To the uninitiated, African black soap can appear intimidating. Pure, traditional black soap is dark brown or black in colour, has imperfections in its cut, and is coarse in its appearance and composition. Its density appears similar to the look of coarse, raw brown sugar pressed together. But this soap is a miracle for a variety of skin conditions, from simple rashes to contact dermatitis and psoriasis. It eliminates odours and combats oily skin. Extremely gentle, it was used by women in Africa before, during, and after pregnancy to keep from getting dry skin and stretch marks.
West Africa's Secret
There are hundreds of varieties of black soap. Each region has a unique recipe that varies based on locally available ingredients and the traditions of the women making it. Traditionally made by women, black soap originates from Western Africa, from Nigerian and Ghanaian communities in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Togo. One well-known variant is called ose dudu. In the language of the Yoruba in Nigeria, black soap is called ose dudu. Ose means soap, while dudu means black. It is also known as alata samina in Ghana, or “Pepper Traders Soap.”
Today, women continue to craft black soap in villages across Western Africa. They use only natural ingredients without added chemicals. Beyond traditions in production, traditions in conduct can be a part of the process— such as not speaking ill of husbands during the group preparation work!
How Traditional Black Soap is made
Black soap is made from the ash of locally harvested plants and barks such as plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves, and shea tree bark. This is why it is a dark brown to black colour.
The target ingredients are harvested and dried under the sun. Next, the plantain skins, palm leaves, or cocoa pods are roasted within a clay oven, producing plant ash. Water is added to the ash and filtered.
Additional juices of the raw ingredients, the ashy water, and supplementary oils like shea butter are cooked together, depending on the recipe, and hand-stirred for 24 hours. The soap slowly solidifies. It is then scooped out and set out to cure for up to two weeks.
Benefits of Black Soap
Black soap is powerful, natural and gentle.
Antibacterial. African black soap is an effective cleanser for the skin.
Anti-inflammatory. The presence of ash in African black soap also means the presence of the active ingredient sulfur, which is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
Exfoliating. The rough surface of the soap allows for a gentle exfoliation that allows the ingredients of the soap to kill bacteria and fungus on the skin's surface.
Odour-eliminating. The antimicrobial abilities of black soap also kill odour causing bacteria on the body.
Moisturising. Added oils in the soap help protect the skin from water loss and support the skin's natural oil barrier. By locking in moisture at the same time it exfoliates dead skin, black soap helps with skin conditions and soothes irritation caused by eczema and psoriasis.
Improves tone. The coarse texture of the soap exfoliates the skin and its effect in removing dead cells can help with hyperpigmentation over time.
Assist with dandruff. Dandruff results from the presence of yeast on the scalp. Black soap can kill the microbes responsible for dandruff, and then moisturise and soothe the scalp to promote healing.
Black soap versus Charcoal Soap
You may be thinking of other black soaps you have seen. Activated charcoal soaps tend to look more like conventional soaps, appearing smooth in appearance and uniform in colour.
Activated charcoal soaps work differently than African black soaps.
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been processed to have small, low-volume pores which increase the surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions. Activated charcoal has a spongier texture, making it effective for health applications. Activated charcoal has been used as a remedy for some kinds of ingested toxic materials because it "traps" the poisonous material and prevents it from being absorbed into the body.
The application of activated charcoal into beauty was based on its super absorbent properties. In body and skincare, activated charcoal's absorbent ability allows it to remove impurities and bacteria from the surface of the skin, which can improve conditions like acne and oily outbreaks.
Both types of soap have incredible benefits for skin struggling with oily breakouts, conditions like eczema and psoriasis, odours, and irritation.
For a cleanse and detox, this activated bamboo charcoal soap is fortified with coconut oil, rice bran oil and shea butter to fully moisturise while removing impurities.
Kokoa Eco Beauty
The real thing. Authentic ‘alata samina’ made authentically in Ghana and packaged in the UK. The soap contains only 100% natural ingredients, including moisturising Shea Butter, naturally high in vitamin E, A and F.
Adesha Beauty has infused its African Black Soap with Vitamin E Oil for its extra moisturising and anti aging properties. Also contains ingredients such as plantain skins, cocoa pods, and shea tree bark. Combined with coconut oil and shea butter to help treat and soothe skin.
Nguvu Ghana Black Soap (also known as Alata Samina) will give you a radiant glow from top to bottom. It also contains strong anti-inflammatory properties which soothe and calm eczema and fights facial & body acne whilst reducing blemishes.
This multi-purpose charcoal soap bar is ideal for any occasion, whether that is getting sweaty after a late night dancing or Sunday morning’s hot yoga session.
Where you and beauty meet. Yuty takes into consideration your genetics, lifestyle, environment and preferences when providing you with personalised recommendations. Take the YUTY Advisor™ today to find your perfect match.
SPICETVAFRICA. (2016, March 31). Understand the making of African Black Soap | SPICE ORIGINS. https://youtu.be/kLUBJ0V_N1M
Summers, G., & Rabach, M. (2019, August 28). Everything You Need to Know About African Black Soap. Byrdie. https://www.byrdie.com/african-black-soap-2442627
Petre, A. (2017, June 29). What Is Activated Charcoal Good For? Benefits and Uses. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/activated-charcoal