“Marseille soap” or “Savon de Marseille” is a traditional hard soap made from vegetable and olive oils that has been produced around Marseille, a Mediterranean port city in France located in the south coast, for about 600 years.
Originally big blocks of gentle soap were first crafted in the Mediterranean with olive oil from local groves, marine ash and sea salted water: all these necessary ingredients were widely available .
In 1688, under Louis XIV, the first regulations concerning the production and the brand-naming of soap were introduced limiting the use of the name “Savon de Marseille” to olive oil based soaps with no fat animal additives made according to certain ancient methods (heating in great cauldrons)
Only manufactured in and around the Marseille area made according to certain ancient methods could bear the important mark “Savon de Marseille”.
The early 1900s brought the arrival of synthetic soaps and detergents and the spread of washers made the beginning of the decline of the soap of Marseille.
By 1913 production had reached 180,000 tons, and in 1924 there were 132 soap making companies in the Marseille and Salon-de-Provence areas combined, but now less than five soap makers still craft Marseille Soap according to the centuries-old tradition.
But now is being rediscovered for its natural and ecological values and its beneficial virtues compared to chemical soaps.