`Savon de Marseille - Olive Oil Times

Savon de Marseille

Sep. 12, 2011
Denise Johnson

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Big blocks of olive oil based soap have been crafted since the Middle Ages in the South of France. In 1688 it became law that only soaps made accord­ing to strict, ancient meth­ods could be labeled Savon de Marseille (Marseille Soap).

Only a few savon­ner­ies (soap fac­to­ries) near Marseille still make this leg­endary soap in the tra­di­tional man­ner. But Marseille Soap is once again being redis­cov­ered for its purity and gen­tle skin care, and its pop­u­lar­ity is on the rise world­wide.

It takes the Maitre de Savon (soap­mas­ter) two weeks to make Marseille Soap. The del­i­cate mix­ture of olive and veg­etable oils, alka­line ash from sea plants and Mediterranean Sea salted water are heated for ten days in antique caul­drons, then poured into open pits where it hard­ens. Cut into cubes and stamped, the soaps are then set out to dry in the sun and mis­tral winds.

The fine white pow­der on the sur­face of the soap is a bit of the sea salt, which will dis­ap­pear once the soap is wet. This beloved char­ac­ter­is­tic affirms the authen­tic­ity of gen­uine Savon de Marseille. Fresh Marseille Soap can be a bit moist. Allowing it to dry and harden will make it last longer.

Savon de Marseille is tra­di­tion­ally green or white. The white soap is made with palm oil, the green with at least 50 per­cent olive oil. Both vari­eties are said to be gen­tle for all skin types.

Savon de Marseille is rec­om­mended by der­ma­tol­o­gists through­out the world for dry skin and other ail­ments. In France it has been trusted for gen­er­a­tions to cleanse every­thing from linens to lit­tle faces.

Savon de Marseille is totally biodegrad­able, requires lit­tle pack­ag­ing and its man­u­fac­ture is envi­ron­men­tally friendly. Authentic Marseille Soap is stamped with its weight in grams — a prac­tice left over from years ago which allowed house­holds to com­pare prices and plan their inven­to­ries.


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