Castile Soap or Jabon de Castilla originated in the Kingdom of Castilla, a part of the country that we know today as Spain. The name Castilla (or in English, Castile) means land or region of castles, in reference to the castles built in the area to consolidate the Christian re-conquest from the Moors.
Contrary to the methods of soap production in northern countries such as England and France where animal fats or tallow were used as the main ingredient, Castilla had an abundance of olive groves that had arrived with the Romans a few centuries earlier and it was soon discovered that the oil from the olive fruit produced a far superior soap, Castile soap was born. The Romans themselves had not discovered soap, but they understood and appreciated the benefits of olive oil not only for internal consumption but also for external cleansing purposes whereby they would rub the oil onto their skin to combine the dirt and grime and then remove it with a scraper like object called a strigel.

It did not take long before Castile soap became a very desired commodity, not only because of its benefits for the skin but also its values in the medical world were soon realised where it was known to Apothecarians and doctors under the name of sapo hispaniensis or sapo castilliensis. Castile soap soon became the first choice of many royal families and wealthy people throughout Europe. It was expensive and not available to everyone. The king of France, Louis the fourteenth, was so hooked on the new and very "IN" skin care product that he decreed all Marseille soap boilers would only make soap with olive oil. Business thrived and Louis made sure a good percentage of the profits wandered into his coffers. Some of the Marseille soap boilers have endured to this day but, sadly, after the demise of Louis stranglehold on what goes into the paste and what not, other oils such as palm have crept into their formulations.

So much for history, but what is castile soap today and how does it differ from that of days gone by and what benefits does it have over conventional soap. Well, basically nothing has changed as far as the basic ingredients are concerned. A true Castile soap still contains 100% Olive oil exclusively, although many seem to believe that a soap can be classed as a Castile if it contains a little olive oil and many companies especially in the USA use the name Castile on their products even though there is no olive oil at all in them. Pure olive castile soap produces a very mild and creamy lather without large bubbles, it is extremely mild, making it suitable for the most sensitive skin types and also for babies and small childrens tender skin. Since the original Castile soaps were made, mankind has developed methods of extracting and distilling essential oils from plant and fruit material. These can be added in effective dilutions to naturally fragrance the soap and also provide further valuable, therapeutic qualities that are beneficial to the skin and support the natural constituents and benefits of the Olive oil.

One of the most important constitutents of Olive oil is Oleic acid in a percentage of approx 60%-80%. What this means is that olive oil is a skin regenerator and a natural humectant, drawing moisture from the air, keeping the skin soft and supple. The resultant soap that Olive oil produces when saponified is very mild and gentle. Olive oil also contains Squalane which has the ability to help the skin to retain moisture while nourishing and providing protection for all skin types, especially dry and sensitive. It is non-greasy and non-comedogenic, which means that it doesn't restrict or clog the pores in any way. It has also been proven to accelerate the healing process which is thought to be due to its high Vitamin E content. Olive Squalene asists the skin's ability to naturally regenerate and feed itself. It is similar in structure to the skin's own Squalene composition and because of this it is highly penetrative. This all applies only when extra virgin oil is used and not the inferior solvent extracted pomace or lampant oil designated for frying and for industrial purposes.

So, if Olive oil is so good for the skin and makes such good soap, why aren't all soaps, including handmade soaps made in this way? The simple answer to this is that extra virgin olive oil is a very expensive commodity and for soapmakers outside the olive growing countries, it is very costly to import and to incorporate a high percentage in soap formulations. Unlike many substitute oils used in soaps and skin care products such as palm oil that is the prime reason for de-forestation of the planets rain forests, olive oil is highly sustainable, low impact and not subjected to manipulative scientific intervention as is the case with many crop derived oils such as rape, sunflower and many others. We feel very lucky and honoured to be able to produce our natural handmade soaps in the largest olive growing area in the world and with the best quality Andalucian olive oil that grows all around us. It is with great pride that we stamp our soap with the ASC olive symbol denoting it as a true and authentic Spanish castile soap or Jabon de Castilla.

Stephen Day. Master soap maker and head of formulation at the Andalucia Soap Company, Málaga, Spain.

If you are interested in trying a real castile soap, we produce both bar and liquid types. For further information see the following links
Liquid Castile Soap

Pure Castile Bars

If you would like to read a little more about the olive oil we use in our soaps follow the link below

The olive oil in our soap

Andalucia Soap Company S.L © 2006-2010

Andalucia Natural Soap Company S.L 2009