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Our Favorite French Soap Brands

by Ali Postma

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, we’ve all been doing a lot of hand washing. But this task that we have to perform many times a day doesn’t have to be a chore. France has always been renowned for soap-making, a tradition that dates back to the 17th century and originates from the Provence region, particularly the port city of Marseille. So bring a little luxury to your hand washing routine with some of these lovely artisanal French soap brands. But first, what is the famous savon de Marseille?

Top: Fer à Cheval / Above: Marius Fabre.

For a soap to be classified as savon de Marseille, or Marseille soap, it must be 100% natural and contain 72% vegetable oil, particularly olive oil. It must not contain any animal products or additives such as artificial fragrances, coloring, or preservatives. “72%” is often stamped on the soap along with the words “savon de Marseille” so you can recognize it as authentic. You can also tell by the amount of ingredients. Marseille soap should only contain four ingredients: vegetable oils, water, salt, and soda. 

Savonnerie du Midi

Marseille soap is traditionally made using the “Marseille method,” a five-step saponification process. The ancient manufacturing technique involves boiling the soap in cauldrons, and was undertaken by a master soap maker or maître savonnier. There are currently only four soap makers left in Marseille and Salon-de-Provence that continue to use this method: Savonnerie Fer à Cheval, Savonnerie du Midi, Savonnerie du Sérail, and Savonnerie Marius Fabre.

Marius Fabre

Savonnerie Fer à Cheval

Located in what was originally a candle-making factory, Savonnerie Fer à Cheval opened in 1856, making it the oldest soap factory in Marseille. Fer à Cheval continues to follow the soap-making recipe certified by the Edict of Colbert in 1688 and supported by the decree of Napoléon Bonaparte of 1812. Their Marseille soap comes in cube, bar, liquid, and flake form. They also make scented soaps, hand cream, and body lotion.

Fer à Cheval

Savonnerie du Midi

Founded in 1894, Savonnerie du Midi is one of the last traditional savonneries in Marseille, along with Fer à Cheval and Marius Fabre. Under the brand name La Corvette, they make Marseille soap, as well as certified organic soaps, scented soaps, body wash, shampoo, hand cream, body lotion, and face moisturizer. 

Savonnerie du Midi

Savonnerie Marius Fabre

Savonnerie Marius Fabre has been making soap in Marseille since 1900. In addition to cube, bar, flake, and liquid forms, and you can also get their Marseille soap wall mounted. Marius Fabre also makes Aleppo soap, the first ever solid soap and ancestor of Marseille soap. It was first created over 3,000 years ago in Aleppo in the north of Syria.

Savonnerie du Midi

Compagnie de Provence

Founded in 1990 two friends from Marseille, Compagnie de Provence revisits the tradition of Marseille soap. While recognizing the importance of this iconic soap in the cultural heritage of Provence, they have re-interpreted it with a modern twist. They make cube and liquid soap, triple milled bar soaps, and hand cream. You can get their liquid soap in glass bottles as opposed to plastic, and re-fills are available. 

Compagnie de Provence

Fragonard

Entrepreneur Eugène Fuchs founded Parfumerie Fragonard in 1926. He named his company after the famous Grasse-born painter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) as a tribute to the town of Grasse, which is renowned for its perfume-making tradition. Fuchs’ choice of name reflected his desire to continue this tradition. But not only does Fragonard make perfume, they also make soap. Their soap is not classified as Marseille soap, but they do make vegetable oil soaps, as well as pebble, botanical, and transparent soaps, and shower gels featuring their famous scents.

Savonnerie du Midi

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Savonnerie du Midi

Written by Ali Postma for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a  fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.

Written By

Ali Postma

Ali is from Melbourne, Australia, where she studied Art History and Art Curatorship at university and worked in various art galleries. Passionate about all things arts and culture, she loves French film, Nordic noir, photography, street art and architecture. Addicted to pain au chocolat, Ali is fulfilling her dream of living in Paris. View Ali Postma's Website

5 comments on “Our Favorite French Soap Brands

They’re both great ideas Coral!

Hello, I enjoyed reading your article and am looking forward to visiting Provence again in the future. Your article got me curious about a box set of vintage French soap I have. I can’t find anything about it on the internet and am wondering where might be a good starting point to identify it. The box reads “Savon Aux Fleurs de Marly – Lilas – Paris – 18, Place Vendome. It is a 3 piece box set, 2 lilac and one rose. Any help is appreciated. Thank you.

I love to pick up these French soaps from Monoprix to bring back home for gifts. I also buy them to store with my bath towels to make the towels smell lovely and remind me of Paris!

I’m so glad to hear it! Enjoy Vicki.

Vicki L Mihajlich

Thank you so much. This article was so useful. I just ordered four tablets of Fer à Cheval , and I know well that it will lift my mood quite a lot.

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