Big Soap Wants Your Money

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the soap industry wants your money. And it is willing to fill landfills with billions of plastic bottles and use enormous quantities of unnecessary chemicals to get it from you.

Despite what Big Soap wants you to believe, you do not need different products to wash your hands, your face, your body and your hair. And you will not find the best soap in plastic bottles.

Soap is simple. Humans have been making it for thousands of years with fat, water, salt and lye. For around 600 years, soap has been produced in Marseille that uses nothing but olive oil, seawater and ashes from sea plants. This soap is incredibly soft on the skin.

Bars of soap are not particularly expensive and they store well without any packaging whatsoever. They are also used up quite slowly if a bit of care is taken. This is a problem for a profit-maximizing entity. The solution? Convince us that a more expensive, more complicated, more delicate and less concentrated product is better.

Take a look at the ingredients from any of your soaps, especially a liquid shampoo. It might look something like this:

  • Water/Eau, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Citrate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Stearyl Alcohol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Fragrance/Parfum, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Polyquaternium-6, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Trihydroxystearin, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Panthenol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Silica, Iron Oxides, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

Let’s compare this with the ingredients in the soap I use:

  • Sodium Olivate (Saponified Olive Oil), Aqua, Sodium Chloride (Sea Salt)

Which do you think is gentler on your skin? Which has a smaller environmental impact? I have sensitive skin, and basic olive oil soap is the gentlest I have ever used.

In terms of cost, this will depend on where you buy your soap. It is worth looking around to see what your local grocery store and pharmacy have to offer. Middle Eastern grocery stores are often a good bet. As long as you see an olive oil soap with about three ingredients, you are good to go — although my wife is adamant that the best soap is from Marseille (like her).

Here are the best products I have found available near me:

  • Aleppo soap ~$3 for a 200g bar at my local Middle Eastern grocery store

Also, if you are ever in the south of France (or find a shop in Canada that carries it), pick up some Savon de Marseille ~$8.50 for a 600g bar/less per gram in bulk.

I only go through a few bars a year (use a soap tray and don’t let it loiter under a hot shower). With the Aleppo soap that is less than $10.

How much do you spend just on shampoo?

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