The Ancient Tradition of Soap Making - Aleppo Soap July 08, 2015 15:38
Most of us are familiar with Marseille soap (Savon de Marseille), an olive oil based soap made in the south of France, but perhaps less familiar with Aleppo soap (Savon d'Alep) which takes its name from the Syrian city of Aleppo where it is hand manufactured. It is the forefather of all known soaps with production going back centuries and contains only three ingredients - olive oil, laurel oil and sodium.
We were introduced to this soap on a recent trip to Europe by Tadé, a french company whose founder and owner Thadée de Slizewicz was the first importer of Aleppo soaps in Europe 20 years ago. Captivated by its history and skincare properties we recently got in touch with Tadé to find out more about this ancient soap and its production.
Each year the soap is manufactured from November to March after the olives have been collected and turned into oil. It is mixed with soda from seasalt and heated in enormous cauldrons. The multi staged saponification (a process that produces soap) produces a smooth rich green paste: soap. Laurel oil is then added, enhancing the paste with its active ingredients - essential fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins. It is this ingredient that sets this soap apart from other soaps.
After being washed several times, a perfectly neutral (0% alkalinity) paste is obtained. This is then poured onto a specially prepared floor to cool and harden.
It is then cut into cubes, stamped by hand and stacked in columns to mature in the open air for 9 months. When mature, the outside of the soap turns a pale gold colour while the inside remains green.
Aleppo soap has many benefits. It is natural and chemical free, with no synthetic additives. Mild, moisturising, long lasting and ecological, it is biodegradable and totally environmentally friendly. It can be used on the face and body and is suitable for sensitive skins. The more laurel oil, the more purifying the soap.
Many people who rely on the manufacture of Aleppo soap for their livelihood have been affected by the conflict in Syria. Fortunately exportation of the soap continues and in the case of our supplier, manufacture started again last winter after several years without production, albeit in some safe and protected areas outside Aleppo.
Nobody knows what the future may hold but we hope that this ancient tradition of soap manufacture will survive, providing a livelihood to many.