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.