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How to Label Soap for Sale in the USA: The Nitty Gritty on Soap Labeling Regulations

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how to label soap for sale in the usa

If you’re selling soap in the USA, you need to be aware of the labeling regulations that come with it. It can be confusing to figure out what’s required and what isn’t, but it’s important to get it right. In this blog post, I’ll break down the nitty-gritty details you need to know about labeling your soap products for sale in the USA.

So, are you ready? Let’s talk soap labels!

The basics of soap labeling

When it comes to labeling soap for sale in the USA, the first thing we need to be aware of the cosmetic vs. non-cosmetic situation we have here in the USA.

In the USA, labeling cosmetics (things that are applied to the human body to make us pretty and to cleanse) are regulated by the FDA. BUT, there’s an exception to this for SOAP (something that just cleanses). Under this exception, soap is classified as a non-cosmetic and falls under the Federal Trade Commission for labeling and Consumer Product Safety Commission for safety (and state agencies).

Here’s a quick run down to determine if you’re selling soap (non-cosmetic) or soap (cosmetic):
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It’s non-cosmetic SOAP if:

  • the bulk of the product is lye/oil (the alkali salt of fatty acids)
  • you didn’t add any detergents (so, the cleaning properties are from the alkali salt of fatty acids)
  • you only market it as soap and you don’t make any claims aside from the obvious claim that it’s soap for cleaning (moisturizing, making more attractive, exfoliating, etc. are all claims).

If your product doesn’t meet ALL of those items above, it’s a cosmetic.

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Also important to note, if you’re selling soap that does anything other than CLEAN, you’ll not only need to label it as a cosmetic, but you’ll also need to restrict your colorants to cosmetic approved colors.

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What is required by law on your soap label

Now that we know what we mean by “soap”, let’s talk about what you HAVE to have on the label for soap in the USA. And remember, I’m only talking soap here. =)

  1. Product Name (i.e. whatever name you gave your amazing bar of soap ) on the front panel of your label
  2. Product Identity (i.e Handmade Soap, or just Soap) on the front label.
  3. Net content on the front panel
  4. Business name and address (FYI you don’t have to list your street address if it’s publicly and readily available online)

Here’s a simple example of those items for you too:

Sample Soap Label
  1. My Favorite (product name)
  2. Handmade Soap (product identity)
  3. NET WT. 4oz (113gr)
  4. My Soapy Company, My Town USA

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What is not required on a soap label (but for sure recommended)

Now, since we’re just selling soap, we don’t HAVE to list anything else on the label, but you might want to consider listing a few other things (and it might help you sell more soap too).

1: The ingredients

While not required by law, listing the ingredients on your soap label will help consumers decide if they want your soap. Maybe they are avoiding something or maybe they are looking for something specific. Either way, it’s really nice to list them. Keep in mind though, that if you are going to list your ingredients, list them all, with the appropriate name of the ingredient, and in the order that they make up the product. Marie’s book will will help you with this. And, if you’re a member of the soap guild, you can access the HSCG Ingredient Database for the appropriate name for labeling.

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2: Marketing copy that makes your soap better than another soap

Now, keep in mind you can’t turn it into a cosmetic, but maybe your soap is made on a unicorn farm (how cool would that be??). Or maybe your soap is made by elves who live on the island of misfit toys… or maybe it’s really about being a local product, or “made with shea butter”… you get the idea. Tell people what’s so special about this soap (while making sure it’s still just soap).

Tips for designing your soap label

I can’t help but put some basic design tips here too. My 30+ years of graphic design simply won’t let me omit it!

First off, let’s realize that not all soap makers are designers, nor do you have to be a designer in order to sell soap. AND not all consumers require a super duper high-end design. In fact, simpler is often better. That’s one of the first things they teach you in design school (the more glitz and glam you add to any design, the harder it is for the end user to understand the design).

Basically, no matter your skill level, you can put together a basic label for your soap. If you are not a trained graphic designer, you should consider keeping things to a minimum. Else, you risk over designing a label that’s going to confuse the consumer. If you are a trained graphic designer, remember form and function =)

Ok, back to those tips I promised!

1: Keep your soap label design simple.

I’m not just talking about the design of the label her. Keep the physical needs of your labels to a bear minimum. Things like one size, one paper type, or one box size. The more variations you have in place, the more complicated things get. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have different colors of paper, or different textures of wrapping… just that you will thank yourself if you keep it similar (aka simple).

2: Consider a container for your soap.

Not only will a container (or wrapper, aka packaging) make labeling your soaps simpler, but it will also help protect your soap from the elements. Packaging can also help prevent DOS, and keeps the soaps from being scuffed and otherwise damaged before they are sold. If you have a box, you can easily slap the label onto the box, Or be like me… I prefer paper wrappers or cotton bags for my soaps. My bags are printed with the “label” contents. My paper wraps are labeled separately.

3: Limit the fonts on your labels.

The number one “cringing” moment I have as a former designer is seeing so many fonts on a single design. Keep your font choices to 1 or 2 fonts for the entire label. And, make sure your fonts are easily legible to your target audience.

4: Use a page layout program, or hire a designer, to create your soap labels

These days we’re lucky enough to have Canva for basic design needs. I know you probably have Word on your computer, but Canva is really worth the little bit of effort needed to learn the basics. If your soap making business is taking off and you have a need for professionally designed labels… do it. It’s totally worth the investment! Just make sure your designer understands the label requirements.

5: When starting out, use labels that come with software.

Once you have a single label, you can set it up to print on your label sheets with the label manufacturers software. I use online labels, and love their set up platform called Maestro. I design my labels in Adobe InDesign (I’m a trained graphic designer, so I know the program. Canva would work just fine for most soap makers) and then upload the final PDF to Maestro. It pops the single label into a template that fits the sheets I ordered without me having to do one ounce of thinking. LOVE IT!

6: Read Marie’s book, and her website.

Yup, I’m saying it again. Even though you’re here reading my take on things, I’m telling you now that I’ve probably missed something important to YOUR soap labels. Marie’s resources are filled with all of the information you didn’t know you needed (i.e. required font sizes for the Net WT. of your product)… and she even offers label reviews! Yup, that means she’ll review your label and make sure it’s ship shape before you go to the expense of printing it.

Have a tip to share about your soap labeling processes? Drop a comment below, please!

And before we go, here are two soap labeling videos for you.

First is a great video from Marie’s label review video archives. It’s a perfect label! You’ll notice that it’s a very simple soap label that 100% does the job. It clearly identifies the product to the consumer, and the manufacturer has a no stress labeling process.

Next up, here’s how I label my Christmas Coal soaps from the rebatching tutorial. It has some tips about affixing the labels to the bars, cutting the labels, etc.

4 thoughts on “How to Label Soap for Sale in the USA: The Nitty Gritty on Soap Labeling Regulations”

  1. Wow – thanks! Your article is spot on. Keeping soap in the “soap” category (exempt from the definition of a cosmetic) is really important if you are using natural colorants – since they generally aren’t approved for color additives for cosmetics.

    1. Hi Ben. Yes, you can use all of those additives in soap. The FDA regulates cosmetics. The FTC regulates soap. You would need to follow regulations based on how you market your product. It’s all covered in more detail in Marie’s book. I highly recommend it!

      Happy soaping!

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