Natural Body Care: Savon de Marseille

In a new serial of posts I will focus on natural body care products. As a 68 year old woman I notice increasing problems with skin and hair while I never ever experienced that before. A really dry skin, hair that was falling out, were the main reason for searching for more information about products that could solve these problems, or at least support them in recovering easier, faster.

Since several years I use Savon de Marseille. I bought it in a webshop and trusted the product, because I trusted the seller, but since I have got skin problems I was searching for information about this soap, what are the ingredients, for instance? I found a great Dutch web page and I used this post for Multerland, with the by myself translated text. I guess I have even the answer on my doubts about the Savon de Marseille that I bought. The soap I use is clearly not the authentic Savon de Marseille.

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Savon de Marseille
Savon de Marseille is not a brand name but the “title” of a process and an origin designation: a way to make a specific soap of clearly defined raw materials in a specific way. You almost do not believe it, but in the 17th century the making of Savon de Marseille was already registered by law. This ensured the quality of the soap and the origin of the ingredients. This protection does not exist anymore for Savon de Marseille, which makes this soap available in all kinds of qualities. The origin and raw materials are often dubious.

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History of the Savon de Marseille
Although it is certain that the soap we know as Savon de Marseille has not been invented in the city of Marseille, Savon de Marseille certainly has a very clear origin: the city of Marseille and its immediate area in France. Already in the 16th century, a relatively the soap was made in a small scale in Marseille. Soap was still a luxury product that only a few could afford.

In the 17th century, the production and export of soap from Marseille greatly increased. Soon legislation was needed to protect the soap purity. Like in our modern time, manufacturers tried to take advantage of the success of this soap by using cheaper ingredients (for example animal fats).

Around 1900 there were hundreds of small manufacturers in and around Marseille, who could hardly answer the growing demand for personal hygiene and household cleaning products. The bloom of this industry in and around Marseille collapsed when the market after 1945 was overthrown with new and often synthetic products originating in the United States.

At the moment, creators of the original Savon the Marseille Soap based on vegetable oils in the French “Provence” are very rare.  All together a group of just four producers, among whom Marius Fabre, occupies a first position. Marius Fabre continues the craft production process of soap in large kettles, and Marius Fabre’s Savon de Provence contains no dyes, fragrances, foams and preservatives. In the meantime Marius Fabre is also decorated with the label: “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant”. A position that the company shares with names like Dior, Chanel and Guerlain.

The sisters Fabre, who now lead the company, intensively pursue the protection of the procedure and the product name “Savon de Marseille”, including in the French parliament. The soap industry, however, tries to stop the protection of this product name.

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The other “Savon de Marseille Soap” (including from China)
Savon de Marseille is thus not a protected product name. Every manufacturer can call his soap Savon de Marseille. In the meantime, more than 95% of production is not from Marseille, not from Provence or from France. The raw material (often in grain or spaghetti form) is usually produced in Asia or North Africa. The composition is not solid: synthetic, animal or vegetable oils of all kinds of origin, colorants, preservatives, artificial fragrances and other additives without any regulation or restriction. These producers tend to divert to cheap raw materials. Olive oil is more expensive: use of olive oil means a higher price compared to standard soaps.

We are not going into details here about the colored soaps with unclear origin and without any information about the ingredients and additions! Unfortunately, we also find those soaps on the French markets.

That is why the label Savon de Marseille is important. It assures you of a pure and natural Savon de Marseille from the Provence.

Logo-savon-de-marseille-traditionnel

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Savon de Marseille Soap of Marius Fabre

Marius Fabre is the name of the founder of “Savon de Provence” (1910), and this name changed into “Marius Fabre“, a brand name now, referring to its founder.

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Marius-Fabre

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The Savon de Marseille soap of “Marius Fabre” has been made for over a century at the factory in Salon de Provence near Marseille, France. “Marius Fabre” uses an authentic traditional production process of at least 10 days, which has hardly changed since 1688. Only vegetable oils as raw material: olive oil for greenish soaps and in the case of white soaps for the wax palm oil* is used. Without fragrances, no animal fats, without preservatives, without parabens or other additives.

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Olive oil and Palm oil
The traditional Savon de Marseille manufacturers usually make two variants of Marseille soap: an olive soap and a palm oil* soap. Here you see these two soaps in their original shape (here 400 gram blocks); left: with olive oil / right: with palm oil*

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The Marius Fabre Savon de Marseille Olive Oil Soap
The Savon de Marseille soap is purified with salt from the Camargue. Without dyes, without perfume and without preservatives. No chemicals added. Olive oil soap is characterized by its softness to the skin and presence of vitamin E.

The soap has many uses: washing the body, scalp and hair washing. This extra pure soap is also very suitable for the problem skin, such as allergy, psoriasis and eczema.

When you see the logo on your soap, also on the box or other packaging, you know that you bought genuine Savon de Marseille Soap!

The Marius Fabre Savon de Marseille of Palm oil*
The Savon de Marseille Blanc is made for the laundry, ‘Pour Le Linge’, based on vegetable oils, without odours and dyes and without chemical additives. The “white” soap is recommended for the laundry of all fabrics and especially suitable for the fine laundry like lace, silk and baby clothes. This soap is also very efficient against stubborn stains.

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Shape and Packaging
The soap has many forms. Traditionally, there is of course the cube in the green (olive oil) and white (palm oil) variant. The cube is for sale in many different weights, from guest soap (40gr) to 400 or 500g blocks. These are packaged by the manufacturer in cellophane, beautiful cardboard boxes, or just ‘en vrac’. For the lovers, there are also larger blocks for sale, whether or not packed in pinewood boxes, which can be cut with a cheese wire in smaller, handy pieces. These blocks mainly have decorative values. The white (cream) Marseille soap is also available for sale as soap flakes. These flakes easily dissolve in water and are therefore particularly suitable as a durable laundry detergent. For all products: overview

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savon_de_Marseille_Fabre

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Solid and Liquid
Savon de Marseille has traditionally been a solid or “hard” soap. The soap is poured into liquid basins after the sealing process. After that, smaller blocks are cut.

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The liquid form of Savon de Marseille is a recent development. The demand in the market for soap pumps is increasing steadily. In particular young people have (and that is a mistake: this soap is antiseptic and antibacterial) the idea that a soap block would be unhygienic and, for that reason, more and more choose for the more easy soap pumps. The liquid form of  Savon de Marseille is made according to the same procedure, but with another salt for saponification. Liquid soaps often contain more additives, among other ingredients, to keep the same liquidity (viscosity) in different temperatures.

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The benefits of the Savon de Marseille Soap
Whether you use the Savon de Marseille Soap for your personal hygiene or for all kinds of household tasks: the soap is always soft, very active and above all natural. The latter is also a result of simple composition: olive oil, water and the salts needed during the production process for the saponification of the olive oil.

Savon de Marseille, when looking at the raw materials, is an extremely simple product. Vegetable oil (olive oil or palm oil*, depending on the type) that changes into soap by heating with salts (the sifting process). So there is no additive in these soaps. A great benefit for a soap that comes into contact with you every day!

Some benefits in a list:

  • nurtures the most sensitive skin; advised by dermatologists in cases of allergy for chemical soaps or shower creams
  • if you suffer from eczema or psoriasis, this soap helps to reduce your complaints.
  • the soap is hypoallergenic
  • can be used in your wardrobe, it is efficient against moths
  • a piece of soap at the foot end of the bed helps against cramps and rheumatism
  • cleanses little wounds and scratches,
  • has a natural antiseptic and antibacterial activity
  • cleanses the gingiva and teeth, and whitens teeth
  • minimises the risk of allergy
  • contains a lot of vitamin E

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*A note about the term “Palm Oil”

In the used post I could not find any information about palm oil, and neither on the website of Marius Fabre. There is a world wide discussion however about palm oil. From: “Say No To Palm Oil”:

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Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that is derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. Oil palms are originally from Western Africa, but can flourish wherever heat and rainfall are abundant. Today, palm oil is grown throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, with 85% of all palm oil globally produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia; but most of the time not using sustainable measures.

The industry is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.

In total, tens of millions of tons of palm oil is produced annually, accounting for over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production. This single vegetable oil is found in approximately 40-50% of household products in many developed countries like Australia. Palm oil can be present in a wide variety of products, including baked goods, confectionery, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste.

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Then follows information about the production of palm oil on the environment, on animals and people; about sustainable palm oil and what is true or not true, about “Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO)” and “Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)”.

I have sent a message to “Savon de Marseille Maurice Fabre” from their website.

Answer, received by email on Monday 26 June, 2017:

We thank you for your message and your ecologic interest about palm oil.
In fact, we use palm oil since the 1900’s century because it is a part of the traditional recipe of the Marseille’s soap.
We can say that we care to take our oil from an agriculture that aims to produce palm oil without causing deforestation or harming people.

Regards,
Ms FARAPPA
Customer service

For me this answer is not satisfying. If the agriculture is really “clean” its name should be mentioned and it is not. I asked for a guaranteed environmentally okay label on the soap.

 

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About Multerland

Multerland collects and creates educational information via blog posts, links, articles, books, films, photos, videos, and tweets about care for nature, natural health, holistic medicine, holistic therapies, deep ecology, biodynamic farming, sustainability, climate change, life processes, spirituality, awareness, mindfulness.
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