Health Tip: Comparing Soap and Other Body Cleansers

(HealthDay News) -- Traditional soaps are made by combining fats or oils with an alkali, such as lye. Most body cleansers, however, are actually synthetic detergent products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

There are very few pure soaps on the market today, the agency says.

The product's ingredients and marketing determine how it's regulated, the FDA says. It offers these details:

  • To be regulated as "soap," the product must be composed mainly of the "alkali salts of fatty acids," that is, the material you get when you combine fats or oils with an alkali, such as lye.
  • Also, to be recognized as a "soap," those "alkali salts of fatty acids" must be the only cleansing ingredient. If the product contains a synthetic detergent, it's recognized as a cosmetic, not a soap.
  • To be regulated as a "soap," the product also must be labeled and marketed only for use as soap. If it is intended, for example, to moisturize the skin, make the user smell nice or deodorize the user's body, it's a cosmetic.
  • If the product is intended to kill germs, or treat skin conditions such as acne or eczema, it's recognized as a drug, the FDA says.

Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Henry Ford Allegiance Health or performed by Henry Ford Allegiance Health physicians.

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

Unexplained shortness of breath, panting or the inability to take a deep breath may be warning signs of a heart attack, with or without chest pain. Call 911 if you experience these symptoms.