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Savon de Marseille

Big blocks of olive oil based soap have been crafted in the South of France since the middle ages. In 1688, Louis XIV - the Sun King himself, passed a law that only soaps made according to strict, ancient methods could bear the famous mark "Savon de Marseille."

The authentic Marseilles soap is a 100 % natural product, exclusively made with vegetable oils such as olive oil, without any animal fats, colouring or artificial additives. It must contain a minimum of 72% oil with the percentage stamped on each bar of soap. The soap is also stamped with its weight in grams - a practice left over from years ago which allowed households to compare prices and plan their supplies.

It takes around two weeks to process savon de Marseille and a month before the soap is ready for sale. First, oil and soda are mixed in a large cauldron and cooked at 120 degrees Celsius for eight to ten days. The long boiling process means that the finished soap bars can be kept for years without turning rancid.

The mixture is washed several times in salt water to eliminate the soda, tipped into huge moulds and left to set for two days at 50-60 degrees Celsius. It's then cut into cube-shaped blocks and set out in a well-aired place to dry completely, turned from time to time to expose each of the six sides to the air.

Enthusiasts claim that the combination of Marseille's fierce sun, Mistral wind and salty sea air contribute to its soap's distinctive character. The characteristic white bloom on the finished soap is a faint residue of sea salt and soon washes off.

Proud of their heritage and legacy, there are a handful of manufacturers are still making the soap using these traditional methods.

Savon de Marseille is totally biodegradable and requires very little packaging. The purity and simplicity of this iconic soap are increasingly being recognised as both ecological and economical. Marseille Soap is recommended by dermatologists throughout the world for people with skin allergies as well as for dry or sensitive skin.

Apart from being exquisite, ultra-moisturizing skin care, its also used for washing silk and other delicate fabrics. A folk remedy even claims that placing a bar of Marseille soap at the foot of your bed helps alleviate rheumatic pain.

In France, savon de Marseille soaps have been trusted for generations to cleanse everything from linens to little faces. French Affair are proud to stock the authentic Savon de Marseille soaps.