The Art and Market of Castile Soap

September 21, 2017

The Art and Market of Castile Soap

Olive oil is a staple in many nations, but especially in Mediterranean cultures. From cooking to soapmaking, olive oil is one of the most versatile natural ingredients found on the market today. The ingredient is so important in traditional soapmaking, that one traditional recipe of soap, Castile soap, named after its origin city in Spain, is made solely with 100% olive oil as the lipid.

The history isn’t completely clear, but it’s believed that Castile soap originated in the early 1500s-1600s as a derivation of Aleppo soap. Aleppo soap is a combination of olive oil and laurel berry oil originating in the Middle-East. It’s believed that the Crusaders brought it back to Europe around the middle 16th century, but because laurel berry oil was native to the Middle East, it was dropped from the recipe when soapmakers in Castile, Spain started crafting it themselves. (Wikipedia.)

Castile soap is a test of fortitude and patience. Soapmaking is already a time-consuming art, as the cold-process method requires soapmakers to wait between four and six weeks of “curing” before the soap is ready to be used. Castile soap takes between six months and one year!

We crafted our first version of Castile soap, With Grace, on April 2, 2017, using a steep water discount and adding sodium lactate.  In soapmaking, a water discount means we cut down on the amount of water used in the recipe. This helps to create a harder bar of soap a little faster. Adding sodium lactate, which is a liquid salt derived from the natural fermentation of sugars found in corn and beets (read more on our blog post about sodium in soap), also creates a harder bar of soap. Because Castile soap is 100% olive oil, it can be very mushy and difficult to unmold – the combination of the water discount and sodium lactate make it possible to maintain its shape and still be usable after a nearly six-month curing time.

What makes Castile soap so coveted is the moisturizing properties of olive oil. In cold-process soap, olive oil is often a key ingredient because it is rich in oleic and linoleic acids. These fatty compounds produce conditioning effects when saponified, making a soft, gentle, and stable lather in soap. Therefore, Castile soap is effective for sensitive skin and for babies because of its gentle properties.

Unfortunately, have you noticed the price of olive oil going up in grocery stores? According to USA Today, “The combination of bad weather and pests hit the harvest in Southern Europe, most of all in Italy, where production [of olive oil] is halved from last fall. That’s pushing up Italian wholesale prices by 64% as of mid-February compared with a year earlier, which translates to shelf price increases of 15 to 20% in Italy.” Since the overwhelming majority of olive oil is imported from Italy and Greece to the United States, the prices have significantly jumped, making Castile soap an even more coveted luxury item.

Even with olive oil prices rising, the demand for Castile soap remains high. With such nourishing, moisturizing, skin-loving properties, it’s easy to see why the love for this soap remains 500 years later.

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident

 




Leave a comment


Also in Bath, Body, and Candle Moments Blog

Meditation for Everyone: A Guide for the Less-Than-Novice Meditator

October 18, 2017

In our busy lives of working, learning, care-taking, chauffeuring, cooking…the list goes on, finding an extra 20 minutes in the day may seem impossible. Especially for those of us who may be critical of the idea of meditation – “There’s so much more I can get done in 20 minutes than to sit there and … Continue reading Meditation for Everyone: A Guide for the Less-Than-Novice Meditator

Continue Reading

What it Means to Live a Life of Abundance

October 12, 2017

For those of you who may not know, I am also a high school English teacher. This past summer our department asked rising seniors to read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I’ve read and taught the book before, many years ago, so I saddled up my sunscreen, flip flops, and my trusted copy of Siddhartha not expecting to … Continue reading What it Means to Live a Life of Abundance

Continue Reading

How to Stay in Touch (Social Media & Contacting Us)

October 05, 2017

Today’s blog post is a quick one just to give you information about how to keep in touch with us using the platforms you love to use every day. Sign Up for Our Newsletter Our newsletter is a great way to stay in contact with us! We’ll email you with news and updates, usually around … Continue reading How to Stay in Touch (Social Media & Contacting Us)

Continue Reading