A beautiful Cretan souvenir is olive oil soap. There is a lot of it on the island: expensive, cheap, simple classical and with different extracts from well-known manufacturers or tiny family businesses. Very tasty smells have pink olive soap, soap with chamomile or with aloe. The soap exudes aroma even in its package, gently cleanses and perfectly moisturizes dry and sensitive skin; it’s great for both adults and young children.
When the ancient Egyptians wanted to purify themselves, they rubbed olive oil over the skin: it stuck to the dirt and could be scraped off. In Mesopotamia, they learned how to combine soda ash and olive oil forming the first soap.
Olive oil has been used in the production of soap for thousands of years. Like all fats and oils, it turns into soap after the addition of alkali: calcined soda is very similar to alkali. Over the centuries, the process of making soap from olive oil was improved; various other oils mixed with olive oil were used, as well as additives from algae to minerals.
In the 6th century, a soap factory based on olive oil was opened in Marseille. Then other soap factories were set up in Genoa, Lisbon and Constantinople.
At the end of the 17th century, the law on “Savon de Marseille” was enacted, fixing the name “Marseille soap” for soap made in Marseille and its environs, as well as regulating its production. The law ordered the use of soda or ash, as well as of olive oil, directly prohibiting the use of animal fats “under the threat to seize property.” It also ordered production stoppage in summer to avoid quality problems. Compliance with this law ensures also today the quality of Marseille soap. Subsequently, there were additions to the law, allowing the use of other natural oils.
Marseille soap factories have traditionally used olive oil from the Provence region in France. Due to poor harvests in France, French traders arrived in Crete looking for extra virgin olive oil to supply soap factories in Marseille. At this time the Ottoman Empire already occupied Crete, but by the time France was the first European country to establish diplomatic and trade relations with the Empire and the first enjoyed privileges called capitulations.
During the 18th century, the amount of olive oil imported from Crete doubled. The quality of it was not regulated, and for most of the 18th and 19th centuries, European observers only noted that the quality of the olive oil coming from Crete was suitable for production of soap. Since the oil market was mainly for soap making, there was no economic incentive to improve its quality.
For most of the two centuries, olive oil soap was known as Marseille soap, but at the same time most of the industry producing this soap depended on olive oil from Crete, and the soap production has become an important industry in Crete: there were there 45 soap factories, which used about 2.5 million tons of olive oil per year. Large ships of 150-170 tons were built in Sphakia to transport soap to Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Smyrna and Syria.
One of the travelers, who visited Heraklion in Crete in 1881, writes: “The soap factory of Heraklion produces an excellent fragrant soap. Flax soap “Heraklion” is not only cleaner of ones using any other additives, but also gives off a pleasant smell, even if the soap does not mix with aroma … ”
Cretan olive oil is still a good basis for soap.
To get to the Guinness Book of Records, they decided in Crete to create the longest chain, consisting of handcrafted soap bars. Members of the Society for Social Solidarity Κοινωνικής Αλληλεγγύης Ροδιάς «Ανασεμιά» with the assistance of the Heraklion regional unit tried to break the existing Guinness record. The event took place on September 2 in the village of Rodia Malevizia near Heraklion in Crete. The creators of the project laid out a line of soap bars length of 3 609 feet. Traditional recipes were used to produce this soap. Olive oil was the basis for it, and the composition also included aromatic and medicinal plants of the local flora. The soap bars were distributed free of charge to all present, and at the main square of the village there were a concert of artists of traditional and modern music, and other festive events.
Soap producers in Crete
Minoan Life is a small company by European standards, specializing in the products from natural raw materials (oils, herbs, honey and grapes). The company is registered in Heraklion and manufactures natural cosmetics, soap from olive oil, herbs, spices, olive oil, honey, Greek sweets, and wines by using its own recipes. Its goods can be found almost at every step in Crete.
If someone has brought as a gift for you CRETE soap or if you yourself decided to purchase it on the island, you can have no doubt about it. It’s one of the simplest in the line—without perfumes, dyes and bright packaging: the perfection of nature lies just in its simplicity.
The khaki-colored soap bar smells of household soap and gives a relatively small amount of gentle foam, although you get an excellent lather. It doesn’t become sticky from moisture in the bathroom and not leave greenish stains on white clothes after washing, not dry or tighten your skin. The soap is very delicate and has a very light smell. I recommend it to all, regardless of the skin types: all Minoan Life products undergo dermatological control.
A Cretan company Sgouromallis was established in 2003 and is based in Souda, in the Chania regional unit. Kalliston is its first line product, includes many kinds of soaps with various extracts and aromas (lavender, rose flower, jasmine, pomegranate, sandalwood, vanilla). It produces also bath salts, pumice and other trifles. Kalliston soap is a bit harder than a Minoan Life one. It’s a very pleasant high-quality product with an incomparable aroma, as much as a purple sweetness floats around the main olive component of it. The aroma is rich and bright, but, at the same time, is subtle and noble. The soap gives a very fine, delicate and slightly oily foam, while washing the skin to a characteristic squeak. People with normal and oily skin will not feel any discomfort at al.
Elotia belongs to another product line of the company, unfortunately, without soap: there are there creams for all parts of the body, oils, lotions, peeling and anti-aging cosmetics. Their compositions are also natural with extracts of pomegranate, aloe, fern, avocado oil and Argania. They are more complicate and diverse.
Since 1989, APHRODITE is a company specializing in the development and manufacture of innovative skincare cosmetics based on organic Cretan olive oil. It’s located in Amoudara, in the regional unit of Heraklion.
At the moment, the APHRODITE collection includes more than 100 various cosmetics, including soap. They produce fragrance free soaps, which are ideal for sensitive and allergic skin: a perfect choice for preferring soap without flavor. They also produce olive soap (a scrub for intensive skin cleansing) and several types of fragrant soap.
Creta Carob was founded in 2006 but started operating in 2011. It is a family company aiming mainly at a manufacturing of various biological products from locust bean pods. Creta Carob is located in a small village called Argyroupoli on the island of Crete. It has the only carob plant in the whole of Greece and manufactures handcrafted cosmetic soap from natural olive oil, and carob.
In 2002 a BIOselect company began to produce high-quality ecologically clean food from Crete, such as extra virgin olive oil, aromatic herbs and honey. In 2005, in response to the growing needs of the Greek and world market in organic cosmetics, it created a certified line of organic BIOselect cosmetics.
The company manufactures handcrafted natural soap from olive oil with different flavors: for example, soap with lavender, which is known for its soothing effects helping to relax.
The Evergeticon production laboratory is located in Skalani, next to the Palace of Knossos. Evergetikon soap is made of the best natural materials and provides a deep cleansing-moistening regeneration. It’s ideal for the face and body
We wish you a good day with health and beauty!