There’s a saying about the weather in many places, if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes.

Something similar might be said of real soap, except we’re talking a time scale more akin to aging wine.

Fine soap may need aging

Many soapmakers discuss the need for aging soap.  How much time it needs depends on the ingredients, the process to make it, and to a large extent, the opinion of the soapmaker.  I’ve read opinions that newly made soap should sit anywhere from 48 hours to several weeks to months.   Real Aleppo soap*, a type of soap thought to have been made in Aleppo, Syria, for thousands of years, is reputedly aged for six months to a year before it is sold.

While I find many soaps are drying because of a common practice of adding too many moisturizing ingredients on the erroneous belief that more moisturizing ingredients make the soap more moisturizing to the skin (see the SolveEczema view on dry skin), other soaps that may be too drying just after production are fine and lovely after sitting for a few months.  The aging process is said to reduce alkalinity and water content (for bar soap).

I have so benefitted from letting soap sit before I use it, I now just keep a stock handy and try never to use anything brand new.  So many times now when I have experimented with a bar or a liquid soap and found it too drying, I find if I simply put it away for 6 months, it’s usually different, sometimes a completely different product, when I try it again.   I had an $8 bar of Savon Extra Pur Orange that I found unacceptably drying, but didn’t want to give away because I had paid so much for it.  It sat on the shelf for a year before I used it, and when I did then, it was a revelation, one of the loveliest soaps I had ever tried.  I find this over and over again, even with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, which many people use to implement, but I find unacceptably drying when new.

Some soaps I never have to let sit.  Sappo Hill is consistently one of the best soaps I have ever used.   Maybe they let it sit before selling it, maybe they just really know soapmaking, I don’t know.  Sometimes all the sitting in the world doesn’t fix a soap; I just got up and tried one I’ve been keeping around for two years and no luck.

Anyway, I just wanted to pass along that tip:  if a real bar soap seems drying at first, put it on a shelf for six months to a year like the soapmakers of Aleppo do.  I think they’re on to something there.

Aleppo soap, Syria
Photo by Bernard Gagnon, from Wikimedia Commons

*I’ve read there are now many pretenders, as Aleppo soap is a luxury item that doesn’t yet enjoy the kind of place “brand” protection of products like champagne.  Link.  Link2. Having tried to find the real stuff myself, I’d appreciate if there were an official designation!