Marie Gale Answers Your Questions

Marie, Is it legal to use the words "Aromatherapy Oil" on the label? I am concerned about the word "aromatherapy," as the FDA has mentioned that word on their site in a dubious manner (in quotes), but I couldn't figure out if that actual word is taboo or if the manner in which some aromatherapy products are described is the actual problem. Thank you!  -- J.V.

Marie, Does your labeling book contain a list of words that cosmetic makers should and should not use when naming/labeling and describing their products ? For example, Don't say: healing. Do say: calming. Or are you aware of another resource that would help me get the terminology correct? Thank you!  -- J.V.

Hi Marie, Years ago I saw a loophole for using the word organic on the hair products (I make hair gel, shampoo, etc.). As long as I market less than $5000 worth of product annually and adhere to all of the certification standards in the production with the ability to pass a random inspection at any point, you could use the word organic on your labels. What I have never figure out is what they mean by "marketing." For example, I have the same all my products on two websites. For eas lets say they all cost $20 and I have 10 products on each site, so $400 worth of products with the word organic on it. Am I getting this correctly or am I totally missing the mark here? Heres the resource I found: Thank you! April  -- A.S.

The wording on that website page is a little deceptive.  When they say "market less than $5,000", they actually mean that the company has an annual revenue from organic sales of less than $5,000. The actual code for that is here:  - 205.101(a) - which says:

"(a) Exemptions. (1) A production or handling operation that sells agricultural products as “organic” but whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less annually is exempt from certification under subpart E of this part and from submitting an organic system plan for acceptance or approval under §205.201 but must comply with the applicable organic production and handling requirements of subpart C of this part and the labeling requirements of §205.310. The products from such operations shall not be used as ingredients identified as organic in processed products produced by another handling operation."

So it is a loophole, just not quite as big as you might have thought.

Hi Marie, I was wondering if Fizzy Bath Bombs have any special labeling requirements, or are they just treated as regular cosmetics? I would assume so, since I don't seem them listed in your labeling book (3rd edition). Also, do you think Shower Steamers would be treated as a cosmetic too (as far as labeling is concerned), even though it's not something that is intended to contact your skin? Thanks in advance!  -- L.N.

Fizzy Bath Bombs don't have any special labeling requirements UNLESS it would be considered a "foaming detergent bath product".  In that case, it would need a bubble bath warning.  I think if the fizzy is using a surfactant that creates bubbles (not just a citric/soda reaction) then it might be a bubble bath and need the warning.

I would think that a shower steamer would be a cosmetic ... the idea is that the STEAM is coming in contact with the body and doing something.  That's a little different than a room freshener or a potpourri.  To be on the safe side, I'd suggest labeling as a cosmetic (which really means only putting the ingredient declaration on it) ... all other labeling requirements apply either way.

Thank you Marie for this common sense answer. A vaguerie for sure. To all, I did mention that big stores will not accept an old label if you're wholesaling, I know this firsthand.  -- V.C.

Hi Marie, no research has turned up any answers to this question: I have moved my business (and myself) to a new location. I have money invested in old labels (over $1500) with previous business address. Is there ANY possible use for packaging with an old label or is this just outright violation? Can I clearance those soaps, etc? Inquiring minds... I do want to be compliant and I would never sell to stores with old labels. Just wondering before I dump the $$$ in the trash. Thanks, Vanessa  -- V.C.

There isn't anything specific in the regulations, but there seems to be a general agreement that there should be a certain amount of time to use up old labels.  WORST case is that some inspector is going to tell you that you can't use them; BEST case is that you can use them up quickly, so it's not an issue.  While you are using up the labels, be sure there is a forward or some way for people to get ahold of you if they contact you at the previous business address.

I make and sell a Magnesium Oil that is applied topically and contains magnesium chloride, water and an essential oil blend. Does this product qualify as a nutritional supplement and if so what regulations apply to this? Lately, I've been worried that maybe I am not in compliance with this particular product. Here is my product:  -- A.C.

Your page says that magnewium benefits the body in many ways.  Everything you listed is a physical issue and involves treating, mitigating or preventing disease or altering the function or structure of the body.  That definitely disqualifies it from being a cosmetic.

I don't know if it could be considered a nutritional supplement (since it is topically applied) and nutritional supplements are normally ingested.  IF it does qualify as a nutritional supplement, there are many, many requirements for supplements and limitations on what you can and can't say.  There are also required GMP regulations, facility licensing and approval and other requirements. (Nutritional supplement requirements are a hybrid of the food regulations and the drug regulations.)

Finally, the HSCG insurance doesn't cover nutritional supplements.

You might want to rethink the way you are promoting the product.

Hi Marie- I am curious to learn more about regulatory requirements when it comes to labeling our soaps. For example, in this recipe (Olive Oil, Sustainable Palm Oil, Water, Coconut Oil, Lye, Shea Butter, Fragrance, Kaolin Clay, Salt), do we have to call out water and lye on the label even when saying saponified oils of...? Thanks, Tom  -- J.H.

If the soap is being marketed and labeled ONLY as soap (that is there are NO claims that it will do anything else such as moisturize or soothe), then the cosmetic ingredient declaration requirements don't apply. In that case, you are free to use whatever terminology you want to describe the product and its ingredients, provided only that the information isn't false or misleading. 

If the soap is being marketed as a COSMETIC, then the cosmetic regulations DO apply. For cosmetics, the ingredients must be correctly identified.  You can list what goes INTO the pot, which would be oils (not "saponified ___"), water, sodium hydroxide and any other additives.  Or you can clist what comes OUT of the pot, which would be the saponified oils - which must be identified as sodium ___ate (ie sodium oliveate, sodium palmate, etc), and the additives.

If you are listing the ingredients for a soap exempt from the definition of a cosmetic in a way that is NOT in accordance with the cosmetic regulations, I suggest present it differently so the consumer doesn't assume to understand it in the same way as a cosmetic ingredient declaration

Hi..I bought your book bundle at the conference and watched your video on soap math. I am planning on taking the basic certification and on practice tests and am having difficulty on the math problems. Do you have any video on this or a book I can buy or do you have a class etc? Where are you located?? Sarina  -- S.A.

I am located in Washington State, near Seattle.  At present I don't offer any classes.

The basic CP/HP Soapmaker certification test requires two kinds of math:

First, calculating the right amount of lye. You aren't required to know the SAP values, they are provided.  You just need to know how to do the multiplication and move the decimal point.  But first you need to understand what the SAP value is - and that should explain what needs to be multiplied and why.  My recommendation: study up on what the SAP value is and how it is used.

Second, calculating the amounts of an oil when you have the percentage and the total (or the amount of another oil for which you know the percentage). For these questions, study up on what percentages are and how to use them to caluclate relative amounts.

Until we get more tutorials up on the website, I am sure you can find something online.


I need to create a Material Data Safety Sheet for one of my Customers. I have one for each ingredient in our file, but is there a template that you can create one with your own recipe?  -- S.B.

Generally a Safety Data Sheet is for occupational safety and health.  It's not for the consumer, but to provide safety information for someone that is working with a chemical or substance in a manufacturing type environment. For finished products, you shouldn't need to provide an SDS.  Consider Amazon. They don't require SDS sheets for all of the products they are selling!

If your product is one that the customer is using to make something else, you may need to provide a safety data sheet. Wikipedia has an excellent article on Safety Data Sheets that lays out the requirements SDS sheets (and you can see that they are geared to chemical substances).  

If you are wholesaling a product for retail sale, it may be that you need to educate your customer rather than actually make an SDS for your product.

I should have been more specific. Our soaps always weigh more than the weight on the box. What the NJ weights and measures are giving our customer grief over is that it varies, and is not exactly what is on the box on every bar. 1. Do they have the ability to even govern this, i cannot find anything that gives them legal power over soap. 2. Where is the federal law that specifies soap labeling that i can provide to the client? I cant find that.  -- J.T.

Generally the Department or Division of Weights and Measures is the one that has authority over the measurement of what it in a package, and the labeling of the packages.  New Jersey adopted the Uniform Weights and Measures Regulation and the Uniform Weighmaster Law suggested by the National Insitutes of Standards and Technology Handbook 130. The 2019 version can be found here, but according to the NIST website, they adopted an earlier version. So, in answer to your first question, the NJ Weights and Measures does have legal power over soap because it is a consumer commodity.

The New Jersey packaging and labeling regulations, which can be found here (see page 5).  The NJ regulations are easy --- they say to see the NIST Handbook 130, 2018 edition, at IV.A.6 and IV.A.7.   The actual text (as of 2019) can be found here, on pages 63-74.  The key provisions that apply to your question are :

  • 6.3: A declaration of the net quantity shall appear on the principal display panel.
  • 6.12: Quantity declaration cannot have supplemental statement (such as "miminum" or "when packed")
  • 6.15:  The average quantity of contents in the packages of a particular lot, shipment, or delivery shall at least equal the declared quantity, and no unreasonable shortage in any package shall be permitted even though overages in other packages in the same shipment, delivery, or lot compensate for such shortage.

As for the federal regulations for labeling soap - they are found in 16 CFR 500.  The paragraphs applicable here are probably 500.25 and 500.26. 

I hope that helps you work it out with the NJ Weights and measures and your customer.


We have a 3 store health food chain in nj that carries our bar soap. We have our bar weight listed on our box, but as you know with soap, that weight changes based on cure, cut, etc. So no 2 bars are exactly alike in weight,  and our listed weight has to be a blended average. I need help in how to address this, as its jeopardizing our account. I cannot find anything in the NJ weights and measures that even says they can govern this. Help!!!!  -- J.T.

The "blended average" is not allowed in the US. That's sort of what the "e" estimated symbol is used for the the EU, but we don't have that option in the US.

The weight on the box is supposed to be the actual and accurate net weight of the product, but there is provision of "reasonable variance" due to evaporation, manufacturing practices, and the like.  But even so, the stated net weight CANNOT be more than the actual weight of the product.

With soap, because of the evaporation issue and the unknown variable of how long it will stay on the shelf until purchased, you'll need to calculate the LOWEST weight it COULD be when the consumer purchases. 

You can make that calculation mathematically by adding up the weight of all the ingredients EXCEPT the water (for the batch and then divide by the number of bars in the batch).

You can also make that calculation empirically by figuring out the longest amount of time until the product is sold, and then measuring the weight of a bar that has been sitting around in a similar environment for at least that long.

Hi Marie - Can you point me to the Florida statute that states that home based businesses cant make any product other than soap? For example - no lotions, scrubs, etc. Thanks. Joan King  -- J.K.

It's Florida Statutes (here:

499.01 Permits:  Says "Prior to operating, a permit is required for each person and establishment that intends to operate as: .... a cosmetic manufacturer"

499.012(1)(a) which says "An establishment that is a place of residence may not receive a permit and may not operate under this part."

Cosmetic is defined in 499.003(13)(a): "an article, with the exception of soap, that is intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on; introduced into; or otherwise applied to the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance."

The cosmetic manufacturing laws apply to making any type of cosmetics, which includes lotions, scrubs, fizzies, lip balm, lotion bars, cream, etc.  It also includes soap that is marketed as a cosmetic (that is, it claims to do more than just clean, such as moisturize, etc.).

If you are manufacturing soap that is exempt from the definition of a cosmetic (which means that it is the alkali salt of fatty acids and is labeled and marketed only as "soap"), then the cosmetic manufacturing laws don't apply. 


I recently started to use lake colors in my bath bombs, and I am having trouble finding a correct answer on how to properly label them. Can I simply use "RED 40" or do I need to label "FD&C Red 40 Aluminum Lake" or someone had even recently told me I needed to put "FD&C RED 40 LAKE BATCH #12345678. It's safe to say I am more than confused. Any insight you have will be GREATLY appreciated!  -- K.K.

You can just use Red 40.  You don' tneed to specify the batch number (that is only necessary for manufacturers who are providing the ingredient, not for consumer products).

I am surprised that you are using lakes in your bath bombs since lakes, by definition, are not water soluable.  

Marie, Enjoyed your class. Trying to implement GMP and can't find recommendations re: how long to retain samples of soap, lip balm, bath bombs, lotion, and salts. The only thing I found was a European recommendation that said 1 year after expiration, which makes soap and salts problematic, and we don't usually put expiration dates on the other products. What is your best recommendation? Thank you. Anne  -- A.R.

General rule is that retain samples should be kept for 1 year past the end of the shelf life.

For soaps that can last a pretty long time, I'd say keeping 1 year past the reasonable time that a person would hold on to them or use them should be okay.

Nearly all other cosmetic products - particularly those that could be affected by environment/humidity (bath bombs, bath salts), that contain preservatives (lotions, creams), or that have other potential degradation over time (scent dissipation) SHOULD have an expiration date.  Even if you don't put it on the package (which I would recommend doing), you should have a standard within your GMP. Kep the retain samples 1 year past that date.

What's the best way to incorporate batch numbers on products? A separate label or should it be on the product label itself. Is it okay if it is handwritten? Sheri  -- S.V.

In big companies, the batch number is included on the label or stamped onto the container when it is filled.  For handcrafters, you have several options...

If you make the labels yourself and only print enough for each batch when it is done, then including the batch number when you print should be relatively easy.  That looks the cleanest.

If you have labels printed in advance and you have room, you can leave a space for the batch number and then either stick on a label with the batch number or write in the batch number.  Keep in mind that if the labels are printed professionally and are on glossy paper or have a UV coating, you won't be able to easily write on the label.

In either case, another option would be to print little stand-alone labels that say "batch number 12345" and stick those on the container/package somewhere.  

Handwriting the batch number is fine, so long as it is readable.  If you are thinking about taking that option, take into consideration whether a handwritten addition to the label would be appropriate for your brand and your selected target customer base.

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