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Traditions in Soaping- Aleppo Soap

No matter what your speciality, I believe there are certain soaps and techniques that each soapmaker needs to try.  Soaps with alcohol, milk, water, or coffee. Hot process technique. Cold process technique. Most important, soaps made with different types of oils, butters and fats.

At the Oakley Soap Co our signature line of soaps either contain our 6 oil/butter blend or 100% coconut oil.  That said, I am always experimenting with new ingredients to expand my knowledge and possibly the product line.   

Source: By Bernard Gagnon - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Aleppo-style Soap is my most recent experiment to come off the curing rack. Traditional Aleppo soap is made with only olive oil, laurel berry oil, water and lye and is made in ancient soaping factories in Aleppo, Syria. Generations of families passed down the technique but sadly, few factories remain as Aleppo has been devastated by the horrific Syrian civil war.

This link will take you to a video on the was traditional Aleppo Soap is made.  Quite different from a small batch cold process soapmaker!

As a soapmaker I wanted to try Aleppo soap as a way to connect with the soapmaking tradition.  Though I’m not pouring my soap on the floor, nor am I using the hot process technique shown in the video link posted above, I still am learning how to work with thes ancient ingredients.

Aleppo style soap uses a high percentage of olive oil which makes it similar to a traditional castile soap, which is made from simply olive oil, water and lye.  Both soaps are deceptively tricky. It takes forever to get to trace (when the soap thickens to ensure the oil and lye water are combined) and forever and a day if you want it to firm up enough to make a texture on the soap top.  The hardest part is waiting the 6-12 months required for Aleppo-style soap to cure. For an inpatient soaper, the regular 4-6 weeks cure for other kinds of soaps is hard enough. We want to try our creations!

Laurel Berry oil is the star ingredient in Aleppo-style soap. Made from the fruit of the Bay Laurel plant, laurel berry oil is thick and dark in color with a strong smokey scent.  Middle Eastern cultures use it in many personal care applications for it’s gentle antiseptic properties and for relief in combatting problematic skin.

It’s been about 7 months since I made my first Aleppo- style soap and it’s been quietly sitting in my curing rack. The color is slowly fading from a deep olive to a golden-green.  The smell, while overwhelming when it was first made, has faded some, but still has a distinct smokey smell, almost like a campfire.

Using this batch of Aleppo-style soap as felt really nice on my skin. It has a very low lather and doesn’t make a lot of bubbles but it left my skin feeling clean and moisturized. I also tried using it as a shampoo, following up with a conditioner of half apple cider vinegar and half water. My curly hair felt soft though the curls were a bit frizzy.

I don’t intend to sell this soap as there are a few traditional Aleppo soap makers around. They are the true masters of the craft who deserve your business. Most of mine will be donated to the food bank for senior citizens run by Mercy Neighborhood Ministries. However, this soap is said to get better with age so I’ll keep a few around to see how they last for months or even years to come.

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