African black soap traditionally hails from West Africa, most commonly Ghana. It is hand-made using methods passed down through generations, using recipes that are centuries old. Local tribes harvest plants and barks including plantain skins, palm tree leaves, shea tree bark, and cocoa pods. These ingredients are sun-dried and added into a kettle to roast. Shea butter, palm oil, coconut oil, and honey are among the various ingredients that are then added and stirred into the kettle, where the soap is left to cure in the African sun for about two weeks.
African Black Soap Benefits
Due to the abundance of antioxidants and vitamins A and E in African black soap, there are many skin nourishing benefits. It helps to heal skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis, fades skin discolorations, relieves dry and irritated skin, and evens skin texture and tone. A small study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that over 90% of African black soap users reported being satisfied with their improvement in acne, eczema, and general skin quality. When used as a shaving cream on the face or legs it alleviates razor burn. It can be used on the entire body including the hair.
I was first introduced to black soap when I worked in a natural living market. A customer from Ghana came in practically every day and eventually shared many health secrets with me. On one of his returns from Africa he brought me a giant chunk of this raw soap. After using it for about a week I noticed my skin was much softer and my blemishes and spots started to fade. The best part about the soap was that it acted as a natural makeup remover. My makeup literally melted off and gave my face a squeaky clean feeling with no residue left behind. For convenience, I ended up breaking the chunk of soap into small pieces and simmering it in water to turn it into a liquid soap. Once the soap was turned into liquid I experimented with adding a few different essential oils to each batch including orange, lavender, and peppermint which have all seemed to give additional help with clearing up blemishes!
It is important to buy authentic, raw African black soap. Many “black soaps” made in the USA and Europe contain artificial ingredients and will not give you the same results.
Alaffia makes an authentic, fair trade liquid black soap.
For optimal results, apply raw shea butter to the problem area you have cleansed. Shea butter is one of the ingredients often found in black soap and helps to replenish the skin and block out harsh UV rays, acting as a natural sunscreen. In West Africa, these two products go hand in hand.
Also by Lauren: Aphrodisiac Arugula Watermelon Mint Salad
More skincare tips: Thanaka for Acne and Uneven Tone
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This article was first published on August 27, 2015 and most recently updated on September 28, 2019.
Photo: Lauren Sacerdote