What is it about Mysore Sandal soap’s benefits that so enchanted Queen Victoria and continues to make a mark on the universe of skincare (it holds the distinction of being the only 100% pure sandalwood oil soap available in the world) more than a century later?
To understand, we need to go back in time.
The year was 1916 and the princely Indian State of Mysore, which was the world’s largest producer of sandalwood and sandalwood oil, had a mammoth problem on its hands. With the First World War in full swing, there was no way to export the kingdom’s excessive sandalwood reserves to Europe.
That’s when Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the king of Mysore, came up with a solution that would mark a defining moment in the world of skincare — to set up the Government Soap Factory in Bengaluru, which would produce soap crafted from pure sandalwood oil.
A factory to distill sandalwood oil from the wood was set up at Mysore in the same year.
… and so a legend was born
Mysore Sandal Soap’s benefits soon garnered it a cult following worldwide. Even Queen Victoria rated it as her favourite skincare product!
Crates full of the innocuous bars were regularly shipped to the monarch in England and to this day Mysore Sandal Soap enjoys the distinction of being used within the royal palaces of the United Kingdom.
The soap’s secret lay in its simple formula — a faultless blend of pure vegetable ingredients and natural sandalwood oil.
As we said earlier, till today Mysore Sandal Soap holds the distinction of being the only 100% pure sandalwood oil soap available in the world.
Because pure sandalwood is rare. And perfect for the skin.
And this is no small feat, considering that Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) is rated as the highest quality worldwide.
Sandalwood oil has been revered for centuries due to its immense skincare and health benefits.
A small sampler: It helps in the reduction of acne and stretch marks, relieves both inflammation and itching, has anti-ageing properties, imparts a soothing, toning and moisturising effect, prevents marks and scars on the face and defends against skin rashes.
It is also one of the oldest known perfume materials in the world and has a calming effect on the body. This makes it a major element in meditation and many forms of yoga even use it for awakening sexual energy.
In fact, so potent are its powers that this precious wood forms the cornerstone of almost all rituals — right from being offered to Gods and Goddesses to serving as a metaphysical purifier for brides and grooms during wedding ceremonies.
All of which combine into the legendary Mysore Sandal Soap’s benefits.
And herein lies the problem for Mysore Sandal Soap
Soaring international demand (sandalwood oil prices have risen to US$1,000–1,500 per kilogram) means that Indian sandalwood has become a threatened species.
That’s because regeneration is so difficult: Sandalwood is a slow-growing species and a tree must be over 30 years old before it can be used for the production of oil.
Every single tree in the country is now government-owned and their harvest is strictly controlled.
However, illegal poaching is destructively rampant.
In fact, the declining availability of pure sandalwood oil means that the Mysore Sandal Soap, whose formula and packaging remains the same as it was almost a century ago, is gradually becoming difficult to produce in large quantities.
Truly ironical for a product whose life began with the intention of using up excessive raw materials!
Hopefully, someone will find a solution to this dilemma soon. Till then, it’s safer to stock up on these bars if you relish their unparalleled benefits and luscious, unparalleled fragrance!
Shrijay Urs says
Great and my love for MYSORE which produces perfume for God and Goddesses multiplied like anything . God save this heavenly place
I am educating younger generation of management students to appreciate these unique things .Thanks for this write up