Not every soap can be a Marseille soap! However, the authentic Marseille soap is not legally protected, which leads to multiple abuses and counterfeits.
To recognize an authentic Marseille soap, you will have to assess these 5 elements:
- Its formula.
- Its manufacturing process.
- Its shape.
- Its color.
- Its smell.
Follow our guide to learn more and finally know how to untangle the authentic from the fake!
A natural soap made of vegetable oils
What makes authentic Marseille soap unique is above all its composition. Formulated with vegetable oils (which represent at least 72% of its ingredients), it is entirely natural, and contains no animal fat, no coloring agent, no perfume, and no synthetic additives.
Contrary to popular belief, Marseille soap is not necessarily made of olive oil. The oils used in its composition may vary, but they are always vegetable oils. It is precisely because it contains only vegetable oils that Marseille soap is hypoallergenic, and is therefore suitable for all skin types, even the most fragile. Animal fats do not have the same dermatological qualities!
To ensure you have an authentic Marseille soap, look for the mention "72% vegetable oils" on one side of the soap (and on its packaging), and read carefully the composition. You should find: 100% vegetable oils, soda, salt, water, and traces of glycerin (naturally present in vegetable oils). Nothing more!
An ancestral manufacturing process
Another distinctive element of authentic Marseille soap is its manufacturing process, called "Marseille process". The preparation is done in a cauldron, from a mixture of soda and vegetable oils. It takes place over 14 days and follows 5 steps:
It is the step of saponification, which allows to transform the mixture of oil and soda into soap.
This is the step of washing and removing impurities. The soap paste is washed several times with salt water to remove all traces of soda.
During this phase, the soap is cooked at a temperature of 248°F for 10 days.
The soap is washed again several times, this time with pure water, in order to eliminate the last impurities and to obtain an "extra pure" soap.
The soap paste is poured into molds.
The soap paste is then dried for several days to transform it into solid soap, then cut into individual soap bars. Each soap bar is stamped with the words "72% vegetable oils" and the name of the soap factory that makes it. It can also be marked "Extra Pure" or "Savon de Marseille".
A soap bar with a simple shape
Authentic Marseille soap is a soap bar that traditionally comes in a 600g cube. It can also be found in a different shape (parallelepiped or oval) or in flakes. Some products derived from Marseille soap can be found as liquid soaps, but pure Marseille soap is always solid.
Marseille soap: green or white?
The authentic Marseille soap exists only in 2 colors: green-brown or white cream. Where does the difference come from? From the vegetable oils that are part of its formula.
Green Marseille soap is made from olive oil to which copra and palm oil are added. On the other hand, white Marseille soap does not contain olive oil, but peanut oil.
You have spotted a Marseille soap of another color? It could be a product derived from Marseille soap, but not pure, authentic Marseille soap.
A soap without perfume... but with a neutral smell
Authentic Marseille soap is formulated without fragrance, but it has a very characteristic neutral smell, with notes of vegetable oil. The products derived from Marseille soap can be scented: linden, lavender, honeysuckle, lily of the valley, aniseed, lemon... there is something for everyone!
Curious to try out this traditional soap with unique properties? Discover our selection of Marseille soap bars, Marseille soap stain removers, Marseille soap laundry detergents and liquid Marseille soaps. Shop online and get delivered in Canada and the United States!