Soap from its Roots

Hello everyone! Welcome to Olivia Soaps' Blog! We decided to create this blog to share with you everything we know about natural soap, the production of handmade soap, natural skin care, and, of course, to discuss with you about these subjects and natural cosmetics in general.

We would like to make a premise: before discussing anything, we believe it is always appropriate to define your own terms, as someone said well before me. Given that, many times, subjects that appear abstract and incomprehensible, they are only because of not well defined terms, it is worth, in our opinion, to invest some time in a greater understanding of the basics of what will be a treat and, in this case, used on our skin.

One might ask: why should we define terms related to soap? Why understand its history, its chemistry and its peculiarities? It should be enough to know how to use it, and what its potential harmful or beneficial aspects are ... isn't it? Maybe not. In our opinion, deepening serves. Even in a fast-paced world like ours, where there is apparently no more time to explore 'the trivial things', you need. It is useful to make a conscious and reasoned choice based on understanding, to quench unusual curiosities, formulate opinions, and discover new worlds that exist under our noses.

Following us on this path is a choice that is up to you, but know that like everything, even soap is a microcosm that has a lot to say for those who want to listen. Soap has a long history, an interesting personality full of facets, moments of glory and fame as well as infamy and failure... The sky is the limit. So, if you like, make yourself comfortable with us, and let's go on a journey into the world of the world’s most famous detergent.

Ah, before starting, please forgive me the freedom that I took, to write Soap with a capital S every time I talk about Handmade Soap. I thought I had to.

When we enter this universe, we discover fields of knowledge to be deepened in every corner on which our gaze rests ... from the magic of the chemical transformation that gives life to the Soap, to the properties of the ingredients, from the realm of perfumes, colors, appearance, sustainability, industry, self-production and regulations… It is far from us to erect ourselves as authorities in the sector! But surely in these years, we have learned about things. We learned them from books, from our direct observation and from practical experience, from consulting with experts in the field, from asking many questions to those who knew more than us and from receiving patient answers, and then having packed a small baggage of knowledge that we would like to convey with you in full, leaving room for comparison, your experiences, your opinions, not failing to mention the sources from which we draw when we draw from you or to specify if it is our personal experience, trying to contribute to the evolution and our awareness inherent in this friend that you can't do without ... Soap.


Soap cannot be defined or understood in its etymology, without taking a look at its entire history. Or rather, it is possible, but we like to go broader and deeper, and perhaps, if you are still reading, you have the same type of approach to things. So here is what we know, what we suspect and what we imagine, about the history of soap ...

First of all, it is interesting to take into consideration the fact that there are chemical processes that have actually accompanied Man since time immemorial, such as leavening or cheese making. The same goes for saponification. On the other hand, the need to wash seems to be one of the essential ones.

It is even believed that the first rudimentary forms of soap date back thousands of years ago. In fact, the only documented example is that of a Sumerian formula based on Cassia oil (non-thorny herbaceous plant with yellow flowers growing in clusters) and ash, but we cannot exclude rudimentary forms of soap also in the Egyptian and Phoenician periods.

During the Roman period (from 27 BC to 476 AD) of the use of the soap as such, no mention is made. The Romans, in fact, completely changed the concept of personal cleaning, replacing it with a system that resembles something similar to today's peeling. In fact, in public thermal baths, they rubbed the skin with minerals such as pumice stone, mixed with fat, a mixture which was then removed with a sort of spatula. However, we owe the famous Latin author Pliny the Elder a testimony on the soap of that period. In fact, in his work 'Naturalis Historia', he described the custom of the Gauls to use 'soap' (a mixture of beech ash and goat fat) as hair dye (the extract in the original language of his text can be found in the book 'The homemade soap for Dummies' by P. Tadiello and M. Garzena, to whom I owe many ideas and information present in this essay as well as the beginning of my passion). And here we meet the first traces of our refined etymology in the late Latin word 'Saponem' which meant 'a mixture of tallow (animal fat) and ash to dye the hair, of Celtic or Germanic origin'.

At this point I think it is right to make an incision on the legend of Mount Sappo of which perhaps some of you have heard of, a legend that wants to trace the roots and etymology of Soap to the Roman era and precisely to the events that took place on this mountain or the animal sacrifices that were made to please the Gods. It is said that the fat of the animals thus offered mixed with the ash of the braziers, transforming, with the fall of the rain, into a substance capable of cleaning the fabrics. This appears somewhat improbable and not based on actual findings, although it is a good story.

The news on the Soap became completely null after the fall of the Roman Empire and with the passage to the Middle Ages, sadly known for various reasons, nevertheless the poor general hygiene and various conditions that led to an exponential growth of rats on which the treacherous epidemic known as the Plague decimated the European population.

Soap reappeared at the end of the Middle Ages, with the development of trade and the growth of urban centers, and it is the Mediterranean area (Liguria, France and Spain) that boasts the first Artisan Soap workshops, although production still took place with the maceration of wood ash and animal fats or olive oil (we will talk later about the soap made with ash or lye).

Unfortunately, however, to speak at this point of Soap as we know it is still a little imaginative because, precisely, due to the impurity of the alkali (ash), the result that we could imagine from this chemical process would consist of a dark tile, hard and completely foam-free.


38 visualizzazioni0 commenti

Post recenti

Mostra tutti

A Look at Soap

Il Sapone