Having just returned from a week in sunny Rhodes, I wandered the streets of Old Rhodes Town and the white walled village of Lindos, where tourists are encouraged to part with their hard earned cash on all manner of souvenir. Fake branded clothing, model statues, carved wooden phallus bottle openers, ceramic pots, leather goods and even genuine fur coats were all on offer.
But I had my sight set on something a little more authentic. I was on the hunt for locally produced Greek products, in particular, Greek olive oil soaps. Now, those clever marketing companies had already spotted this potential money maker. We stopped off at several souvenirs shops and one or two olive oil factories. There on the shelves, sat right next to the olive oil were bars of soap. Now in Lindos, where donkeys transport tourists up to see the acropolis for 5 euro a ride, they had bars of soaps with little plastic donkeys on them. Other bars were brightly coloured and had pictures of lavender, vanilla or strawberry on them.
So the first thing I checked were the ingredients. It is within the ingredients section of any product that the truth is found. The old saying of ‘never judge a book by its cover’ has never been more appropriate.
Now, if you’re in the market for an Olive Oil soap and you’re stood in a country that grows more organic olive trees than you’ve ever seen, you’d hope this would be an easy task? If you were stood in an olive oil factory where they produce their own oil right there on site, you’d hope the bars of soap they sell hadn’t been mass produced in another country and shipped over just for the tourists.
Upon closer inspection I was bitterly disappointed: Butylene Glycol, Parfum, Sorbitol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, colourings CI 19140. Just a handful of ingredients I regularly spotted. All chemicals added that your skin doesn’t want or need. Synthetic perfumes and colourings, all rubbish!
So, when you’re next looking at Olive Oil soaps, here’s my Del Brown Approved essential guide as to what to look for.
The first ingredient in the list has the largest amount in the product, with the smallest being the last. So look out for these three: Olive Oil, Saponified Olive Oil or Sodium Olivate (which is saponified olive oil)
So what does saponified mean? In order to make the liquid olive oil into a solid, it has to be mixed with water and an alkali (saponify). In soap making, ‘Lye’ (sodium hydroxide) is used. Once the soap making process is complete, there is usually little or no Lye remaining in the final product. So what if you see the words ‘Sodium Olivate’? Well that is the INCI (The International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) abbreviation for Olive Oil mixed with lye.
On the subject of ‘sodium olivate’, its handy to know that;
olivate is Olive Oil
palmate is Palm oil
almondate is Almond oil
cocoate is Coconut oil
What other ingredients are Del Brown Approved within a bar of olive oil soap? Well Water (Aqua) of course, then you’ll also commonly find salt (sodium chloride) which acts as a natural preservative and acidity regulator. You may also find Citric Acid which is a natural preservative found in citrus fruit.
Now other than those few ingredients, what more do you need in an olive oil soap? Well if you’re standing in Rhodes, you might want to look for the words ‘product of’ or ‘made in’ Greece. If you’re after a soap with a nice smell, you might look for added essential oils which will appear in Latin usually. If it just says ‘parfum’ then be cautious as it could be synthetic. So they’ve just added some artificial fragrance to the mix to make it smell. Also, your skin never needs colourings, artificial or natural, so avoid bars with CI numbers. CI numbers are similar to ‘E’ numbers in food. If the bar is glowing bright colours of any sort, your radar should immediately avoid it!
Now that’s the essential guide over and done with. Next time you’re browsing what appears to be a good quality locally produced natural product, always check the ingredients!
To conclude this topic, let me tell you that after a week of searching out the best soaps to purchase, averaging around €2.50-€3.00 per bar. We went into a large supermarket and I was amazed to find Papoutsanis 125g bars of olive oil soap with the purest ingredients I’d found all week and to top it off, for just €0.45 each, that works out at just 32p per bar!
If you’re in any doubt, don’t forget to check out the ‘soap’ category on my website.