The interest is growing for this all natural soap all over the West especially in the US and the UK, but really, what is the African Black Soap?
As its name indicates, it is a soap so it is used as a cleanser for the face and body but it is also suitable for the hair. It originates from West Africa (mainly Ghana and Nigeria) and the ingredients used for its production can, sometimes, make its color turn out black but not always, hence its name. However, note the African black soap can also be light brown and every shade in between light brown and black.
Now, not all soap labelled “African Black Soap” is the real deal. Not even if it looks like a black soap. Let me explain how it is made and how to use it so you understand how to recognise the African Black soap and enjoy its multiple beauty and skin health benefits.
How is it made?
African black soap has been made and used by people, mainly women, from West Africa, for centuries.
Many natural ingredients can be used to produce the African black soap
It is a mixture of the ashes of the plantain skins, filtrate of cocoa pod powder,and palm kernel oil or palm oil. Some recipes can add shea tree bark, and ashes of palm leaves. They are free from additives, fragrances and dyes.
Here is the production process
The vegetable skins, tree leaves, cocoa pods and shea tree bark are sun-dried, then roasted to produce ash before adding water and oil. The ashes provides the alkali needed to transform the oils and fats. Next, blendings of Shea butter, coconut oil and sometimes tropical honey are heated and added, as well.
The mixture is then hand-stirred for hours. The soap solidifies and moves to the top when it is then scooped out and left to set for a a couple of weeks before being packaged.
How to recognize real African Black soap?
The fake african black soaps are very smooth, very black and very hard, and have no medicinal properties.
Real African black soap is soft and easy to reshape with your hands.
If you put it in warm water it will dissolve. The real ones are inconstient, lumpy and rough.
The benefits of African Black soap
One research has demonstrated that African Black soap has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Compared to other medicated soaps, the African black soap performed better against bacteria such as Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus epidermidis. Another study concluded that it contains metabolites that are nourishing to the skin.
These recognised properties make the African black soap suitable to help treat acne and other skin conditions like Eczema (most cases, it is recommanded to make a skin test read more below for guidance on how to do this).
In addition to this, with its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant ingredients, the African Black Soap helps reduce inflammation, soothe and calm dry and irritated skins.It also helps in the management of oily skin tones and restores the skin’s PH Balance.
An Natural exfoliator, it improves skin tone by removing dead skin cells and rejuvenating and renewing the skin layer.
It also moisturises the skin thanks the butters and oils used in its production process
Rich in antioxidants, the African black soap protects against the free radical damage responsible for facial line, premature skin aging and wrinkles.
It can also be used as make up remover, help reduce razor bumps, or contribute to reduce the appearance of stretch marks
List of common ingredients found in the African Black Soap
|Plantain skins and leaves||Vitamins A, E, potassium and iron||Help with skin conditions|
|Cocoa Powder||Antioxidants, anti-inflammatory||Soften and firm the skin, fight agains free radicals, repair damaged skin and renew skin cells|
|Cocoa butter||Vitamins A and E||Moisturises|
|Shea butter||Vitamins A and E, Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant properties||Strengthen skin and damage repair|
|Palm oil||Rich in antioxidants and vitamin E (Tocopherol and tocotrienol)||Help in acne and eczema treatments, reduces cell damage caused by environmental toxins and free radicals|
|Palm Kernel oil||Vitamins A and E, and antioxidants||Soften skins and hair,Anti-aging properties,Restores skin elasticity|
|Coconut oil||High fat content and vitamin E||Help soothe dry/sensitive skin and scalp|
Who can use African Black Soap?
The African Black Soap is suitable for all types of skins. It can be used for the hair, face and body.
In Africa, it is even used on new born babies. It is safe for the majority.
However, use with caution if your skin is sensitive because the exfoliating properties and vitamin A could potentially trigger irritation.
Irritation also occurs if your skin barrier is damaged so you need to take care of that first.
So for people with known allergies to food and extra sensitive skins, it is recommended to do a patch test before usage. Take a small quantity and rub on your forearm and leave it for 24 hours. If you have no reaction on that part of the skin, then you can increase the quantity and areas on the body on which it is used for a couple of days before applying to all the body.
How to use it?
Like any other soap, mix with water so that it creates a foam that can be used on the face, body and hair.
Wash it off with warm water.
It can be used in your morning or evening routine on a daily basis.
Avoid to combine it with Chemical exfoliants.
Why African black soap is good for Afro hair
All soaps are made of two components: an alkaline base and triglycerides molecules from an oil. When they mix, a chemical reaction called saponification happens.
Alkaline breaks down the triglycerides molecules. These now free fatty acids combine with some of the carbon and hydrogen atoms in the alkali base to make soap and glycerine.
These new soap molecules have a hydrophilic or water loving head and hydrophobic or oil loving tail.
So when you use it to wash your hair the tail stinks on the oil and dirt in your hair and the head sticks to running water to wash it out.
Dried plant materials are nowhere strong as the alkaline base chemicals typically used in commercial soaps so real african black soap will never be as hard as the soaps made with synthetic chemicals.
So when African black soaps are cleansing, it usually has a higher oil content which helps to soften your hair as well.
How to make your own black soap
Disclaimer: this is for your personal use and it is recommended to make a skin test as described above
Ingredients for the base
- 1 pouch of potash
- 1-2 cups of water
Ingredients for the African black soap
- 50 grams (1.8oz) of natural potassium base
- 180 ml (6oz) of warm water
- 115 grams (4 oz) of castor oil
- 115 grams (4 oz) of coconut oil
Two steps recipe:
Breaking down the potash to create the base and the black soap phase
Breaking down the potash to create the base
Tools needed: iron or stainless pot (not Aluminium – the reaction will eat away at aluminium)- the pot used for this base should not be used for food
- Place the water and the potash in a medium size pot
- Set the stove to high and bring it to a boil
- Reduce the eat to medium when it starts to boil and stir occasionally
- It takes about 30 mn for the potash to fully dissolve
- From time to time, scrap the bottom of the pot
- It will soon start to foam bottom.
- the mixiture will dry pretty fast so keep stirring and try to scrape up as much as you can.#
- Gather to one side of the pot so it doesn’t dry out and harden too fast.
- Break it up and keep mixing it around
- Make it a little flat to help it dry out more heavenly
- It is ready when it starts to look like ground meet.
- Turn off your stove and set your all natural base aside.
Making the black soap
Tool needed: deeper pot is recommended to prepare the black soap because it will foam up pretty high
- Place castor oil and coconut oil and set the stove to low so it can warm up
- Use 50 grams (1.8oz) of your base and mix i with 180 ml (6oz) of warm water.
- Mix it around and let it sit a little so it can dissolve
- Pour the solution into the pot of warm oil
- Stir and bring up to heat to bring it to a boil.
- Keep an eye on it and stir and it will produce a lot of smoke
- It will transform into something completely different.It happens pretty quickly so keep a close eye and keep steering.
- It soon starts to harden.
- Turn down the heat and let it cool down before transferring it to a separate jar.
- Before using it, let it sit for 48 hours so the PH can cool off to a safer level.