Give me that some of that old time fancy pants bar soap.
May 29, 2013 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I like this particular kind of bar soap (South of France) and would like to know where best to purchase said bar soap. I'm also interested in what it is about this bar soap that I like better than regular bar soap and whether there might be some place I can get that soap, or equivalent, a little less expensively and a little more conveniently.

I like this soap from a company called 'South of France', which is billed as 'French milled soap'. I dislike most of the other soaps we buy at the supermarket these days because they feel weird and greasy and never quite clean, like I'm actually washing with moisturizer, but these soaps rinse off nicely and my skin feels clean, but not greasy, and not dry. And they smell nice, but in a way that seems less like 'laboratory nice' and more 'like flowers or whatnot nice'.

These soaps are sold one piece at a time at my food co-op and I'd like to get a case of them somewhere, especially if I can get them a little cheaper. So: is 'French milled soap' an actual thing that I can assume is the kind of soap I'm looking for, and if so, can someone recommend another type that I can buy more of at one time, or a place where I can buy a bunch of this sort at a time? They are available on Amazon but I think they are actually pricier via Amazon than via the food co-op.

They definitely last longer than standard supermarket soap and maybe they're worth the money. I'm just sick of having to remember to 'buy more soap' and needing to make a special trip to the co-op for it. Or--maybe there's a supermarket soap I could be buying and am missing out on. (Dr. Bronners and Kirk's are in the ballpark but not perfect.)

Maybe the answer is just 'buy twelve at once' but I'd like to see if there's a more efficient way for me to be meeting my fancy pants soap needs.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Shopping (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Trader Joe's sells really lovely French soap - I couldn't find a direct link but it is featured on this blog. It sounds like it could be the same sort of French triple milled formula.
posted by Dragonness at 7:23 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So: is 'French milled soap' an actual thing

Yep. Doesn't have to be French to be "French-milled" or "triple-milled", but it generally is. (A surprisingly non-crappy eHow link on the process.)

We're talking about $6-7 per bar here? Whole Foods' name-brand soap is triple-milled, and comes in a variety of fragrances; might even be the same maker as the South of France brand. Trader Joe's sells similar in lavender and lemon verbena for under $4 each.
posted by holgate at 7:27 AM on May 29, 2013

Best answer: I love that soap - it is my one fancy beauty product.

If you're going to an independent co-op (ie, not some kind of Whole Paycheck/Wild Oats place) ask them if you can order a case through them. My old co-op used to order cases of stuff for people all the time. There was some savings associated with this.
posted by Frowner at 7:27 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

(Also, if you are paying $6-7/bar, your coop is ripping you off. It's never more than $5 here.)
posted by Frowner at 7:28 AM on May 29, 2013

I was coming in to recommend Whole Foods' 365 bar soap but Holgate beat me to it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:31 AM on May 29, 2013

Trader Joe's sells really lovely French soap - I couldn't find a direct link but it is featured on this blog. It sounds like it could be the same sort of French triple milled formula.

I have this soap right now! It's nicer than Irish Spring, but it's not as nice as South of France. I don't like the perfumes they use, too chemical fakey intense. But in terms of the "feel" of French milled soaps, yeah, it's the same thing.
posted by Sara C. at 7:32 AM on May 29, 2013

Best answer: Yep, savon de Marseille (not a brand, but a type of soap). It should be made with olive oil, not palm oil – there have been more and more sellers here (Nice, hi St. Peeps) foisting off palm-oil soap, argh. The olive oil stuff is the good stuff: it ranges in color from brownish-light-beige to greenish-brown to brown.

As for US-based soaps, may I recommend my favoritest sellers... they're a family in Boring, Oregon, who raise goats, and make goat milk soap. (I am only affiliated with them in that one of my elementary school friends is a neighbor of theirs.) I love their stuff even more than savon de Marseille, which I hardly believed possible. It lasts forever, smells wonderful, leaves lovely soft skin, and they're really nice people:
- Boring Goats - website
- Boring Goats LLC - FB page (their goats recently had some kids, adorable)
posted by fraula at 7:48 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

didn't want to edit my comment to change the content, thought too late to explain – I recommended their soap since it is equivalent quality in my experience, and it can be had for relatively cheap.
posted by fraula at 7:51 AM on May 29, 2013

French Milled soap is totally a thing. Although, based on your other specifications (you like real scent, you don't want too much moisturizer), you may like Dr. Bronners' bar soaps. It's the same company that makes the liquid soaps with the wacked-out vaguely religious messages on the labels, and they use all-natural scents and no animal fats. They're also pretty easy to find and not too expensive.

If the only place you've been looking for soap is in a supermarket, or in a big-box chain drug store, then no wonder you're not a fan; most of the bar "soaps" are actually called something else like "body bar" because the ingredients are actually different from old-fashioned "soap".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Years ago I was introduced to Caswell Massey. I had no idea there was grown-up soap. Not grocery store "soap" or smelly, smelly stuff. Unfortunately they closed most of their retailers. I order it online during one of their occasional sales. I'll never go back. May I suggest the Almond Cold Cream or my personal favorite Sandalwood.
posted by Classic Diner at 7:59 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yep, savon de Marseille (not a brand, but a type of soap).

Confesses to saving the scrap of wrapper from the case purchased 7 years ago in Paris just because of that lovely flower like smell. Have never seen that brand again :(

I've tried all kinds of alternates. Marseilles soaps come in varieties, and also a version by Duru brand (its Turkish!). Nothing is quite the same.

My suggestion is to shop around first, before buying a whole case, to see which one really really makes you feel as good in the shower.
posted by infini at 8:07 AM on May 29, 2013

Soap is HUGE on Etsy.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:32 AM on May 29, 2013

One thing you could do is look at the ingredient list and try and find other vegetable-based soaps with the same or similar ingredients.

The first three ingredients, palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil, are the most common oil combination for making vegetable-based soap. So a lot of soaps will have these ingredients.

The French milled part means they first make the soap and then shave it and remelt it - often times you do this so you can make the fragrance last longer. It doesn't really change the soap texture/feel drastically from cold-process soaps, which are also common for vegetable-based soaps.

The additional glycerin may be something that you really like in the soap - you might want to try and find soaps with that.

Personally, a soap I like is Kiss My Face's olive oil soaps. These are basically olive oil and fragrance. They make really hard bars with somewhat less lather than soaps that also have palm and coconut oil in them. But, they are only $3 a bar and last a long time.
posted by jilloftrades at 8:32 AM on May 29, 2013

Best answer: I am a fancy bath products connoisseur -- my one abiding luxury in life -- and I will go to my grave pledging eternal love and allegiance to L'Epi de Provence French triple-milled bar soap. My #1 favorite is Ocean, but Verbena, Grapefruit, and Lemongrass are also lovely, and the scents don't seem laboratory-derived at all. FWIW, I was a die-hard aficionado of South of France until I discovered L'Epi de Provence.

This website offers cases of L'Epi de Provence for ~$53, or about $4.50 per bar. You can get a mixed box of 12 by choosing scents from a list (Cucumber, Cassis Pear, Grapefruit, Lavender Flower, Linden, Lychee Rose, Milk, Mint Leaf, Ocean Seaweed, Ginger Orange, Seamist, Wild Rose, Vanilla Oatmilk, Verbena, Verbena Flower, White Musk, Olive Lavender, Natural Lavender, Violet Moss, Green Tea, Pineapple Coconut, Lemongrass, Citrus Black Tea) or get a whole case that is just one scent.
Here are some other buying options on Amazon.
posted by divined by radio at 8:33 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

L'Epi de Provence is probably the same maker as the Trader Joe's brand; it's also appeared as Bisous de Provence.

As this Badger & Blade thread notes, there are only a few contract soap makers in France.
posted by holgate at 8:36 AM on May 29, 2013

I've tried the TJ's soap a few times and feel that it can't hold a candle to LdP in terms of in-shower longevity or post-shower scent staying power, but it may just be confirmation bias because I've been an LdP fanatic for so long.

At the end of that Badger & Blade thread, it's noted that "Bisous de Provence is a brand of Ton Savon, their soap is made by Lab BEA. [...] La Savonnerie de Haute-Provence produce L'Epi de Provence." I had no idea there were only a small handful of 'official' French milled soap manufacturers. Neat!
posted by divined by radio at 8:42 AM on May 29, 2013

Same maker wouldn't necessarily mean same grade, so your intuition might be right. And FrenchyBee is a good, recommended seller.

Pre de Provence does a quad-milled soap: there are eBay sellers offering pick-your-own 12-packs for $77 or so, which is still over $6 a bar, but free shipping, and soap ain't light.
posted by holgate at 9:01 AM on May 29, 2013

Yardley is a milled soap. I like to get the almond oatmeal once in a while. They also have a "natural" line out now with more choices than the regular lavender or almond. Lemon verbena and such. Available on Amazon. Sometimes I can find it at a grocery store and sometimes I can't, but teh Google tells me it can be found at places like CVS and even the Dollar Tree.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:35 AM on May 29, 2013

Everyone here is going to hate me... Walmart sells this soap online, shipping is free if you have it sent to your local store for pick up...runs for cover
posted by JujuB at 9:37 AM on May 29, 2013

TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods--all have triple milled soaps, including Caswell Massey, all the time, in various scents and at discounted prices.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:55 AM on May 29, 2013

I've always loved Roger & Gallet's French milled soaps. They're not cheap at $23 for a box of three, but three soaps will likely last you a year. Also the pretty, pretty box. And their scents are subtle and amazing -- not to mention available in a huge variety, unlike the usual lavender, lemon verbena, and "uh just soap I guess" choices.
posted by Sara C. at 10:00 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, I started a "special treat" Roger & Gallet soap with its own plastic case in late October and only replaced it in early March.
posted by infini at 1:11 PM on May 29, 2013

I've gotten the South of France soap from VitaCost at about $4/bar. (tip: don't order food items at the same time that you order scented soap, unless you prefer lavender-scented crackers. Bleahh.)
posted by Corvid at 1:44 PM on May 29, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone and special thanks for not making fun of fancy pants soap. I wound up ordering 14 bars of each different fragrance from our co-op at 10% off each. I'd like to get a better deal somewhere but 10% off + fourteen! different! types! is pretty great. That can probably last me quite a long time, and I will definitely check out some of the other recommendations here.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:21 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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