Home to a variety of natural treasures, Turkey boasts centuries-old olive trees. The great number of olive trees allows Turkey to produce some of the best natural and handmade soaps in the world
If you have visited Turkey, or are planning on traveling there, Turkish delights and evil eye key chains seem to be the popular "go to" gift idea to take back home for loved ones. Running out of ideas? Look no more, because here you will find a clean, fresh new idea to bring back for the special people in your life.
It's a fact that Turkey has no shortage of natural beauty, from untouched beaches to ancient natural wonders. Its magnificent land offers an abundance of natural treasures.
Known for its wealth of olive trees, Turkey is one of the largest producers of olive oil, making it a center for producing natural soaps derived from olives, which allows the country to produce some of the finest natural soaps in the world.
These authentic soaps, which have been used for generations, are perfect choices for your health and eco-conscious friends.
What makes these bars unique is that they are usually made locally and by hand, plus they smell incredible, leaving your skin feeling revitalized and your bathroom smelling fresh like you have just stepped out of a Mediterranean spa. If you have been lucky enough to experience an authentic Turkish hamam or "Turkish sauna," you know first-hand how fantastic you feel after being lathered with the natural products they use, which have been in use since early times.
So how did it all begin? The earliest recorded evidence of the production of soap-like materials dates to ancient Babylon. A formula for soap consisting of water, alkali, and cassia oil was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 B.C.
The first soaps that date back to ancient times were originally produced using animal fats. In fact, it was Arabic chemists who were the first ones to produce soap made from vegetable oils, such as olive oil, thyme oil and lye. As a result, olive oil replaced these animal products, producing an all-natural organic bar that was widely used in eastern lands. Furthermore, fragrant oils were used to create scented soaps.
The most notable soap from ancient times comes from the city of Aleppo in Syria, one of the oldest cities in the world. This handmade soap became one of the most traded commodities in Syria, at which point European nations adopted the soap and began to produce their own variations.
Aleppo soap is free of animal products, organic and a natural moisturizer. This soap is pure in its form with no added chemicals or fragrances and has not changed a bit over the centuries. It is made by mixing olive oil, bay leaf oil, water and sodium hydroxide, which is then heated and left to cool. The soap is cut into squares and left to age in the shade for a minimum of six months to a year, changing the color from green to brown.
Handmade soap production in Turkey has remained an authentic natural product over the centuries, and is almost always comprised of an olive oil base with natural scents.
When looking to buy soap, one should make sure that the bars are a bit rustic looking, and should be olive green, yellow, orange, off-white or white in color, depending on the kind you buy. The bars are individually cut, and can either be sold by the kilo or bar. They are often cut into small squares with hard edges, resembling a square bloc, rather than a smooth curved bar like industrialized soaps you buy from the supermarkets today.
It is not just the "natural and organic" features that make this soap desirable, depending on the kind you choose, they hold "secret benefits" as well. Ask any Turk about these soaps and they will tell you all about the traditional health benefits:
Olive oil soap:
These light green bars are among the most commonly used soaps in Turkey. Its natural ingredients are gentle on the skin and can even be used to wash babies. Olive oil soap cleans your skin without stripping away the natural oils and is hypoallergenic, so you are less likely to experience an allergic reaction when using it. This soap is also suitable for relieving the symptoms of skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis. Hydroxytyrosol, an antioxidant found only in olive oil, provides anti-inflammatory effects to help heal skin abrasions, rashes and even sunburn. It is also non-greasy and will not clog pores, helping those with acne.
In the southeastern province of Gaziantep, olive trees cover the landscape, making this city one of the leading producers of olive oil and handmade olive oil soap. Here, you will find the square cut bars being made in villages, and in people's homes with the same natural process they have been using for years. Just outside Gaziantep in the small town of Kilis, which lies on the Syrian border, you will find a shop called "Tekün Sabunculuk" which has been producing the pure organic soap since 1920. Here you can find olive oil soap in its most natural form, and can purchase it by the bar, or in large quantities.
Bıttım is an unripe, wild pistachio from Southeastern Anatolia and the soap produced from its oil contains hidden benefits that Turkish people have been using for years. The oil produced from it is combined with olive oil and made into bars and used for hair and skincare. A well-kept secret, Bıttım soap supposedly helps prevent hair loss by strengthening and smoothing your hair, allowing stronger growth and less hair falls out. It is an herbal product produced without any additives, using natural methods.
The oils destroy the bacteria in the scalp, giving hair a natural shine and vibrant appearance. It also moisturizes dry hair, and cures thin and broken hair. Due to its antiseptic properties, it is effective against eczema, fungus, acne, sores and irritation of the scalp.
This soap is produced in the southeastern parts of Turkey and if you travel to the ancient city of Mardin, you will be able to find some of the best Bıttım soap. These rustic bars have an orange or yellow coloring that is very distinctive and they are usually shaped into rustic looking square cut bars. Make sure you pick up enough, because friends will want in on this hair loss-protecting secret!
Handmade scented soaps:
If it is a luxurious fragrant scent you are looking for, you will have no shortage of options while shopping. These bars are organic and naturally fragranced, meaning they do not contain harsh 'fake' fragrances and chemicals like modern day bars to produce a sent.
Turkish scented soaps can be found in a wide variety of options including rose, lavender, jasmine, honey, linden, fresh fig, and many more exotic blends.
These bars often vary in color and contain whole pieces of the plant used to scent the bars. For example, whole rose heads are used in each bar to further infuse the soap with its natural aroma and oils. Not only are they beneficial for your skin, they look beautiful in your bathroom too!