One of the last things we seem to veganise is our makeup bags and hygiene products that line our bathroom cabinets. Why is this? I think it's because we are afraid of looking different, apprehensive that new products won't be suited to our bodies or that it will be obvious that we are a vegan to others and that they will judge us on sight. We spend years using the same products, because we find it comfortable, and suddenly we realise who makes these products and what they do to animals.
However, vegan friendly products are out there, and most of them are fantastic! Once you switch to natural vegan friendly products, you won't look back. Since going vegan I have found many excellent skincare and beauty brands which I think are much better quality than the ones I used to use previously. Most recently I found out about a company that makes completely vegan skincare products called Général de Cosmétique. Their soap is called Aleppo soap (Alepposåpe in Norwegain) and their products and the story of their company is so amazing that I just had to share it with you.
Alepposåpe is a natural type of soap made from an ancient recipe using basically Laurel bay oil, Olive oil and soda. This Aleppo soap is free of dyes or synthetic perfume, preservatives, chemical additives or animal fats. It is a hard bar 'castile' soap made with a fascinating history. This type of soap has been around for so long, that nobody really knows when it was invented! Some people even say that Queen Cleopatra used to use Aleppo soap, so it's nice to imagine yourself as a queen when you take a shower with this stuff. We tried out three of their products, the moulded soap bar, traditional Aleppo soap bar and their liquid soap.
Aleppo soap is great if you have sensitive skin as it's very neutral, you can use it to treat psoriasis, eczema, dry scalp and other skin conditions. If you have been feeling a little under the weather, you can use it as a facemask to really calm your skin down.
Moulded Aleppo Soap
I first used this soap in the shower with my loofah. This soap is hand moulded from Aleppo soap flakes into a traditional castile hard soap bar. I was surprised at how sudsy it got, it lathered up nicely when I got my trusty loofah on it, my skin felt moisturised and the whole bathroom smelt wonderful. The soap comes in a lovely little soap dish that has a lid so if you leave it at the side of the shower you can protect it from getting wet. I even used it for shaving my legs!
Genuine Liquid Aleppo Soap
This is one for those of you who hate soap bars. In my opinion it's just as good as the moulded soap bar. The packaging is very elegant, and it comes in a little stand just like the other bars of soap.
Traditional Aleppo Soap Bar
This is probably the coolest of all three of the products I tried. It comes in a little soap stand so it looks really classy in your bathroom next to the sink. It's very rustic looking with the Aleppo logo hand stamped into the top for decoration and it comes in its own clever little soap dish which is designed to collect all the soap suds without getting mouldy. I have very dry skin so I am usually a little apprehensive with soap as most of the cheap stuff dries me out, however this soap bar was really moisturising! In fact it felt like I was rubbing a ton of really thick hand cream into my hands at the same time as washing them which I guess is a great time saver. As I was using it I couldn't help but think about my mum who loves having fancy soaps in her bathroom to impress guests, I think this would be a great gift for her as you can feel the difference straight away between this soap and the regular hard bars.
How is it made?
The process of making Aleppo Soap is virtually unchanged over the centuries. First, the mixture of olive oil and soda is boiled at a special temperature in a large vat for around 3 days with lye and water until it becomes a thick liquid soap. After this they add the laurel oil, mix it in and then pour the vat of soap over a large sheet of waxed paper on the floor of the factory.
Whilst this large, flat green mass is cooling, factory workers smooth it out and then cut it into blocks. Each block is stamped with the soap artisans name. They then stack the soap in cylinders to allow for maximum air exposure and then when they've dried enough they are put into a special subterranean chamber to be aged for a good 6 months or so. Whilst it's ageing the soaps consistency changes, it turns a pale gold and becomes harder and longer lasting.
Watch this really satisfying video which shows the soap making process from start to finish.
Escaping the war
The main Aleppo factory was in Syria, but due to the intense fighting there, running a functional business was made almost impossible. It is so sad to see the city of Aleppo and all it's culture lie in ruins, but Aleppo soap was determined not to let the soap business die. The factory owner now operates from another country and has moved his factory, all his workers and their families there to protect them from the war and carry on his business and tradition.
Where can I buy it in Oslo?
You can buy Aleppo soap from Sunkost, Life, Røtter, Kinsarvik, Helios and many other health stores in Oslo. Download the Vegan Oslo app to find out where they are and see over 100 other vegan places in the city.
There is more information about Aleppo soap in Norwegian here and in English here http://www.savondalep.com