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Everything to Know About African Black Soap

Published June 20, 2024
Published June 20, 2024
Natalia Blauth via Unsplash

In recent years, African Black soap has gained significant popularity on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Thousands of beauty enthusiasts and influencers have been sharing their experiences and results, often using hashtags like #AfricanBlackSoap, #BlackSoap, and #NaturalSkincare. On TikTok for example, there have been over 20,000 collective uses of these hashtags. As they continue to share their experiences on these platforms, the item has reached a global audience, sparking interest and demand in the international beauty market. African Black Soap is rooted in centuries-old African traditions and is often dubbed “miracle product” due to its natural ingredients and numerous benefits.

About African Black Soap

Although African Black soap is popular across the continent, it predominantly originates from West Africa, specifically Nigeria and Ghana. That said, only certain regions in these countries have workers and families who are trained to properly produce this soap. In Nigeria, for example, it is the Yoruba’s—the tribe from the western regions of the country. In Ghana, it is the Akan people. This soap was traditionally crafted by village women using locally sourced ingredients. The soap was created not just to be a cleansing agent but also a symbol of African heritage and communal craftsmanship. While African Black Soap is called “Dudu Osun” in Yoruba dialect, the Akan people call it “Alata Samina.”

The authenticity, efficacy, and effectiveness of African Black Soap come from its unique blend of local and natural ingredients. Although these ingredients vary slightly by region, their core components remain consistent. Plantain skins remain one of the primary local ingredients used for this soap. They are rich in vitamins A and E and iron. The ingredient promotes healthy skin, helping to treat acne and reduce scars. Cocoa pod ashes, another core ingredient, are made by sun-drying cocoa pods and then roasting them. They contribute to the soap's cleansing properties and provide natural exfoliation, removing dead skin cells and promoting a clear complexion.

Palm oil and kernel oils are also used, extracted from the fruit and seeds of the palm tree. They contain moisturizing properties and create the lather in the soap. These oils are also rich in antioxidants and vitamins, which help to hydrate and nourish the skin. Last, shea butter, the popular indigenous beauty ingredient from Africa and sourced from shea nuts, is used, with the butter extracted from the nuts of the shea tree providing moisturizing and healing properties. Shea butter is a superb moisturizer that contains vitamins A and E. It helps to soothe irritation, improve skin elasticity, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is important to note that other regional ingredients may include coconut oil, honey, aloe vera, and various herbs, depending on the brands and their chosen manufacturing choices. These natural components are free from artificial additives, making the original African Black soap a truly organic product.

The Process of Making African Black Soap

Although mechanization and industrialization have made things easy,  African Black soap is still largely traditionally handcrafted by local communities in Africa, making it a labor-intensive process that requires expertise and patience. First, the local communities, consisting predominantly of women, gather plantain skins, cocoa pods, palm oil, and shea butter. The plantain skins and cocoa pods are sun-dried and then roasted in a clay oven to produce ashes and often sun-dried and roasted to give the soap its characteristic dark brown color. This step is crucial and requires careful attention to prevent burning and to ensure the soap’s distinctive color and effectiveness.

Next, the ashes are mixed with water and filtered to extract the alkaline solution. This solution is then slowly added to a mixture of palm oil, palm kernel oil, and shea butter, which is stirred continuously to ensure proper blending. The mixture is then cooked over a low flame for several hours. As this process ensues, it must be stirred constantly to prevent it from sticking to the pot. This process can take a full day. Finally, the soap is left to cure for two weeks. During this time, it hardens and develops its final texture. This curing process is essential for the soap to achieve the right consistency and potency, ensuring it delivers the intended benefits to the skin.

However, despite its benefits, misconceptions abound, and African Black soap is often misunderstood. For starters, all black soaps are not the same. There are many imitations on the market. Authentic African Black soap is made using traditional methods and ingredients, while some commercial versions contain artificial additives like artificial fragrance, etc. It is also not too harsh for sensitive skin. While it can be drying if used excessively, true African Black soap is gentle and suitable for all skin types when used properly. Among many others, there is the rhetoric of it being used only for Black skin. However, African Black soap is beneficial for all skin tones and types, providing natural cleansing and moisturizing properties.

How to Spot Authentic African Black Soap

African Black soap has gained popularity over time across the African and diasporic market, making imitations flood the market. For consumers who are looking to obtain authentic African Black soaps, there are certain prominent things to look for. For example, in terms of appearance, authentic African Black soap is not uniform in color. It ranges from dark brown to light brown with a slightly uneven texture. It may also have light-colored flecks due to the presence of natural ingredients.

The soap should feel slightly crumbly and soft, not smooth or hard like conventional soaps—again, due to the presence of natural ingredients. Genuine African Black soap has a natural, earthy smell. It should not have a strong, artificial fragrance. Checking the ingredients list for natural components such as plantain skins, cocoa pod ashes, palm oil, shea butter, and coconut oil is a suitable practice.

How to Use African Black Soap

Although consumers may obtain authentic soaps, some still experience certain skin hazards. This is because there are right ways of use, and anything outside of that can sometimes cause skin reactions. For example, many use it daily. Especially for new starters, daily use is not advisable. Due to its ingredients, African Black soap has exfoliating and scrubbing properties that could cause dryness when overused. So, it’s important for consumers to find a balance that works for their skin type.

Also, to avoid irritation, consumers need not apply soap directly on the skin to cause a scrubbing effect. It is advisable to create a lather by rubbing the soap between hands and then applying the lather to one’s skin. Washcloths, sponges, etc., can also be used. Another huge mistake often made is not applying a moisturizer after use; applying a moisturizer like shea butter or coconut oil to keep the skin hydrated is essential. Last, keeping the soap in a dry place after use extends its shelf life. A soap dish with drainage can help prevent the soap from becoming mushy.

African Black soap has natural ingredients and traditional crafting methods that set it apart in the beauty industry. Whether dealing with acne, dry skin, or just looking for a natural cleanser, this soap offers a range of benefits that cater to diverse skincare needs.


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