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Aleppo soap, a traditional soap

Aleppo soap, a long history

Aleppo soap

Aleppo soap The city of Aleppo in north-west Syria is one of the oldest cities in the world. It was known as Halab and Beroia during the ancient period (the Palaeo-Babylonian period from 2004 to 1595 BC).

The city of Aleppo has long been the site of numerous conflicts, conquests and invasions:

Amorites, Hittites, Romans, Arabs, etc. fought to appropriate this very prosperous city.

In 1000 BC, Aleppo became the world market for soap. The Crusaders, returning from the Holy Land, brought back with them the technique for making Aleppo soap. With its 3,000 years of existence, this soap is considered to be the oldest. It is at the origin of most soaps, including of course the famous Marseille soap.

The city centre of Aleppo has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.

Achetez un savon d'Alep

Aleppo soap, a very simple recipe

All soaps have been made for thousands of years using the same process, known as saponification, from the Latin sapo (soap).

Saponification involves mixing a fatty substance, such as tallow, with potash or soda (wood ash). Saponification of fats is normally a slow reaction, but by raising the temperature or the quantity of soda, the manufacturing process can be accelerated.

Genuine Aleppo soap must be made at least in Syria, preferably in the Aleppo region, and not in Morocco, France or even... China.

Aleppo soap Direct Nature

It must be made exclusively from four ingredients, unchanged for thousands of years :

olive oil, laurel oil, water and natural soda. No perfumes, colourings or preservatives may be added.

1 - For traditional Aleppo soap, we use top-quality olive oil obtained from the second pressing. This results in a darker olive oil with a high acidity level (the first pressing is mainly reserved for food use).

The good smell of the soap is linked to the quality of the oil. Some unscrupulous manufacturers use fried or other oils, such as palm oil. But the poorer the quality of the oil, the more soda you need to add to achieve saponification. So beware of soaps that don't smell nice !

2 - For bay laurel oil, the extraction technique is a little different. The fruit is burst open in hot water and the pulp recovered, from which the oil is extracted.
3 - The 3rd ingredient in Aleppo soap is sodium hydroxide (NaOH). There are several processes for making caustic soda.

Today, 99% of the caustic soda produced is electrochemical (electrolysis of sodium chloride NaCl).

Vegetable-based soda ash can also be produced. This process has been known since ancient times. It requires sodium carbonate (Na2C03), which can be obtained either from the ashes obtained by burning halophytic plants such as samphire, goëmon (Brittany) or true soda (Suaeda vera), or from natron deposits found in Egypt or North America, for example. By adding a little lime to this sodium carbonate, we obtain caustic soda.

The whole science of saponification lies in the balance between the oil and the soda. The soda and oil must be completely consumed by the saponification process.

Reducing the soda or increasing the oil will give you a superfatted soap. Aleppo soap uses around three kilos of soda for 100 litres of oil.

Aleppo soap, made by hand

Aleppo soap

Aleppo soap is made by mixing olive oil and soda ash in a vat and heating the mixture to over 100°C for three days.

At the end of the cooking process, bay laurel oil is added. Added at the end of the manufacturing process, this oil will not saponify completely. The higher the laurel oil content, the more superfatted Aleppo soap becomes. This technique does not allow the inclusion of more than 25% oil without altering the soap.

To increase the laurel berry oil content, it must be saponified and therefore introduced at the same time as the olive oil at the start of the cooking process. Using this technique, you can add up to 40% bay laurel oil. But is this really worthwhile since it is saponified?

The Aleppo soap paste is then spread out on the floor, cut into pieces by hand and stamped.

The soaps are then stored in the soap factory and left to mature for a minimum of 9 months in a spiral-shaped drying tower to allow air to pass through for optimum drying. During this drying process, the remaining soda breaks down and the moisture content decreases.

Like a fine wine, time improves Aleppo soap: the more Aleppo soap ages and matures, the better it is. Over time, Aleppo soap becomes softer and once at home, your block of Aleppo soap will continue to mature. In the absence of sunlight, the surface slowly oxidises and turns brown, while the inside remains green.

Aleppo soap, an ecological soap

Genuine Aleppo soap contains no animal fats (sodium tallowate or sodium lardate), no irritating surfactants such as sodium laureth sulphate, no silicone, no stabilisers, no preservatives, no colouring agents, no nanoparticles, and no palm oil, the intensive cultivation of which is responsible for large-scale deforestation.

Its composition makes it 100% biodegradable. The lye, which is non-biodegradable at the outset, becomes so during the saponification process.

Aleppo soap can be kept for years in a dry place, out of the sun. The older the soap, the better it is. Time refines it, making it softer and softer.

Choosing an Aleppo soap

Aleppo soap

It should smell good: a good scent of olives and bay leaves.

It should not be greasy.

Its surface should be rough and its overall appearance rather crude.

It should be brownish-beige in colour. The longer it dries, the more brown it will be. The shorter the drying time, the greener the colour.

If you cut it, the inside of the soap should be olive green.

Being very dry, Aleppo soap floats in water.

All you need to read on the label is: Water, Olea Europea (olive oil), Laurus nobilis (bay leaf), sodium hydroxide (soda), sodium chloride (salt)... Nothing else!

The manufacturer's name in Arabic is embedded in the soap. It takes the form of a round stamp made when the soap is still soft with a sort of hammer seal.

The number of stars stamped on the soap used to correspond to the proportion of laurel oil in the soap.

Properties of Aleppo Soap

Aleppo soap is world-renowned for its exceptional mildness, its many dermatological benefits, its longevity and its powerful aroma derived from laurel oil.

It is made from two complementary oils, the noblest and most beneficial of all: olive oil, which is very oily for softness and hydration, and laurel oil, which is drier for its soothing, antiseptic and disinfectant properties.

Considered a 'superfatted' soap, it is also suitable for delicate or dry skin. It helps restore the skin's hydrolipidic film and gives it a satin finish.

Using Aleppo soap

Aleppo soap is a very mild soap suitable for all skin types and all the family, from babies to senior citizens.

As it respects the skin's hydrolipidic film, it can be used daily on the body and face.

It can also be used on the hair. As it is a greasy soap, it is recommended for hair with an oily tendency, irritated scalps and dandruff. Shampoo with Aleppo soap: once or twice a week. Avoid it if you have dry hair.

Aleppo soap can also replace shaving foam. This type of soap has the advantage of not irritating facial skin.

Aleppo soap cleanses the pores deeply, reducing their clogging by excess sebum, which is responsible for blackheads and pimples. So, as well as cleansing the face, you can also use it as a mask. Remember, as with all masks, to rinse off with water.

Like Marseille soap, Aleppo soap can be used to wash delicate clothes.

Aleppo soap is also traditionally used as a moth repellent. Simply place pieces in a cupboard to protect clothes.

Before using it for the first time, it's a good idea to 'wash' your soap under the tap. Don't forget that it has been drying for 1 year unprotected from dust, during which time the salts have risen to the surface.

Our conclusion on Aleppo soap

Some will say it's the best soap in the world. Without going that far, we have to admit that it is not lacking in quality.

Very mild, it's perfect for problem skin, oily hair or dandruff. It's also very economical and environmentally friendly. Try it and you'll love it !