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Traditional Savon de Marseille - How Do I Know It Is Genuine?

Inspired by a recent customer query on how to tell if you are buying authentic Savon de Marseille. The customer emailed us asking for some proof of authenticity so he could be reassured with his purchases. He was prompted to make these enquiries after buying "Savon de Marseille" from Amazon which unfortunately turned out to be fake. 

Savon de Marseille

The term "Savon de Marseille" does not have a protected designation (like Champagne does) and it can be difficult for customers to know what is the true product. In addition, genuine savonneries in Provence (like the ones we work with here at Frenchsoaps) use the stamp "Savon de Marseille" on all sorts of soap that they make as it is used broadly as a definition of soap made in Provence. So hopefully this blog will throw some light on what we mean by traditional Savon de Marseille and what to look for to ensure you are buying an authentic product.

What is the difference between Traditional Savon de Marseille and the coloured fragranced soaps I see called Savon de Marseille?

Traditional Savon de Marseille is made to a 100% vegetal recipe with no added colourings, fragrances, preservatives or any artificial ingredient. The soap is made in a traditional way, baked in a couldron, and has been made in this way for hundreds of years and is only made in the Marseille region of Provence in France. It is as pure as soap can be. 

The Traditional Savon de Marseille that we sell is made by two of the original 4 famous Savonneries in Marseille, Fer a Cheval and Savonnerie du Midi under their brand La CorvetteThe authenticity is guaranteed by the mark "Savon de Marseille"  created by the Union of Soap Professionals of Marseille an association created in 2011 to defend, promote and publicise authentic Savon de Marseille.

The "Savon de Marseille" label is issued by the Soap Professionals Union of Marseille to companies located in a specific geographical area and respecting a manufacturing process defined in a charter. Companies are audited annually and must show:

1) Original recipe composition:

  • Vegetable oils exclusively
  • No added colourings, fragrances or preservatives 
  • 72% or more Oil Content (which ensures accreditation for use as a cosmetic product and therefore suitable for your personal use)

2) 5-Step production process:

  • The paste: The soda lye and the vegetable oils are heated and brought to a boil in the cauldron
  • Salting: This operation consists of adding a very dense saline solution in order to carry excess soda to the bottom of the cauldron.
  • Cooking: Turn fat into soap by adding concentrated sodium hydroxide solution.
  • Washing: The soap paste is refined by washing.
  • Liquidation: A final washing with clear water brings the soap to the natural state. These different operations take about a week to ten days.

3) Geographical origin: 

  • The soap must be produced in the Marseille region.

Traditional Savon de Marseille in the UK

Our range of traditional Savon de Marseille includes 100g, 300g and 600g cubes a 2kg Bar of Natural and Olive soaps, as well as tranches (slices) with twine, rotating soaps for a rope and 100g and 250g bars. 

We also have stain-removing/laundry bars, including our 300g Marseille soap stain-removing bardishwashing soaps and soap flakes, including the La Corvette Marseille Soap Flakes for Laundry.

See our full range traditional Savon de Marseille soaps. Also, you may want to take a look at our best-selling Savon de Marseille cube.

Fragranced Marseille Market Soap - Fabrique en Provence

There are other genuine French soaps made in and around Marseille and other parts of Provence that are also stamped with the words "Savon de Marseille". Fragrant ranges of perfumed soaps have added colours, plant and flower essences, perfume and other added ingredients such as sweet almond oil, argan oil and shea butter.

These soaps are triple milled ensuring they are long lasting and nourishing. Making soap with local ingredients and perfumes has developed over the decades in Provence and stems from the old Marseille savonneries and traditions. These French soaps are showcased on the soap stalls in markets all around France.

These soaps made in Provence are stamped with the words "Savon de Marseille" as they literally are soaps made in the Marseille region. You may also see 'Fabrique en Provence'. We tend to call these soaps "Marseille" soaps or "Savon de Provence" to try and make it less confusing!! 

See our full range of fragranced French Marseille soaps.

What to Look For

In summary, check the ingredients and the name of the Savonnerie.

  • The ingredients should read: Olive Oil or Sustainable Palm Oil, Water, Soda & Salt (Sodium olivate or Sodium Palmate / Sodium Palm Kernelate, aqua (water), sodium chloride, sodium hydroxide)
  • The Savonneries will be one of Fer a Cheval, La Corvette (or Savonnerie du Midi), La Serail or Marius Fabre. 

  • They will always be made, and stamped to confirm, a minimum of 72% Oil content. 

Features of concern

If you see any of the following in descriptions then the product you are considering is unlikely to be genuine traditional Savon de Marseille.

  • 70/30 - Olive/Palm Oil. Whilst this is a formulation of Marseille soap oils, the 70/30 split is not traditional and not certified for cosmetic use. The soap will contain many of the properties of Traditional Savon de Marseille but is less pure, blended to save cost and is best for home cleaning use alone. 
  • Lavender - Traditional Savon de Marseille is un-fragranced.
    In Marseille Fragranced Soaps a 'Lavender Cube' should contain Lavender Essential Oil and not chemical 'parfum'.
  • Organic - There is only one certified Organic Traditional Savon de Marseille Cube and that is made by La Corvette and sold by us exclusively in the UK.
  • Look, other than the Organic Cube mentioned above, Traditional Savon de Marseille from all the USPM Savonneries are now shaped by machine and quite uniform in shape. Anything rustic should raise a flag for you.

If in doubt, or if this is simply confusing, then do get in contact with us.