The million dollar question and one which crops up frequently.
In a nutshell, the answer is yes, but only once you have jumped through an awful lot of hoops to comply with EU legislation. And whilst I know we have left the EU, it has been made very clear that nothing will change , and rightly so, after all - we are looking at products that are applied directly to the skin, the largest organ we possess.
So what does the process involve? As you know, I am all about soap making for beginners, introducing you to the process, trying to simplify the science behind it and generally making it as easy as possible. Therefore this is not the forum to be going in to the subject in great depths but the question does arise and understandably so - after all - who doesn't want to make a living doing something they enjoy.
So, as a guide, before you can sell or donate your soap to anyone (other than make it for close family and friends personal use) you need to do the following.
Create your recipes and get them assessed by a cosmetic chemist. Generally you can have 1 base recipe with up to 8 variations (scent, colour, additives etc) and that will cost you around £220 although some companies may do less variants for a lower price. Once complete this means your recipes have been declared as safe and compliant to EU/UK specifications.
After obtaining those papers you need to register yourself as the Responsible Person and your products on the Cosmetic Products Portal - there are now different ones for the UK and EU so which one you use depends on where you are selling your products.
You need to keep Product Information Files (PIF) which are in effect, files recording every detail about your soap manufacturing. Ie Batch numbers of raw material used, dates of manufacture, the batch numbers you have applied to your products, MSDS sheets for all ingredients, allergens, method of manufacture plus your assessments - pretty much everything and anything you can think of relating to the manufacture of your products and to create an audit trail should things go wrong.
You need to keep a record detailing your Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), ie detail where you will make your soap, where and how raw materials and packaging will be stored, use of suitable equipment, waste disposal, how you ensure your finished product is of the correct weight and quality. This is not a complete list by any stretch but an idea of what needs to be included. (Be aware that in some countries a completely separate soap making area is required, away from the domestic kitchen for example).
And finally, insurance. You will need product and public liability insurance at the very least.
How will anyone know I am not jumping through all these hoops I hear you ask? Rest assured, Trading Standards can (and do) check. Plus should you have a problem and need to claim on your insurance it will become apparent very quickly when you are asked to produce documents that you just don't have, and then your insurance will be invalid.
My aim is not to put you off the process, far from it. Everything here is very doable and is just administration but as they say, fore-warned is fore-armed. I think it is fair to say however that the administration far outweighs the making some weeks and it can be a little over whelming.
All of the above is for soap sold for human use. Unfortunately there are no assessments or specific legislation available to confirm soaps and other skincare products are suitable for dogs, horses etc. Personally I would prefer it if there was, it would take a lot of pressure off when formulating recipes and it adds an extra layer of safety and also would be much easier for insurance (do not under estimate the difficulties of obtaining insurance for products that are 'outside of the box' ) That said, it is good practise to keep stringent records even when producing soaps for dogs as I do in my product based business. All my dog soaps have batch numbers and I keep PIF files as above for them, I abide by my GMP and have systems in place to enable me to identify exactly what is in my soap and where the raw materials have come from should I ever encounter a problem. Labelling for animal products comes under the CLP guidelines.
My insurers are full aware of what I do in my The Dog and I business and it was referred to the underwriters for confirmation. Whilst there are some great crafters insurance companies out there who cover human soap makers and all that that entails they will not cover dog soaps and it just is not worth the risk.
I hope that has answered some questions for you, it is a large and complex subject and there is far more to it than just this (soap made to look like food is not allowed for example) but it gives you a taste of what you may be letting yourself in for. It may also explain why that bar of handmade soap costs way more than something mass produced in the supermarket !
But don't let this put you off learning how to make your own soap, you can make as much as you like for personal use of your close friends and family plus who knows where it may lead in the future. Soap making is seriously addictive !
If you are seriously thinking of making the jump to selling yourself but need help taking that next step a The Soap Coach zoom session with me to help answer the million questions I know you will have can really help you hit the ground running. 30 mins, 60 mins and 2 hours all available . I recommend a 60 minute session to cover everything related to selling soap legally, I will cover everything I have talked about above and also have templates that will save you a lot of time and stress. You can find out more and book yours here. It is an initial investment that will save you so much time, effort and stress that I really do feel it is worth it's weight in gold.