derived. Almost everyone agrees that essential oils are “all-natural”. The scents that you can get from essential oils are limited however, because not all plants have enough volatile oils to create an essential oil. Others are prohibitively expensive to turn into true essential oils. For example, rose essential oil runs thousands of dollars per pound.

Black raspberry is a perfect example. You can not get a black raspberry essential oil from black raspberries or their plants. Since our black raspberry goat milk soap is incredibly popular (it's one of our fundraiser soaps), we’ve made the decision to continue to make it available. We use a black raspberry fragrance oil which is both paraben and phthalate free.

Since fragrance oils are not considered “natural”, we take great care to list these soaps as having fragrance oils so that people who are looking for “all-natural soap” can just choose the unscented or essential oil only soaps.

Why doesn’t Goat Milk Stuff go “essential oil only”?

When I began Goat Milk Stuff, I said I would never make something to sell that I wasn't comfortable with using on my own children's skin. As a Mom, I’ve done my personal research and believe that using our natural soap is safe and healthy for our skin. The addition of a fragrance oil that is paraben and phthalate free and smells like yummy raspberries makes me happy, and I feel it is safe.

As a professional soapmaker for over ten years, I know that some people are only going to use soaps that are scented with fragrance oils because they are drawn to those types of scents. I’d rather offer a fragrance oil option in a natural bar of soap that is great for your skin than push these people toward chemical-laden soaps and detergents.


You can see that there are a lot of details, nuances, and semantics when calling a soap "natural" or "all-natural". At Goat Milk Stuff, we strive not only to make the most natural bar of soap we can, but we also want to give people options.

We always recommend that you do your own research to decide what ingredients you’re comfortable with. If you would like to stick with unscented soaps or essential oil soaps and avoid fragrance oil soaps altogether, we have many goat milk soaps to choose from. We also have soaps without any color at all. But all of our soaps contain lye because there is no such thing as a soap made without lye. You can have a detergent without lye, but not soap.

Natural goat milk soap is an incredibly good product for your skin and we hope you enjoy the many benefits it offers.

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