Bathing is one of man's great pleasures. The soap a man uses should not detract from but enhance this sensual experience. I've used many a bar of soap in my day and not a few liquid soaps as well. One of my favorites over the years has been the natural Olive Oil soaps manufactured in the Marseilles region of France where they have been famous for making great soap for more than a thousand years. In 1688 it became law that only soaps made according to strict, ancient methods could bear the famous mark “Savon de Marseille.” These are the original, authentic, hand-crafted artisanal products made in the city of Marseille and trusted for generations for pure, gentle care. The company that manufactures the soap I've been using is Savonnerie du Midi. Here is a brief history from their website:
'The Savonnerie du Midi is one of the last remaining soap factories in Marseille that still uses the traditional expertise of a Maître Savonnier – a Master Soap Maker. The Savonnerie has been perpetuating time-honored methods for 120 years and continues to make traditional Marseille soaps, boiled in a cauldron, with a passion.'
There are a number of things I love about using this genuine ancient crafted soap:
I've loved firstly the smell. It's a fresh earthy smell that reminds me of dried herbs and olive oil - it's hard to describe, but it smells ancient (in a fresh sort of way) and with not a bit of perfume (unlike too many soaps I've used over the years). The second thing I love about these soaps is the size of the bar - it's huge! The 600g bars that I use are ridiculously large compared to average store-bought soap - about 4 times as large as a typical bath bar and they are square. At nearly 3.5 inches (or 9cm) square, they are more than a hand full and seem to last forever. In reality a bar will typically last me nearly 4 months - more on that below. Of course, if one is small of hand, soaps in a smaller 300g block or 200g with standard bar soap shapes are available as well. Thirdly, I can use these soaps for my face, my body, washing my hair, shaving (I have always wet shaved with soap and Savon de Marseille is my favorite). Hell, I can even brush my teeth with it if I like. Which I have done - the taste is not too bad (if a bit salty); it's supposed to be great for your teeth by the way (read more about tooth care with Savon de Marseille in this link). Apparently, it is also manufactured in flake form to be used as a laundry soap (which as yet, I've not tried).
Here are two short videos at one of the few factories still in operation:
The Savon de Marseille that I like can be a bit expensive and hard to find. I do know of a couple of stores here in Munich that stocks it, but it's a hassle to go into town and I often forget to buy soap when I'm there, so I last year I decided to take matters into hand and just ordered a package of 6 x 600g blocks on eBay. This has ensured that I've had my stock of soap that I love on hand and has made the past years bathing and shaving a true pleasure and saved me a bit of time and money as well. I'm sure all of these handfuls of soap manfacturies have slightly different recipes but would be mostly more similar than different so long as you stick with their original fragrance-free/natural color varieties.
If you're in Europe Here is a good way to buy also: Les Savons de Lyna
For shaving the soaps lather up beautifully and leave a very slick surface on the face, which is needed for a close shave. Also, since there is no perfume and it doesn't dry my skin like many soaps do, it leaves me quite fresh-faced. Lubrication, preparation, etc. are fine. I get a beautiful, baby bottom shave each day with Savon de Marseille. And the olive oil in Savon de Marseille has an excellent cosmetic protective effect on the skin that feels soft, smooth and nice the whole day with a nice subtle odor!
|(The Soap in the bowl, I've been working on for a couple of months, the packaged bar on the right will give you an idea of the size it starts at)|
As you can see from the above photo, the bar in the bowl has been in service for about 2 months and I would think has at least of a month or two of good service in store. This bars will last and extreme length of time if you keep them dry when not in use (a good advice for any bar soaps). I looked back at when I originally purchased my 6 pack of 600g blocks and it was a year ago yesterday. So far I've used 3.5 bars, which means these things last me nearly 4 months each! Of course, please bear in mind that my wife and daughter prefer to use other soaps for some reason, so it's only me using the soap. But I typically bath, save and wash my hair using the same block, so they do last a fair long while. One note: For washing hair is that it's a substitution for standard shampoo only; I still use hair conditioner as well.
All in all, I have enjoyed using this natural soap from Marseille for the past year and am looking forward to using it for another these blocks for several months more before I'll have to think about a re-order.