Hyssop Tree will be permanently closed starting March 31, 2021

by Dorathy Lachman February 20, 2019

Early in my journey, I set out to find a soap that would work for me.  Since I had no intention of making soap, I diligently sought out the best natural soaps I could find from farmers’ markets and health-conscious stores.

The results were startling to me.  There was an incredible variation in the quality of the soaps I brought home.  Of course, I was compelled to figure out why they were so different.

One reason I quickly learned was because they were not all true soaps.  According to the FDA, “there are very few true soaps on the market. Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products… [which] are actually marketed as "soap" but are not true soap…”

That was quite a shock for me.  The beauty bar that I had gone back to when the natural soaps failed was actually not a soap.  So then I wondered, what is a soap?

In order for the FDA to recognize the product as a true soap, the product must follow three criteria:

  1. It must be composed mainly of the “alkali salts of fatty acids.”
  2. The cleaning action of the product must be from the “alkali salts of fatty acids,” and not from a synthetic detergent. If it contains a synthetic detergent, it’s not a true soap.
  3. “It must be labeled and marketed only for use as soap.” In other words, if the product claims to be moisturizing, to make you smell nice, or to deodorize your skin, it’s not a true soap. 

If it’s not a soap, why does the package say “soap?”

I had previously assumed if the label said “soap,” that the product was a true soap.  I knew to read the list of ingredients, but second-guessing the actual contents of the package never occurred to me.  But under rule #2 above, the FDA allows both true soaps and non-true soaps (which are classified as cosmetics), to be identified as “soap.”  How’s that for a loophole?

Why does my skin need lotion after using a “moisturizing” soap?

Something else I experienced during my epic search for a great soap was dryness.  Many of the farmer’s market and “natural” soaps left my hands screaming for lotion, even though the soaps were labeled as “moisturizing.”  At first I thought it was just me, but after some research, I quickly learned it was another loophole.

If the word “moisturizing” is used to describe a soap, the FDA doesn’t require the soap to be tested to prove that it is moisturizing.  According to rule #3, the manufacturer can “intend” or “market” the cleanser to be “moisturizing.”  This makes the cleanser a cosmetic and not a true soap.  But there is no requirement of proof to back such a claim.

I found this astounding – how do you know if it’s moisturizing if you don’t test it? 

I think we’ve been conditioned by consistent advertising to believe that “moisturizing” soap is better.  But is there actually a moisturizing soap, or is it all “intention” and “marketing?” 

If you’re wondering why Hyssop Tree soaps are not marketed as “moisturizing,” this is exactly why.  I make true soaps.  I don’t “intend” or “market” them to do anything but clean.  That doesn’t mean they don’t have other effects.  I just don’t intend them or market them that way.

Keeping your eyes open for marketing claims is tough – slick marketing is everywhere!  In the world of soaps and cleansers, look for words like moisturizing, deodorizing, and beauty.  You might be surprised by what you see!

How do I know if I’m getting a true soap?

When reading all these rules, it can seem very confusing to know if a “soap” is a true soap.  I’ve come up with 3 simple things you can look for to find out if what you have is indeed a true soap:

  1. Look for the word “saponified” or “lye” or “sodium hydroxide” in the ingredients. If they are absent, it’s not a true soap.
  2. The ingredients should list no synthetic detergents…look for these words: SLS, SDS (for sodium dodecyl sulfate), or sodium laurilsulfate. If you see these words, it’s not a true soap.
  3. Check the label for claims – look for words like “moisturizing,” “shaving,” and “beauty bar.” If you see these words, it’s not a true soap.

There’s one more way to tell… if you have Hyssop Tree soap in your shower, you do indeed have a true soap! 

If you don’t have Hyssop Tree soaps in your shower, I am more than happy to help you fix that right away... Just click here!



Dorathy Lachman


Dorathy Lachman

Hi, I'm Dorathy! I started Hyssop Tree to connect difference-makers through community. If you're new, welcome! Take a look around and be sure to explore the blog for more interesting articles and the soaps page - where every soap you purchase helps someone in need. Also, I'd like to invite you to join our community - once or twice a month I send out a letter to my pen-pals. Just sign up below!

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