Since the prehistoric era, olive oil in Greece has been a very important beauty component. It was used for face and body treatments. It smoothen the skin, maintained its elasticity and added radiance to it, because of its moisturizing properties.
The Greeks and Romans used olive oil for cleaning their bodies. They applied olive oil and sand on, and removed the mixture and the dirt, with a scraper called “strigil”.
For thousands of years the Greeks made olive oil soap for exporting to other regions. Soap manufacturing is traced back to ancient Greece, in the island of Lesbos. During animal sacrifices in honor to their gods, the incinerated animals and the ashes from the wood were mixed. According to the texts, after a rainfall, a yellow residue was running down the hill, from the mixture of the ashes and ended in the river.
Women washing their clothes in the river, noticed that their clothes became cleaner, when the waters were yellowish. Poetess Sapho, in her writings refers to this action. The Greeks to honor her, called this action “Saphonification”, which is also the chemical term of the soap manufacturing.
Olive oil soap when mixed with water, gets rid of the dirt from the skin and clothes. Due to its purity, it hydrates and protects the skin. It is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.
In the 8th century, soap was made in Italy and Spain and later in the 13th century, France became a major olive oil soap producer. By the 17th century, Italy and Spain made soap with olive oil and barilla (the ashes of this plant were used to make lye).
In the 15th century in Europe, the best body care was soaps made with olive oil. The soaps made in the southern part of Europe with olive oil, were of Superior quality than the soaps made in northern France, England and northern Europe.
Today in Crete, the lower grades of olive oil are used for soap making, because of their chemical properties, are more suitable for soap manufacturing. Used or unused virgin olive oil, can be used for soap making, with great results.
Here is an olive oil soap recipe:
Use always gloves and never use aluminum or tin containers.
3 litres of used or unused virgin olive oil, 3 litres of water, 500 grams of sodium hydroxide and some lavender oil for a nice fragrance.
In a container over heat, mix the sodium hydroxide with the water to dissolve, steering always the same direction. Slowly add the olive oil and continue steering until it coagulates. At this time the scent can be added. Let cool for 3-4 hours and empty it in a wooden or plastic container. Let it sit for a few days, until it becomes solid. Cut in pieces and use.