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  • Writer's picturePam Land

French Soap & why I love it.

We took ourselves off for a well-deserved break in France recently. While everyone has taken a holiday in the UK, we needed a hefty dose of vitamin D and some blue sky. Where better than the South of France, to spend time by the sea, enjoy exploring the local area, and visit the French markets.

My family usually teases me if there is a soap stall as I make a beeline straight for it. The fragrances get me every time, and I typically buy any number of bars to take back home. My favourite is Marseille Soap - a lovely natural soap rich in olive oil - perfect for dry skin.

For those of you who have yet to discover this moisturising soap, here's a little information courtesy of Marius Fabre.

The benefits of Marseille soap

Genuine Marseille soap is 100% natural, made from vegetable oils, especially olive oil, with neither colouring nor synthetic additives.

Its properties come from this exceptional purity :

  • Gentle, natural, but still effective

Marius Fabre soap is not harsh for the skin. The medical profession often recommends it as an alternative to other modern products which can cause skin problems. It is ideal for washing delicate fabrics (silk, lace, baby clothes).

  • Respectful of the environment

Most commercial soaps and shower gels have added petroleum-based ingredients. Marius Fabre soaps and shower gels are based only on vegetable oils: olive, copra, and palm. Containing no phosphates or synthetic substances, they do not pollute rivers, thus helping to preserve the environment.

  • Never tested on animals.

This soap is so gentle it's ideal for bathing domestic animals.

  • Economical

Marius Fabre soap lasts up to twice as long as ordinary soap making it a very economical product.

Excerpt by kind permission of Justine LAPOSTOLET, Marius Fabre, Savonnerie.

The history of Marseille soap

Artisans make genuine Marseille soap with the provenance, passion and long-standing tradition in their blood to lay claim to makers of natural Marseilles soap. A bar that contains 72% olive oil – and once tried, you will always be loyal to its soapy concoction.

How it all started

In 1688 Louis IV passed the Edict Of Colbert, allowing the Savon de Marseille label for olive oil soaps. By 1924 there were 132 soap makers, but by 1950 there was an explosion of petrol-based soaps, and the olive oil soaps went out of fashion.

Just five Savonnerie (Master soap makers) can claim the proper title Soap de Marseille. They have a certification mark to prove it, too – a small square soap block with the Union des Professionals du Savon de Marseille stated clearly on their packaging. Without that, the soap is, in effect – a fake.

Marseille Soap

The area around Marseille provides all the ingredients – olives, salt from the Camargue and the port, palm, groundnut and plant oils. Olive oil on its own produces a sloppy soap; the other oils enable the soap to clean, not break but still dissolve in water.

Like boiled treacle, the soap is poured into cooling vats to sit for 48 hours. It's then sliced into strips, put into miniature blocks, and cut using wire or traditional soap cutting machines. The bars are then stacked on wooden shelves to dry. They range from 1000g to 100g blocks.

Why Marseille soap is so special

As with many artisan skills, it takes a long apprenticeship to learn how to make soap. The family-run business of Marius Fabre was founded in 1900, and producing soap, is their passion. It is the process of creating, getting close to the product, using your hands, the physicality of the process that deems these soaps worthy of their status. Commercial soap bars are produced within a few hours, packed and shipped within the day.

Marseille soap takes weeks, space is at a premium, and the price is higher. But you will have an authentic product and a supporting role in keeping these traditions going and soft skin to boot.

Excerpt by kind permission of Judi Castille

For those Francophiles who are also into soap, Marius Fabre opens their factory for guided tours in which you can see soap making, cutting and preparation taking place. After your visit, there is a lovely on-site shop selling all things soapy and fragrant.

Marius Fabre

148, avenue Paul Bourret 13300 Salon-de-Provence, France.

Thank you for checking in. Please head over to our shop to view our range of English soap and skincare

Pam x

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