Olive oil based soaps have been manufactured in Marseille since the 17th century. The city once had a monopoly in the soap making industry and supplied all of France and it’s colonies. Using local ingredients which included olive oil, salt and salicorne ashes from the Camargue, the trade grew both in Marseille and neighbouring cities.
Used for laundry these handmade soaps where known for the stain removing and whitening properties. In addition the Savon de Marseille has always been a gentle skin care product that is a wonderful moisturiser thanks to the 72% oil content. Still today households in Provence have one cube next to the kitchen sink and another in the bathroom.
Although the original Savon de Marseille is still made today beware of copycats. Not all soaps are made with olive oil so check the ingredients.
As before each soap is cut into cubes and the name Savon de Marseille and the weight of the cube is stamped. Although there are many local artisans making soap some of the original manufacturers continue to operate like Marius Fabre in Salon de Provence. They have factory visits and a local museum which are well worth the detour. www.marius-fabre.fr