Olivella “Natural” Face and Body Liquid Soap Investigation

What could be more “natural” than a face and body liquid soap made from olive oil? Perhaps one without chemicals and preservatives?

The Code of Federal Regulations (7 C.F.R. § 205.2) defines “natural” or “nonsynthetic” as a “substance that is derived from mineral,  plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a  synthetic process…” According to the US Code, in 7 U.S.C. § 6502 (2.1), a “synthetic” is “a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources…”

Olivella repeats the word “natural” at least three times on the label to assure us that its face and body wash is just that, yet the ingredient list includes “sodium lauroyl sarcosinate…parfum (fragrance)…BHT, [and] tetrasodium EDTA”.

  • The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) chemical database defines sodium lauroyl sarcosinate as “a synthetic skin conditioning agent.” It’s used to increase skin penetration.
  • The FDA does not require companies to list ingredients in parfum or fragrances in detail. The FDA’s website says, “Fragrance and flavor formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and synthetic chemical ingredients, and they are the kinds of cosmetic components that are most likely to be ‘trade secrets.’” The EWG says, “The word ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance…”
  • BHT, or butylated hydroxytoluene, is a food additive used as a preservative and antioxidant. Although considered safe in small quantities in the US, it is forbidden as a food additive in Japan, Sweden, and Australia.
  • Tetrasodium EDTA is another preservative, which the Dermatology Review says is used “to prevent the growth of mold and development of rancidity. This ingredient is created from component chemicals; formaldehyde, sodium cyanide, and ethylenediamine.” It warns that “Tetrasodium EDTA works by neutralizing meta ions…. However, these same properties are believed to cause healthcare problems with long term use and high dosage exposure, because…neutralizing the naturally-occurring ions in the body can disrupt normal body function.” It also allows more penetration of the skin, which is “a double-edged sword. For example, depending on the specific formulation where it is used, this chemical may allow other potentially dangerous ingredients and preservatives to enter the body.”

In fact, a customer review of this soap on Olivella’s own website says, “This soap is great for my hands but still too harsh for face and body with contact dermatitis.”

Yet Olivella’s website repeats its “natural” claims over and over. “All soaps are filled with antioxidants and anti-aging properties found in 100% virgin olive oil. Happily our oil bar soap contains no animal fats, nor harsh man-made chemicals, neither dyes nor color additives. It is pure and natural, made for you.”

There’s another questionable side to this soap in that they make what may be drug claims. Olivella’s website claims that the “Top 3 Olive Oil Benefits” include helping alleviate acne, reducing stretch marks, and providing anti-aging properties. In particular, it states that olive oil reduces stretch marks because its ingredients “improve collagen production and skin elasticity.” This implies that the soap has these benefits. Elsewhere on the website, it’s more directly stated: “Olive Oil Soaps are ideal for every skin type because they…slow down the aging process.”

The FDA’s website says that cosmetics (such as moisturizing soap) that claim to treat acne or slow the aging process are making drug claims and should go through a drug approval process.

If you’ve used this product, we’re interested in hearing from you and finding out what your results were. Fill out the form on this page and let us know.

Article Type: Investigation
Topic: Consumer
No case events.
Tags: All Natural Claims, Contains synthetic ingredients, Deceptive Advertising, Deceptive Labels