I have never spent twenty bucks on a bar of soap before. But I just purchased “Dr. Squatch Deep Sea Goat’s Milk” soap. Not because I think there is anything special about it, but because I enjoy cleverness, and the Dr. Squatch promotional videos are indeed clever and funny. I was immediately snared when the video opened with a guy in front of shower curtain decorated with ducks and another one wearing a ducky showercap.
Now for the backstory. I was asked a question about a goat milk soap that was being marketed with claims that its content of vitamin A has an anti-aging effect on the skin, that the lactic acid it contains removes the top layer of the skin and allows for a more youthful complexion, and that the soap maintains the skin’s healthy microbiome thanks to the presence of probiotics, namely Lactobaccili bacteria. My answer is that the seductive advertising plays fast and loose with facts.
Vitamin A can indeed have an effect on the skin, when incorporated into topical products as “retinol” but amounts in soap are insignificant. The same goes for lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that can be beneficial as an ingredient in skin creams. As far as the skin’s microbiome goes, there is no evidence that it can be altered by probiotics in soap, or that this would be of significance even if it were true. There is nothing wrong with goat milk soap except for the over-exuberant advertising. Some individuals who say they experience skin irritation with regular soap claim they do better with goat milk soap. Maybe they do but there are no studies to back up the claim.
It was in this context that I came across Dr. Squatch Deep Sea Goat’s Milk soap. I was immediately taken by the name that seemed to be some sort of take on the Saskquatch, the hairy human-like creature that is said to stalk the forests of the Northwest. But I was unfamiliar with any goats that inhabit the deep seas. Indeed, it turns out that the milk comes from ordinary land goats, and the “deep sea” refers to the sea salt that is added to the soap. Many soaps contain a small amount of salt to increase the hardness of the bar. Whether that comes from the “deep sea” or Siberian salt mines is irrelevant. As far as the rest of the ingredients are concerned, saponified olive, palm and coconut oil, musk fragrance, shea butter, oatmeal, kaolin clay, they are pretty standard soap ingredients. Oh yes, there is also goat’s milk. This adds some fats to the soap that are touted to soften the skin. Maybe. I’d like to see some evidence other than personal anecdotes.
Now for the marketing. It targets men! This soap is for guys who trudge through the brush like the Sasquatch, men who can open a pickle jar on the first try, men who are man enough to say they like a soft skin. These men want to smell like they just stepped out of a mountain stream, not out of a chemistry lab. Normally I’d be jumping all over a product that claims to contain only “natural ingredients” and no “chemicals,” but I give Dr. Squatch a pass here. Why? Because the video ads have enough tongue in cheek so as not to be taken too seriously. I’m providing a link so that you can make up your own mind.
“Dr. Squatch,” who we never actually see in the videos except for a glimpse of his hairy arm, also seems adept at making toothpaste. All “natural” of course. One supposes he gathers the ingredients, namely glycerin, water, hydrated silica, calcium carbonate, xylitol, hydroxyapatite, sodium cocoyl glutamate, cellulose gum, xanthan gum, stevia rebaudiana leaf extract, citrus limon peel oil, mentha piperita, menthol, melaleuca alternifolia leaf oil, camellia sinensis leaf extract, panax ginseng root extract, mannitol, and cyanocobalamin as he lumbers through the forests of the great Northwest scaring the occasional camper along the way. You can take a look at the amusing video here. Note the part where “saw palmetto” is mentioned as an ingredient. This is a herbal product usually promoted as a treatment for enlarged prostate, hardly appropriate for a toothpaste. Spoiler: it’s an “in” joke in the video and isn’t really in the toothpaste.
Here’s the kicker. Jack Haldrup, the guy behind Dr. Squatch, had sensitive skin. One day, he bought a “natural” soap at a farmer’s market and found it to be better than the soaps he had been using. Ah! A business opportunity! But the soap market was crowded. Terms like “nourishing,” “hand-cut,” “cold-pressed” were bandied about freely. Haldrup needed a gimmick. He came up with a soap for men who won’t accept just any soap and are man enough to admit that they care about the softness of their skin and what they smell like. Men who don’t mind getting dirty but want to be clean. And they don’t want dainty, floral scents. With Dr. Squatch, men can smell like pine tar or rum!
The gimmick, boosted by the witty videos created by an advertising agency, worked. In 2013, Haldrup sold a few thousand bars, but by 2020 Dr. Squatch was valued at 100 million dollars! Who would have guessed? I’ll let you know how I like my pricey Dr. Squatch soap once I get it. Here is a prediction. It will clean as well as any other soap. As far as rejuvenating my skin with the “nectar of the goats,” as the advertising goes, well, we will have to wait and see. And here, I always thought nectar was produced by flowers, not goats. Live and learn.