In the past I've posted articles exposing products that have ingredients lists that just don't add up. (See here and here.) Today I've run on to another product that doesn't seem to make sense. It's gaining a lot of attention with popular green bloggers and is marketed beautifully. I'll keep the name of the product to myself so I'm not accused of "shaming and naming" but I couldn't keep my mouth shut any longer about this baffling ingredients list.
The product claims to be a multi-purpose do-it-all soap. Use it at full-strength for heavy degreasing or dilute it 1: 15 and use it as a shampoo. Use it as a foaming hand soap. Dilute it 1:30 and you'll have a multi-purpose spray cleaner. Reviews of the product have said that they were able to clean an oven with ease. They claim it removes stains and bacteria, all without the use of synthetics.
This one soap can clean your countertops, dirty laundry, showers, floors, wine stains, puppy accidents, even your spaghetti-splattered ovens.
Sounds like a miracle in a bottle, doesn't it? Let's take a look at the ingredients they list:
Purified water, fatty acids, coconut oil, minerals and enzymes derived from edible and seed-bearing plants.
Miracle indeed. Let's take a look at these ingredients individually.
Purified water--needs no explanation.
Fatty acids--All oils are made up of chains of fatty acids held together by a glycerol group. (Usually in a formation of three fatty acid chains to one glycerol group, called a triglyceride.) Split the glycerol from the fatty acids and you have glycerin and fatty acids. Common fatty acids in oils include lauric acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, alpha-lipoic acid, oleic acid. Fatty acids are slightly soluble in water, however, the longer the fatty acid chain, the less soluble it is. We aren't sure exactly which fatty acids are in this product--it can be any number of fatty acids. Not a lathering or cleansing agent; fatty acids are typically used as thickeners and emolients. Sometimes they can have some emulsifying properties, but not enough for heavy degreasing or serious cleaning. (Think cream cleanser.)
Coconut Oil--The ingredient we're familiar with from cooking and skin care. Not soluble in water, also doesn't lather or clean. It can be turned in to soap through saponification (mixing with an alkali) or chemically processed in to a detergent. But on its own, as just coconut oil, it's not a cleansing agent.
Minerals and enzymes from edible and seed-bearing plants--As with "fatty acids," this is not a full ingredient disclosure. Which minerals? What kind of enzymes? There are no minerals or enzymes that are known to lather or act like a soap.
Food-grade alcohol--they state on a separate page of their website that alcohol is used as a processing catalyst. However, no reaction between these ingredients would really happen. The fatty acids could react with the alcohol to create fatty alcohols, which could then further be processed in to detergents. Just fatty acids and alcohol wouldn't create soap, however.
They state that their formula contains no synthetics, however, nothing here would lather up and do the cleaning that they say it does. They call it a soap, however it doesn't appear that the oils and fatty acids have gone through the necessary processing to turn them in to a soap (by mixing with an alkali.) Unless perhaps the "minerals" is potash (maybe in the form of ash from burnt plants?) and the fatty acids and coconut oil is reacting with the potash. However, if that's the case, they should be listed as saponified oils or their final chemical name (potassium cocoate, etc).
This product may very well be totally safe and natural. Maybe these are saponified oils and fatty acids. On the other hand, there may be hidden synthetics giving the product lather. And what about preservatives? If the first ingredient is water and there's no apparent preservative that could be a problem. Especially if they're recommending dilution! Maybe there are special "minerals and enzymes" keeping it preserved, but how can we assess safety without knowing which minerals and enzymes are present? Just because it's plant-derived doesn't mean that it's safe. Like in the instance of Japanese Honeysuckle Extract or Grapefruit Seed Extract.
I thought...maybe I'm missing something here? The branding and copy on their website seemed so believable, so I asked a group of cosmetic formulators what they thought about it. Here were some of their responses:
Wow, ummmm yea it doesn't add up.
Sniff-sniff... smells fishy!
O_0 this is a very vague ingredients list.
I think they're dancing a fine line (stretching). 'Minerals' = lye. 'Enzymes' = Plants, okay. But their explanation of how they don't use lye...can't be true. I adore their branding though. Remember, marketing strategies can be outright lyes (see what I did there?:)
So they are saying they are "creating" a soap with the water & plant "something" instead of using lye? Ok...but then fatty acids are an ingredient not a component of another ingredient? So terribly vague..
Wow, visited their web site. All I can say is they must be miracle-workers with some of their claims.
Not to mention their implication that the actual lye they claim they don't use is toxic or irritating when it's not even present in the finished product. And yes, what kind of labeling is this? Seems more misbranding than branding.
The ingredient deck conveniently left out a solubilizer, perhaps a preservative and the proper INCI designation of the other ingredients. On their website they elude to antimicrobial / viral action, but then put up a disclaimer. That's a red flag to the FDA.
Thousands on website and marketing. Big bucks supporting this.
I wonder if this is soap nut based? They just left out the INCI?
Crazy. How can they NOT list the exact ingredients in descending order in INCI format???
They can list this BS this way because they can. Until they get their ass handed to them by the FDA. They're selling what some people want, the way they want it. No different than the MLM EO companies. Giving their products holy water claims, medical claims, bad to worse labels, no preservatives. Don't use the product if you were considering it.
Could it be soapwort as a foaming agent? But how terribly irresponsible to leave out the preservative and emulsifying ingredients. What if someone has a terrible allergic reaction because of their inaccurate labeling?
The labeling issue never fails to amaze me. It's really not that hard to comply, and if you need to hide your ingredients, then... you're doing something wrong. It's disrespectful to the customer.