Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Packaging (Part 1) – Finding the Best Fit for Your Bar

You’ve made your product; that swirl is just right, the scent; amazing! Now comes the big decision…how are you going to package it?

When it comes to packaging soap and cosmetics, there are many different options on the market. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and everyone has opinions on which type is best; we won’t try to decide that in this article. Instead, this two-part series will explore the pros and cons of popular packaging types, beginning with soap! (Keep an eye out for Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Packaging (Part II); Bottles, Tubes and Jars….oh, my!).

There are a few ways that you could choose to package your soap bars; boxes, cigar/belly bands, paper, shrink wrap, or naked with a descriptive card. There is no right or wrong way to package, as long as you are in compliance with all labeling requirements.

Adding decorations or embellishments to your packaging can draw the eye-but be sure to adhere to labeling guidelines.
Adding decorations or embellishments to your packaging can draw the eye-but be sure to adhere to labeling guidelines.


Pros: Boxes can be made out of cardboard or recycled materials, and are great for those who want an elaborate package that makes a statement. There is generally more room for information on a box, and it can add protection during shipping and handling.

Con: Boxes do not offer much, if any, visibility for your product. If you have a product that is extravagantly swirled or colorful, a box will hide this. Also, pre-printed boxes must be purchased in bulk so the initial dedication of funds can be cumbersome if you are not prepared for it.  If you do use a box, set a sample bar in front of the display of boxes to allow your potential customers to see the product first.

Shrink wrap

Pros: Shrink wrap is a great way to protect your product from the elements while still allowing customers to see what your soap bar looks like/ can show off the way it looks. Shrink wrap will also provide a barrier between your customers hands and the soap before purchasing.

Con: If soaps are not completely cured, the shrink warp will cause them to sweat. If you are using shrink wrap packaging, be aware of your soap’s individual curing time.  Uncured soap will shrink causing your wrap to become loose.  Packaging it too soon may jeopardize the integrity of your product.

This is a great example of simple, yet striking soap packing.
This is a great example of simple, yet striking soap packing.

Cigar/Belly Bands

Pros: This popular method of soap packaging allows for creativity with a printed band and the advantage of space for a logo and proper labeling information. It keeps your soap visible to potential buyers, and also gives them something to hold and smell when they pick it up.

Cons: Bands do not offer any protection to your product. If banded before being properly cured, the soap will shrink causing the band to come loose which is unsightly and inconvenient. Tip: As with shrink wrap packaging, pay special attention to your product’s curing time.


Pros: Papers provide a secure place to affix a label, and can be bought in a variety of patterns and textures. They provide a barrier between the elements and your soap, and can run the gamut from classy and elegant to rustic and simple.

Con: Packaging your soap this way can be timely, and you will need to find a reliable adhesive to close the package, or a label to affix over where the paper meets.


Pro: Selling your product without a label may seem risky, but many soapmakers have found a way to keep their product au natural without succumbing to labeling injunctions. By providing a separate card or paper that details what is in the soap specifically, along with contact information, you have the benefit of a naked soap without the perplexing labeling errors. You can choose to customize a card or flier per product, or, if you have a standard recipe, you can make just one card and simply write the name of the specific scent on it upon purchase. This will significantly cut back on packaging time.

Con: This method offers no protection for your product against elements or consumer hands. It may be best to put out a sample for smelling and inspection, while keeping the other naked bars in a case.

Your packaging is, to your customer, an indication of the quality of the product it contains. By the time you’ve formulated and produced your product, it feels like an eternity; but don’t rush through your packaging process! An incorrectly or inadequately packaged soap can damage your product and lead to returns or worse, a lost customer. Whichever packaging type you choose, be sure to include a compliant label. You are essentially packaging your time when you finally wrap a finished product; make sure you give your packaging just as much attention as your product itself!

If you also make cosmetic products, such as lotions, scrubs or butters, watch for Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Packaging (Part II); Bottles, Tubes and Jars….oh, my!



The What, Why, & Where of NAICS Codes

NAICS Codes 101

As a small business owner, you’ve probably heard of NAICS codes before but may not know what they are, what they’re for, or how to find out which one is right for your business.  Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know!



// What is a NAICS code? //

A NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code is a 6-digit code system that is used by business and government agencies (like the U.S. Census Bureau) for statistical purposes, and to classify business establishments into 20 industries depending on their economic activity in the United States. Essentially, it helps them to collect, record, and report economic data.

This system isn’t only used in the U.S., but in Canada and Mexico as well. In 1977 the NAICS replaced the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system, and is updated every 5 years in order to accommodate changes in business and industry classifications.



// Why do I need one for my business? // 

Some agencies at the state and federal level will require businesses to have a NAICS code for contracting and tax purposes, however there is no centralized database available to check which organizations or agencies actually do.  Another reason to know your NAICS code, is that some state governments will offer tax incentives to businesses from certain NAICS industries.

Let’s say you need to register for a sales tax permit in your state. Most likely, you’ll be required to supply it on the paperwork.  The gist of it is, it’s better to know it and not need it instead of being stuck without it!



// What do the numbers mean that make up the code? //

Each number in the code represents an indicator for different levels of classification.  For all of you soapmakers out there, we’re going to use the NAICS code for soap manufacturers, 325611, as our example to show you how the numbers break down!

>     32 –  The first 2 numbers are what indicate the “economic sector”. In this case, 32 (or any code starting with 31-33) indicates a “Manufacturing” sector.

>     325 – The third number of the code is what indicates what’s called the “industry subsector”. In this specific code, the 5 narrows it down to a “Chemical Manufacturing” subsector. (And yes, this is the subsector even though the soap that you make is a natural product due to the fact that lye, a chemical, is used in the saponification process.)

>     3256 – The fourth number is what refers to the “Industry Group”, again specifying even further. In this example, the 6 refers to “Soap, Cleaning Compound, & Toilet Preparation Manufacturing”.

>     32561 – The fifth number indicates the “Industry” itself. Here the 1 shows that it’s the “Soap & Cleaning Compound Manufacturing” industry.

>     325611 –  The sixth and final number will specify an industry that is specific to the U.S., Canada, or Mexico. For this specific code, the 1 is specific to the “Soap & Other Detergent Manufacturing” in the U.S.



// What if I qualify for more than one code? //

It’s actually a pretty likely chance that your business could qualify for more than one NAICS code, especially being a craft business!

Sticking to our soapmaker example, there are obviously a ton of different ways one could run their business. Some only sell online while others have a brick-and-mortar location. Some only sell at craft fairs or farmers markets. Some do everything! And yes, that means that some people will need to use different codes than others.

Being a handcrafter and depending on what type of form it is that you’re filling out and who it’s for, you may also need to know your “Retail Trade” NAICS code instead of a “Manufacturing” one like we used in the example above. These codes would start with a “44” or “45” to indicate the “Retail Trade” sector, instead of a “32” like before.

Codes in this sector aren’t product-specific like the “Manufacturing” NAICS code was.  Normally, the agencies (outside of the Census Bureau) don’t necessarily care what the product is that you’re making. (Unless it’s food meant for immediate consumption.) They only care about when/where you actively do your selling, and that’s what will usually determine which NAICS code you should use.

Let’s say you have a Private Label business (Private Label = When you purchase product wholesale from a handcrafter and then sell it retail under your own company’s label). Obviously, you wouldn’t fall under the “Manufacturing” sector type because you’re not making your own product. You would be included under the “Retail Trade” sector.

Some other specific examples would be if you ONLY sell online, ONLY at a craft fair, or some other direct-selling establishment. You would also need a “Retail Trade” NAICS code because you’re not conducting your business in the same space as you’re manufacturing product.

If you are someone who has their own storefront or studio where you both make AND sell your products, then 9 times out of 10 you’ll only have to worry about the NAICS code for the “Manufacturing” sector.



// Where can I get my NAICS code? //

If the codes listed at the end of this post don’t apply to your business, then you can find your NAICS code by visiting the US Census Bureau’s website, and entering in a keyword for what your business does. **Always use the search box with the most recent year. If nothing comes up for any of your keywords under that one, THEN try going to the next one down.**

If you find that that doesn’t work well for you, you could also use the NAICS Code Drill Down Table where it allows you to start by selecting the industry out of the list that is most relevant to your business, and then going from there.

If you’re short on time and don’t feel like looking anything up online, you can also give the Census Bureau’s call center a quick ring at (800)923-8282 and someone there could help you figure out which one would be best for you! (I spoke to a gentleman there earlier today – he was super nice and very helpful!)



// NAICS codes that may be relevant to you //

>     325611 – Bar Soap Manufacturing

>     325620 – Bath & Body Product Manufacturing (lotions, bath salts, scrubs, etc…)

>     339999 – Candle Manufacturing

>     454111 – “Electronic Shopping”; For those who only sell product electronically/online.

>     454390 – “Other Direct Selling Establishments”; For those who only sell at a temporary set-up. (Craft show tables, farmer’s market booths, street vendor trucks/wagons).

>     Click Here if you know what your business’s old SIC code was and need to convert it into the NAICS version.

>     Click Here if you need a list of industry options to choose which would fit your business best.



I know, it’s a lot of information! So please Please PLEASE drop a comment below if you have any questions & I’ll help you as best that I can! If there’s anything that I missed that you think should be included, leave a comment about that too!

Happy coding 😉                  







HSCG Vendor Spotlight Feature: Rustic Escentuals


Happy Friday Tracers! This week’s #HSCGVendorSpotlight goes to our lovely friends at Rustic Escentuals in Roebuck, South Carolina!

Having started out in 1999 with founder and owner Amy Pascoe filling orders in the middle of her laundry room, it’s quite impressive that now Rustic Escentuals has grown into a widely popular specialty warehouse that acts as a “one-stop-shop” for the industry!

Such a great color selection!
Such a great color selection!

Not only do they offer wholesale candle, soap, and cosmetic supplies, they also have equipment, packaging, learning resources and a book collective to help handcrafters improve their skills!   They pride themselves on offering high quality products at affordable prices, and strive to help business owners and hobbyists alike succeed!  And we of course can’t forget to mention their crazy-huge selection of fragrance oils – Whether you’re looking for a hunky-man scent, a fresh smell to copy the spring breezes, or a drool-worthy scent that brings you flashes of walking into a warm bakery on a cold day, you’ll be sure to find it under the search-by-category feature on their website!


Rustic Escentuals has always been a huge supporter of the HSCG since day one, and we couldn’t be more thankful to have them as a part of our community!

What’s your favorite RE product that you just can’t live without? Post in the comments below and be sure to follow them on Facebook!