Cheeky Maiden Blog

What is 'Sodium Olivate' and what is it doing in my soap?!?

Cassie Carter - Thursday, April 15, 2010
A customer recently wrote in with the following questions:

HI Melissa, I got the box and the soaps are lovely. The shea butter is out of this world. Beautiful packing for the soaps as well. It was like getting a spa in a box. I have a question I hope you can clarify for me. I told a few friends about your site and one ask the following question. Regarding the ingredients using Olive oil , coconut oil and palm which are all fantastic oils, the concern was it said olivate on all oils. She said her research shows when it is not from the pure oil, coconut or palm oil it takes on a different ingredient. She believes the olivates are toxic and thus not being the true ingredient. I looked on the internet to see what it said and it seems what she is saying has some merit. Can you tell me about your process and ingredients? I am sure you are using first class stuff. I just need to know how to answer this question. Thanks so much. Can't wait to order again. Celina
My answer:
Hi Celina,

I'm glad you loved everything you ordered. Your friend is a little off track with her information. Sodium Olivate is simply the INCI nomenclature for "Olive Oil Soap".

ALL soap is made by combining water, sodium hydroxide (lye) and a fatty acid (such as olive oil, lard, coconut oil, etc.) Lye (sodium hydroxide) is incredibly caustic, and is not in the finished product. A bar of soap is obviously NOT "olive oil" else it would be liquid. It IS Sodium Olivate, which simply means saponified olive oil. So, while neither simply "olive oil" or "sodium hydroxide" are in the soap, they have combined to create "sodium olivate".

This "olivate" in soap is NOT the same as "cetearyl olivate" or "sorbitan olivate" for example.

Basically there are two different ways of labeling soap. 1)Listing all ingredients as they went into the soap or 2)Listing what is in the actual finished product. I feel it is misleading to list "sodium hydroxide" since there isn't any sodium hydroxide left in the soap you are using, and if there was it would be dangerous!

I can assure you that pure olive oil, pure palm oil, and pure coconut oil were used to make all of our soap.

I did a youtube video on the chemistry of soap making a couple of years ago that you and your friend might find helpful:

Some other helpful links I found:

That last link is to the Cosmetics Database, the most strict rating system for cosmetic toxicity and safety. Sodium Olivate is rated a "0" showing no hazard. If you keep searching their site, you will find "PEG-4 Olivate" for example, which is surely very toxic (and not at all the same thing as Sodium Olivate).

Soap making is all about chemistry!

Good question! I love consumers that are digging deep to get the dirt out of their skin care. This is why I insist on being so picky about everything that goes into our soap. If there is any question about the safety of an ingredient or any evidence to show that it causes cancer or birth defects, I absolutely won't use it.

Melissa Burgess
Cheeky Maiden Soap, LLC
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