The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

June 12, 2008

Pure & Natural is just a name, not necessarily a description

My friend and co-worker Marika picked up a bar of Pure & Natural soap for me while shopping at Target. Marika is very sweet. She makes the best cupcakes and brownies in the world, and she lives to love and protect animals of all kinds (even though she tortures her dog by making him wear orange sweatshirts.)

So anyway, she thought of me because Pure & Natural soap comes packaged in 100% post-consumer paperboard packaging that is embedded with flower seeds to encourage users to return it to the earth rather than throwing it away. Cute idea. And the soap itself is labeled as 99% natural origin. That’s great. But what’s the 1% that’s not natural?

Listed among all the ingredients you’d find in most natural soaps is “fragrance.” That must be the unnatural 1%. And what is in the fragrance? I didn’t know, so I called Pure & Natural’s toll-free number (1-877-711-8188) to find out. Will answered my call. I asked him if there were phthalates (hormone-disrupting chemicals often added to fragrances to make them stick to your skin) in the fragrances used in the soap. First, he said that Pure & Natural does not add any phthalates to the soap. But then he admitted that P&N purchases their fragrances from an outside fragrance house which does not divulge its ingredients, citing trade secrets.

Companies that manufacture food products are required to list all the ingredients on the label. Companies that make cosmetics and soaps don’t have to, even though these things enter our bodies through our skin. I told Will I would not be using Pure & Natural as long as the company was unable to provide information about the ingredients in their fragrances, and he said he’d pass the word along.

After my phone call with Will, I remembered that Ideal Bite had written a paid review of the soap in their Greenchip Showcase. These reviews always contain a section called “Keeping it Real” where the reviewer mentions anything not so great about the products, so I checked the P&N review to see if they’d mentioned the unknown “fragrance.” Nope. So of course, I sent them an email:

Dear Ideal Bite:

Regarding the Pure & Natural soap greenchip showcase tip:

In addition to what you listed in the “keeping it real” section, there is another aspect of these soap bars to be concerned about. The ingredients list “fragrance.” I assume this is the 1% that is not natural. Fragrances often contain phthalates, which are hormone disruptors. So I actually called Pure & Natural today to find out if there are phthalates in the soap.

I spoke with Will. Will said that the company obtains its fragrances from an outside fragrance house, which doesn’t reveal the ingredients in its fragrances citing trade secrets. So Pure & Natural actually doesn’t know whether there are phthalates in the fragrances it uses or not.

You can read more about phthalates in fragrances at Enviroblog:

Until companies are required to disclose all the ingredients in the products we are putting on and in our bodies, I am going to steer clear of anything with the word “fragrance” in the ingredients list.

Well, there’s my letter writing and phone call for the week. Want to call Pure & Natural and express your concern? Once again, here’s that toll-free number: 1-877-711-8188. Operators are standing by.

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13 years ago

There is a huge movement toward ‘natural’ products of all descriptions. Of them all, the most important would be those that would be applied directly to our bodies. Thank you for this opportunity to express our opinion in order to educate others.

13 years ago

None of the “100% natural” wording is regulated by the governement. I prefer buying my personal care products that only have truly and fully natural ingredients. I’ve found that Repurify has a pretty good selection of natural makeup, soaps and other personal care products. Enjoy-

14 years ago

Using pure and natural soaps has so many advantages over the chemical-added variants that are available commercially that they are too many to list here. The psychological attitude that comes from knowing that what you are applying to your body is pure and clean…is unsurpassed.

Supernatural Botanicals
14 years ago

As a skincare formulator, I agree, that one should avoid “fragrance” if they are looking for green, natural skincare products.

Stick with essential oils, or products scented by natural organic flavorings.

Robin Feltner
Supernatural Botanicals

14 years ago

I was reading the notes and I appreciate the info, however it is always nice to provide solutions along with stating problems. So, is there a healthy essential oil product line that people can use? If so, please list it on your blog.


Tameisha, Florida

15 years ago

Hello, Beth
I know this is a fairly old post, but I found it while googling Pure and Natural (you’re right up there!). I appreciate you calling the company out on that unknown one percent. But I did want to add that, while it may not be the cleanest thing on the market, it goes a long way. (Although, to be honest, I stick with Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil as the safest soap ever). The main point I wanted to make, however, is that the reason I googled Pure and Natural is because they give a portion of their profit to the World Wildlife Fund. And that says something, too.

Jessie M.
15 years ago

Another interesting fact about the Pure & Natural Company is that it is owned by the Dial Corporation. They have been manufacturing a product called Pure & Natural for over 20 years but they reformulated and repackaged it recently to get in on the gree/natural beauty products market. They have been very careful to conceal this fact, but you can't really hide anything completely in the world of the internet. I looked everywhere for evidence of true ownership since their web site is very vague, but a simple whois search for the domain reveals that the domain is registered to the Dial Corp.

15 years ago

Thanks for the investigative reporting…I was suspicious!

natural soaps
15 years ago

The article is great and I couldn’t agree more with it. Naturals soaps should be 100% natural! I use soaps with 100%natural oils and scents and my skin feels great.

15 years ago

I have extremely sensitive skin and have always looked for the fragance free, dye free items. 30 years ago I usually only had a choice of one thing. Now I am truly grateful that fragrance free and dye free are in regular stores. However, the amount of fragranced items have skyrocketed! I can’t believe how many scents of bleach there are on the shelves.

Thanks so much for an incredibly interesting article and the comments were quite interesting as well.

Have a great day,

15 years ago

we has dis otther avatar 2
wich u lykz bettur? hey if ur worreed about sope y not just lik urself kleen lyk we duz?

15 years ago

Lookz we has new avatar 2 not as nys as urs tho & dunno ware hand cumz frum

15 years ago

Very cute, Beth! Hey how do I get an avatar?! I want one!!

Beth Terry
15 years ago

Okay, but hasn’t anyone noticed my new avatar? I had to change the previous picture cuz I just don’t look like that anymore.

terrible person
15 years ago

And has everyone heard how California Attorney General Jerry Brown is suing four soap makers, including Whole Foods, for not revealing the presence of a carcinogen in their soap, as required by California’s Proposition 65? Though this stuff isn’t a fragrance, but a residue of the manufacturing process (according to Wikipedia.)

15 years ago

It sounds to me like the message here (second to standing up and speaking out, of course) is that marketing that gives the impression of environmental awareness, or “greenwashing”, has got us all pegged. We’ve all eyed that product, and other similar products, thinking “oh, that company *looks* like it cares about the environment!” I realize the readers of FPF are very aware and will read and carefully consider the ingredients of the products they buy, but think about all the consumers who pick up a product that says “pure”, “natural”, even “organic” without citing their certification. Even a label with green leaf on it probably “reads” to the average consumer’s eye as environmentally-friendly-and-therefore-healthy.
I find it delightfully ironic myself, that even those of us who are paying attention get sucked in by marketing.
Thanks for your blog, Beth — you’re awesome!

har mar
15 years ago

im not even so sure about the fragrance..have you smelled that soap recently? it stinks. well not really…stinks…it just has a weird dull smell to it. so they should just leave the “fragrance” out then because it doesnt even do anything for the soap. BUT YOU FORGOT TO MENTION that they make annual donations to the WWF. and also…1% fragrance…isnt that pretty good? cuz i use an awful lot of things that have a lot more fragrance than that so shouldnt it be applauded for trying? or are you searching for perfection? because to me…as horrible as this sounds but im probably like most people…LAZY. and i dont read labels and whatnot because of that. and while i DO try to make an effort…it’s not on my mind all day every day so for me finding things that are BETTER (while not necessarily being the BEST) solution is realistic to me. picking up a plastic free bar of soap where i could ideally throw the package in the backyard and get some flowers out of it while im at target is a lot more realistic to me than going out of my way to shop/call/investigate the perfect product. that sounds horrible i know. but it is the reality..not everyone makes plastic and fragrance a priority..which is why you are amazing and helping people like me learn. just like not everyone has a huge heart for animals and makes that a priority (or for that matter dressing up their dogs against their will.) i dont remember where im going with this anymore. i dont remember my point anymore. again, that could be related to my laziness.

do you and the hubby want to “adopt” a pig? well not really physically…but they need YOUR help financially. and they’re cute. so you need to stop eating them! (i kid…sorta)

can i also just say that for some reason i ALWAYS fail the word verification security thingy at least twice when i try to post a comment. i dont think that’s due to laziness…it’s more stupidity i think. :)

15 years ago

I picked up a package of this soap recently and, unlike you, didn’t think twice about the word “fragrance.” Thanks for the insight.

Funny thing is, I don’t really like the fragrance and generally prefer things unscented. It’s a shame that a company that seems to have the right idea isn’t going all the way with their concept of pure and natural. They need to figure out that 1%.

15 years ago

Hmm, I’ve always eyed that soap in Whole Foods because the packaging is so wholesome looking. I never actually picked it up, since I went on a bit of a soap-buying spree last summer at the farmer’s market (I still have six bars left), and now I don’t have to bother.

(Also, even with my years of blogging experience, I still get a little thrill when someone uses something I put together as a source. It’s the part of my job that makes me least cynical. Thanks!)

15 years ago

First, Are you really up at 2:54 AM like your posts says?

Second, I was going to say exactly what anaonymous said so now I don’t have to type all that out.

Thank you for all the work you do. Because of you I knew also not to buy personal products that just say “fragrance.”

(Green Bean-Thanks, I didn’t know “natural flavors” meant MSG.)


Green Bean
15 years ago

I hear you! It is so frustrating to read things like “fragrance” or “natural flavors” (which usually means MSG, btw) and such on products. Ahem? What exactly is that, I want to scream to the manufacturer. You do that. A great reminder to all of us to speak up. Manufacturers won’t know why we stop buying their product unless we tell them.

Buying soap and baked goods from the farmers’ market allows me to avoid a lot of that but there is still shampoo, toothpaste and such that are unavoidable.

Anarres Natural Health
15 years ago

Dear Beth and PL’ers.

You are SO right to not buy things with “fragrances”, as not one bit of it is any good. Fragrances are concocted with carcinogenic petroleum products, by products of biological and chemical weapons manufacture, as well as membrane irritants and endocrine disruptors. They could use real essential oils, and even natural fixatives like orris root powder. My essential oil supplier has this bizarre note instead of ingredients for its “fragrant oils”: “Fragrant Oils are completely synthetic, and they should not be confused with Natural Essential Oils. These are produced with the latest technical equipment including mass spectroscopy, gas chromatography, simulated critical fluid extraction, and rotary vapor extraction methods. What does this mean to you? It means that New Directions Aromatics Fragrant Oils are premium products perfect for those who will not compromise on quality.”

The Material Safety Data Sheet attempts to protect workers from what you’ll eventually be soaking in, or placing delicately over your lymph glands:

6. Reactivity/Stability Data:

Reactivity: Always avoid contact with strong oxidizing agents, alkali and acids. Does not react with water.

Decomposition: Fragrant oils are naturally high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

When heated to decomposition, the smoke from burning fragrant oils may contain potential carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

7. Toxicological Properties/Information:

May be irritating to skin and eyes. Breathing vapors may cause anesthetic effects and maybe irritating to the throat and lungs. Ingestion or excessive inhalation may have adverse health effects.

9. Preventive Data:

Environment: Keep away from drains, surface and ground water.

Storage: Store in cool, dry, well ventilated area protected in tightly closed container away from sources of ignition, heat and light or direct sunlight. Keep air contact to minimum.

10. First Aid Measures:

Eye contact: Flush with water for at least 15 minutes. Call physician if irritation persists.

Inhalation: Remove to fresh air. Avoid casual breathing.

Ingestion: Rinse mouth and consult a physician immediately. Never-give anything by mouth if victim is unconscious, is rapidly-losing consciousness, or is convulsing.

Skin contact: Remove contaminated clothing. Wash with soap and plenty of water.

11. Individual Protection:

Always use a safety goggles.

Handle in a well ventilated area, and avoid breathing in vapor directly by using a vapor respirator.

Always avoid skin contact with concentrated product by wearing a lab overall and chemical resistant or surgical gloves.”

Long “comment”, but this is the dirtiest dirt I could find to arm you letter writers with.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

15 years ago

i too recently held this product in my hands and considered its purchase. BECAUSE of you, i too was attracted to it by the packaging! again, like you, i read the list of ingredients and that word FRAGRANCE stood out. reluctantly i put the product back on the shelf. UNLIKE you, i didn’t immediately think of calling the company to dig further into this word fragrance. again, thank you beth, for keeping us all informed, thinking always and TAKING that next step, leading us right along. i’ll be calling that number today to express my concerns.