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Saponificio Varesino

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Back in September Sharpologist highlighted Italian shaving brands and artisans.  One brand profile conspicuously missing in that series was Saponificio Varesino.  With some help from Saponificio Varesino’s US distributor (who speaks English wayyyyy better than I speak Italian) I’m finally able to do the brand justice with this company profile.

History of Saponificio Varesino

Bardelli Dante had just returned to Brebbia, Italy (northwest of Milan on the shores of Lago Maggiore) from World War II in 1945, and was looking for a way to support his family. He began studying the chemical principles of soap making, and with the help of his wife, Ines, he began to produce soaps in his own home in the most traditional way.  

The feedback from Dante’s neighbors and other townspeople from Brebbia was immediately positive, so much so that he decided to invest the proceeds from his soaps and properly register his company at the Varese Chamber of Commerce the following year: 

saponificio varesino registration

Using his motorcycle sidecar and placing the boxes of soap on the passenger side, Bardelli Dante began to deliver his products door to door. He became a constant presence in the streets of the towns nearby, which allowed his products to become well known throughout the province.

In 1948 Saponificio Varesino created the “Stella Alpina Soap Bar,” a cube-shaped laundry soap bar with printing on all six sides.  This product is still produced today (though “flaked” and industrial versions are made, too):

saponificio varesino laundry soap bar

In the 60s Saponificio Varesino produced its first self-branded bathroom soap, the Lavender Soap. Then in 1965, in response to market demand for soaps with more a ergonomic and refined form, came Velours Paris Soap, 

Around 1980 Orchid Soap, an oval soap featuring special finishes, was added to the product brand.

2012 is the year of the Saponificio Varesino brand, a gift soap set line characterized by premium presentations and with refined scents. This production is characterized by the 100% usage of Saponificio Varesino’s coconut/palm soap base (certified Econat):

  • 100% vegetable (except fragrance)
  • No palm oil (forest protection)
  • No preservatives / chelators / antioxidants of chemical origin
  • No petroleum, mineral oils, dyes, parabens
  • No EDTA – SLS – BHT – SLES – PEG

In 2015, the family’s third generation celebrated the 70th anniversary of Saponificio Varesino. Saponificio Varesino now produces shaving and bath soaps, as well as a skincare line, proudly representing products that are 100% made in Italy.

Making Marseilles Soap

The original process used to make the soaps would mix Mediterranean Sea water with olive oil and plant extracts together in a large heated kiln. This mixture would then be stirred constantly for several days, then poured into a mold and left to set for up to a month. 

Today, Saponificio Varesino still produces soaps using the same artisanal method.

All of their soaps are triple milled (passed through a milling machine three times) to thoroughly mix the soap with any fragrances or extra ingredients, while at the same time squeezing out any extra water or air. This creates a hard soap that lasts 3-4 times longer than most other soaps, with less waste and richer lather.

The Saponificio Varesino collection

Saponificio Varesino now covers the entire men’s grooming ritual starting from several prepping the skin for shaving, shaving soaps, aftershaves, eau de parfums, toiletry soaps, shower gels and antiperspirant/deodorants.

Shaving Soaps

Saponificio Varesino shaving soaps are constantly being improved, which is why you will see Beta 4.0-4.3 stamped on their products. Like their bath soaps, shaving soaps are triple-milled for performance and longevity.

Since the beginning Saponificio Varesino has focused on finding and using ingredients extracted from plants growing in unique and hard to reach places all over italy. Italy has the highest number of microclimates in the world and that’s where the research and development of Saponificio Varesino is focusing their attention when they look for new ingredients. Here are a few examples:

  • Mirto Di Sardegna: based on extract from the mirto plant (berry) growing in the arid area of Sardinia (the second biggest island of Italy) that is unique to this island.
  • Tundra: during a search they found that in the Dolomites (in the Italian Alps) there is a small area that has the same microclimate as the arctic tundra of northern countries, where they grow unique lichens with special properties.
  • Aromatic Fern (Felce Aromatica): on another part of the alps there is a special microclimate allowing this unique fern with amazing soothing properties.
  • Manna Di Sicilia: manna is a sap coming from the incision made into a particular ash tree growing in the Madonie national park close to the shore of sicily. Again, a unique microclimate that combines high elevation with the proximity to the sea. 

Each line is characterized by a unique fragrance coming from pure essential oils.

Saponificio Varesino initially started with a few fragrances but then, with the success of the products, they expanded the line to 12 different fragrances. Along with the fragrances they also expanded into other categories in order to offer different products under each unique scent. 

Related Post: Saponificio Varesino Morado Shave Soap Review

Shaving Accessories

All the accessories offered by Saponificio Varesino are handmade by local artisans in limited quantities, considered almost one of a kind. Often made-to-order, they differ slightly from one another and they are becoming collector items.

Just recently Saponificio Varesino launched its second Limited Edition Straight-razor dedicated to famous Italians whose works and deeds have become legendary. After the amazing success of its first razor dedicated to Leonardo Da Vinci, this second release is a tribute to one of the greatest personalities in the field of science, Galileo Galilei.

Brushes are the result of three different artisan’s work: the handle is made on a lathe and finished by hand; the crown ring is created by another artisan; and finally the brush handle is mated to a high mountain white badger hair knot by hand by another artisan.

The “Lathering Grail” that Saponificio Varesino has designed and produced includes a two-piece design with a detachable handle. The inner cup is provided with an “orange peel” lacquering in order to help incorporate the air in the soap lather. The handle’s head has been designed to help push the air inside of the lather to create a richer cream. The handle has an ergonomic shape and can be easily detached from the cup for easier storage.

Another unique accessory is a shaving bowl made from a single block of Calabrese Olive Wood, 30 years old, 100% handmade in Italy. Due to the hardness of this wood, the inner cup wrinkles are obtained using white corundum sand-blasting.

Deodorants / Antiperspirants 

The 6 Deodorants, in fragrance combination with most populars shaving soaps and after shaves, are formulated based on Alum rock which, with its saline component, creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria.  The addition of selected plant extracts makes this deodorant particularly unique in its performance.

Summing Up

In conclusion, Saponificio Varesino is a great choice for anyone looking for high quality, artisanal products. Their commitment to using only natural ingredients and traditional methods of production ensures that their products are some of the best on the market. 

Special Thanks to @thesavingdutchman for the photographs.


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

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