Using an Ingredient Name in a Product Name

Posted in: Soap & Cosmetic Labeling

2014-03-14-choose-cosmeticOver the years, one small section in my book, Soap and Cosmetic Labeling, has probably generated the most question and online discussion than any other.  That section covers “Using an Ingredient in the Name” and discusses the FDA regulations that prohibit the use of the name of one ingredient in the name of the product (if it has two or more ingredients).

What about “Goat Milk Soap” or “Oatmeal Soap” or “Luxe Lotion with Shea Butter”? On the one hand, those product names seem reasonable.  But first, let’s take a look at why the regulation might be there in the first place.

A Little History

The Food Drug and Cosmetic Act was signed by President Roosevelt on June 25, 1938.  It was the result of a long process to update the earlier law, passed in 1906.  There were a lot of factors that went into the formulation of the 1938 bill, including broad publication of hundreds of deaths resulting from unsafe products, loopholes in the earlier law and massive changes in the way food, drugs and cosmetics were developed and marketed.

“Fruit Jam” consisting of water, sugar, grass seeds and red dye probably didn’t cause any deaths, but it was just one more example of false claims and deceptive marketing.  That one example (or others like it) may be what ultimately developed into the clause we now have in cosmetic regulation (21CFR:701.1(b)):

The labeling of a cosmetic which contains two or more ingredients may be misleading by reason (among other reasons) of the designation of such cosmetic in such labeling by a name which includes or suggests the name of one or more but not all such ingredients, even though the names of all such ingredients are stated elsewhere in the labeling.

Intentional Deception

Not too long ago a friend of mine showed a pump bottle of “Shea Butter,” her new favorite cosmetic product. Since you can’t pump shea butter (it’s very solid at room temperature), I was intrigued. Reading the label, I saw that it was actually “Shea Butter LOTION” and the ingredient declaration showed that there was probably only 1 – 2% shea butter in the product.

Clearly the product was misbranded and in violation of the regulations. Whoever packaged and sold that product was probably trying to deceive – and it worked. My friend knew about the benefits of shea butter and willingly shelled out $25 for a bottle of “Shea Butter” lotion because she expected to get shea butter. Did she get shea butter? Well, some, but probably not the quantity she was expecting for the price she paid.

What’s Included in the “Product Name”?

Obviously, the main statement of the brand or name of the product is the product name. “Luxe Lotion” or “Sally’s Super Soap” or “MyBrand Cream” are all product names.

But what about “MyBrand Gardener’s Helper Cream with Shea Butter”??  Well, I checked with the FDA to determine what they consider is part of the product name. Their response: “It depends on what the consumer considers is part of the product name.”  In other words, in the example, if “with Shea Butter” is placed in such a way that if looks or feels like part of the name, it probably IS part of the name.  On the other hand, if “with Shea Butter” is placed away from the main product name and in a size, color and/or font that clearly distinguishes it as separate from the name, then the consumer would likely consider it “additional information” – not part of the name itself.

Look at the two possibilities below. The one on the left clearly promotes “with Shea Butter” and it is in the same font and color as the name. I read the name of the product to be “Gardener’s Helper with Shea Butter”. Compared to the label on the right, I read the product name to be “Gardener’s Helper” and then there is additional information (not part of the name) is that it is a “deep moisturizing cream” “with Shea Butter!”.



The Final Take-Away

  1. Don’t include the name of an ingredient in the product name.
  2. If you promote one ingredient in the product, do it in a way that makes it a statement separate from the product name.

There is nothing wrong with including marketing information on your product label! There is nothing wrong with promoting that your product includes cool and trendy ingredients! Just use common sense and make sure that your consumer – like my friend with the “Shea Butter Lotion” – doesn’t misinterpret what you are saying about your product.


26 Comments on “Using an Ingredient Name in a Product Name”

  1. Becky

    I make lip balms with essential oils. I am taking this to mean I cannot call my product “Rosemary/Mint Lip Balm” to delineate a “flavor” or scent. Would you agree?

    1. Marie Gale

      As noted in the article, it’s using an ingredient name in the name of the product that causes the product to be misbranded. So the question is whether a “flavor” (or a “fragrance”, for that matter) is an “ingredient”. Honestly, it can get a little confusing and I don’t know what the final opinion of the FDA is. I think it would depend on all of the factors of a specific case, although using some common sense helps. Let’s take a look at the possibilities:

      In the case that a flavor or fragrance is made up of multiple (and undisclosed) ingredients that have nothing to do with the final flavor or scent, like, say, “Banana”. That’s an FO and doesn’t contain a single banana (at least, I don’t think it does). I have no idea WHAT makes the flavor. So to say it’s “Banana Lip Balm” wouldn’t actually be using the name of an ingredient in the name of the product (since there are no bananas in the ingredients) … but it does give the implication that there are (so that’s somewhat false and misleading, so not a good idea). In that case, maybe the best way would be to call it “Banana flavored lip balm”, or “MyBrand Lip Balm” with “banana flavor” somewhere nearby (so the consumer knows the flavor).

      In the case of an essential oil, where the flavor is, in fact, the ingredient … maybe the best way is to handle it the same as with an FO as in “MyBrand LipBalm” with “Rosemary Mint flavor”. That makes it very clear to the consumer what you’re talking about, which is really the bottom line.

  2. Charlotte

    I have about four or so different recipes that I use. What differentiates them are their butters and oils, not a special use like “gardener’s soap”. I’m not sure how to rename them. What about 100% coconut oil soap? Do the other ingredients offset that too? Can I call a salt bar a salt bar or is that misbranding as well?

    1. Marie Gale

      The issue of using an ingredient name in a product name or identity can get a little bit tricky. I probably need to update the post to clarify.

      In general, you shouldn’t use an ingredient name in a product name or identity – it is against the regulations because it can easily confuse the consumer and make them think the product is something other than what it really is. If you say your soap is “100% coconut oil” it implies that coconut is the only ingredient … which isn’t actually true. Someone who doesn’t understand that there chemistry (and other ingredients) are involved in making soap could – possibly – think it’s the SAME as “100% coconut oil” that you use to cook with. That would be a big mistake!

      You CAN put information material on the front (or back or sides) of the product that gives more information to the consumer. I’m a soapmaker and I would like to know what oils are used in making the soap I’m buying. So saying on the front of the package that the only oil coconut is used in the soap would be important to me. BUT, it should be done in a way that doesn’t imply that it is that name or identity of the product.

      A “salt bar” is similar. We know what a “salt bar” is, but a general consumer might think that it’s all or mostly SALT (as opposed to being nearly all SOAP). Some other way to describe the soap bar without using the term “salt” in the identity might be more approrpiate. “Contains salt for scrubbing” or “with organic sea salt for exfoliation” might work — or whatever communicates to the consumer the actual reason/use for salt in the bar without making it part of the name or identity of the product.

  3. Sherry


    I guess I’m confused on the labeling of soap. Are you saying I can not do this Handmade Goat Milk Soap
    Orange Clove
    5 wt.
    Cocoa Butter, Mango Butter, Shea Butter

  4. Juli

    How about something like “Tangemelon”? It’s not a word, it’s one I made up….. but it is reflective of the ingredients/scent.

    1. Marie Gale

      That kind of creative thinking is why the attorneys get paid big bucks! Tangemelon isn’t an ingredient name (although it sounds like it) … so it should be fine. Of course, I’m NOT an attorney, so if you go with really wide distribution or export, you might want to get a second opinion.

  5. Gwynn

    So if I am understanding this correctly, all sugar scrubs and salt scrubs that are labeled as such are labeled incorrectly? You cannot legally label a product a “sugar scrub” if in fact, that is what it is? Might a better option be “body scrub” then?

    1. Marie Gale

      For COSMETICS, the name of an ingredient may not be in the NAME of the product. There are no regulations that say that an ingredient can’t be in the IDENTITY of the product. So if the IDENTITY of the product is “sugar scrub” I don’t know of any regs that disallow that. However, if the NAME of the product is “Sandy’s Super Sugar Scrub” “or “Cleansing with Sugar” (for example), then the name includes an ingredient, which makes the product misbranded.

      The IDENTITY of the product is required on the label. A NAME of the product is not required.

      And, honestly, the lines seem somewhat blurry on how this is applied and enforced.

  6. P Hogan

    This is a constant argument in the soaper’s groups. If I make all soaps using goat’s milk, and it’s 100% goat’s milk for the liquid portion, I feel I should be able to call it goat’s milk soap. It is a substantial and significant portion of my soap ingredients, and in most cases, the largest percentage over the individual oils, as I generally use a combination of several different oils. It is not an additive or small amount. I generally don’t make soaps using water or other liquids. They are goat’s milk soaps. There is nothing misleading about it.

    1. Marie Gale

      It depends on which regulations you are applying.

      If the product is a COSMETIC, then the NAME of the product cannot contain the name of an ingredient. Period. (There are no provisions for a significant, substantial or functional amount).

      If the product is a SOAP, exempt from cosmetic regulation (it is the alkali salt of fatty acids, and is identified and marketed as “soap”), then the IDENTITY of the product (what it is) can only contain the name of an ingredient if the ingredient is present “in a substantial or significantly effective amount”. (Exactly how much that would be is not defined). The exact code is:

      (d) The specification of identity shall not be false, misleading, or deceptive in any respect. Ingredients or components which are not present in the commodity in a substantial or significantly effective amount may not be mentioned in the specification of identity; [16 CFR 500.4(d)]

  7. jecci

    Does every product need a name? My soaps say company name and logo, Handmade soap, underneath that it says “made with natural ingredients” or ” with goats milk” etc. Then on the top it says Scent: lavender essential oil or cucumelon fragrance etc.
    My lotion says Body Lotion, sugar scrubs say sugar scrub and so on. I understand this is the identity, but do they need a name?

    1. Marie Gale

      No, a name is not required. Normally products have a name for branding and/or product placement.

  8. Nicole

    So, I am trying to redo my names, and wondering: I’m assuming Oatmeal & Honey Soap or Cucumber Aloe Soap are not allowed. Would it be okay to just label everything “Handmade Soap” in larger print, and then in smaller print underneath specify the type (Oatmeal & Honey, Cucumber Aloe, Lavender Dream, etc.) ?

    1. Marie Gale

      A NAME is not required. The identity is always required (for cosmetics AND soap that is exempt from the definition of a cosmetic). The identity of “Handmade Soap” says what it is and meets the requirements for the identity statement for goth soap and cosmetics.

      Putting a “type” or “scent” under the identity does not violate any regulatins that I know of. You should, however, make it very clear on the label that the type is presented in a way that it is VERY CLEARLY not part of the identity (or name) of the product. You can do that by making it a completely separate bit of “marketing text” by separating it by font, placement, and/or color.

  9. Lenten Rose Soap

    So, if I call my soap a Complexion Bar. And include a list of all ingredients typed on an enclosure. This may still be wrong?
    Or Oatmeal Honey Almond Milk
    And include a list of All ingredients.

    1. Marie Gale

      A “complexion bar” is a cosmetic, and the ingredients must be on the outside of the package where the consumer can see what they are before purchasing.

      “Oatmeal Honey Almond Milk Soap” needs to have the “oatmeal honey and almond milk” taken out of the name/identity because ingredient(s) in the name or identity is tricky (as per the post). Depending on whether it is a scent or actual ingredients, you could put some clarification on the front (marketing text) that says “scented with ___” or “___ scent” or “with ___” — just so long as the statement is clearly NOT part of the name or identity, but is obviously (by text, color, font, placement, etc) additional marketing text.

  10. Jen

    So if I am not planning to go the cosmetic route for my soap, does it have to be titled with just SOAP or can it be like “simply soap” or something to that effect? Its so disappointing that our government makes it so complicated to be self sufficient. 🙁 I have bought your books, and read them but I am just having some issues trying to grasp what is acceptable and what isn’t.

    1. Marie Gale

      There are two things — the IDENTITY and the NAME. The identity is what the product is … for soap it would be “soap” (could be “handmade soap” or “handcrafted soap” or “simply soap”, but it couldn’t be “shampoo” even if it was actually true soap). The name is the brand or unique identifier of the product.

      The rules for soap and cosmetics are slightly different when it comes to having the name of an ingredient in the name or identity of the product. Safe bet (and best practice) is to not put an ingredient name in either the name or identity.

  11. Veronica Reddick

    Thank you for responding back to so many questions! I found what I need just by reading it all. Have a blessed 2017!!

  12. Kathy

    Marie Gale
    Thank you so much for all of this wonderful information,
    I will be making some corrections to my labels…..
    You made this very user friendly….I will be grabbing a copy of your book.
    again thank you.

    1. Marie Gale

      Glad the site has been of help! The more people who correctly label their products, the better chance we have to convince the powers-that-be that we are, in fact, complying with the existing regulations and don’t need any more.

  13. Jennifer

    So could I say wowzer lemon…. ?? Or finally rose…? I use those two eo or fo for the scent.or this considered an ingredient and therefore can’t use the scent in it?

    1. Marie Gale

      The KEY is whether putting some form of “ingredient” in the name or identity of the product would be false or misleading.

      Best thing to do is look at it from the consumers point of view. If the someone was looking for rose, as an actual ingredient for some reason – whatever reason – and they thought that your “Finally Rose” actually contained rose … would she label be false or misleading when she found out it was a synthetic fragrance oil?

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