“I found this in the apartment. Black soap. She used to wash her face eight hundred times a day with black soap.” –Annie Hall (1977)[i]
Originating from the depths of West Africa, African black soap is as beautifully black as its name implies, created from the ash of locally harvested plants. It is particularly popular in Ghana, where it is traditionally made by women who use secret family recipes passed down from generation to generation. The process entails sun-drying and carefully roasting the leaves and bark to achieve an optimal color, texture, and fragrance; once this step is finished, water and oils of choice (coconut, palm, and/or palm kernel oils, or even shea butter and/or cocoa pod powder) are added to the mix and stirred consistently throughout the day. After a two week period of “curing” (setting), the soap is ready. Organic African black soap is made without artificial ingredients or unnecessary additives.
White as Snow, Red as Blood, Pure as African Black Soap…
We may have just uncovered Snow White’s favorite facial cleanser, explaining her pure unblemished skin and youthful complexion; it may certainly serve as a testament to the radiant faces of the beautiful native African women who swear by it, too. One of the purest soaps available, African black soap is a spectacular alternative to commercial soaps that are chock-full of chemicals and toxins. Gently cleansing impurities from the skin, this soap is further infused with antibacterial properties that enable it to combat a number of skin conditions ranging from acne to skin discoloration to psoriasis, eczema, and skin rashes. As a natural source of Vitamins A and E, it helps the skin retain moisture, improving the smoothness and elasticity.
Given its rich levels of iron, minerals, and other antioxidants, black soap is extremely emollient, serving as a nourishing moisturizer that is delicate and soft, absorbing quickly without any unpleasant oily residue or clogged pores. As such, African black soap can be used safely even as a shampoo and gentle makeup remover. With African black soap, you can expect to soften premature wrinkles and facial lines ensuing from free radicals, since the soap’s antioxidants are meant to protect against exactly such toxins. It furthermore aids in skin discolorations, evening out brown spots and blackheads due to anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that are optimal for deep more cleansing.
An Antioxidant and Anti-bacterial Alchemy
Given that it also entails a combination of ingredients including cocoa pods, palm tree leaves, plantain, and shea tree bark, this soap consequently provides a cumulative benefit of the fusion of all these substances…
The plantain and palm leaves provide a powerful antioxidant content of minerals and vitamins. Researchers at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil revealed that the fatty acids and bioactive compounds secreted within the palm species included high amounts of carotenoids (antioxidants that are essential for protecting against cellular damage) and tocopherols (fat-soluble compounds with potent Vitamin E activity).[ii]
In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties within the soap’s infusion of cocoa pods and butter have been shown to protect against the free radicals attacking the body’s blood stream and against various types of cancers, furthermore protecting the skin from external pollutants while boosting the body’s immune system. Cocoa is prized for its moisturizing elements, with cocoa butter in particular used to ease skin conditions ranging from stretch marks and wrinkles to psoriasis and skin rashes; the polyphenols in cocoa have also been found to protect against chronic diseases, skin degeneration, and even cell mutations.[iii]
Combining the infusion of lauric acid prevalent in palm kernel oil and palm oil with the essential fatty acids found in shea and cocoa butter, you’ve armed yourself with a literal layer of potent antibacterial and chemo-protective properties.[iv] Palm kernel oil, extracted from the fruit seeds of the African palm tree, is especially high in lauric acid; palm oil, derived instead from the fruit of the oil palms, is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. If coconut oil is used instead, similar benefits are derived from its antibacterial and cleansing properties; researchers at the Memorial University of Newfoundland have shown how coconut oil protects cortical neurons from toxins by enhancing the signaling of cell survival pathways.[v]
The Natural Shampoo Your Hair Secretly Yearns For…
African black soap has been used for centuries throughout countries in Africa to relieve everything from sunburns and insect bites to rashes and skin diseases. The moisturizing natural chemical compound allantoin found with African black soap serves as a germicide, helping the skin to heal faster while speeding up the rejuvenation and synthesis of new skin cells. It also works spectacularly as a hair shampoo, as it is free of additives, chemicals, and toxins.
The plantain enzymes are excellent for preventing scalp irritation and hair loss, with the cocoa and shea butters serving to seal in natural moisture and thereby soften and smoothen the hair. Due to its minerals and antioxidants, the soap serves as both a detoxifier—eliminating product buildup in the hair as well as dandruff and stubborn oils and dirt, relieving a dry or itchy scalp—and an exfoliator that nourishes skin, pores, and hair follicles alike.[vi]
- As a shampoo: Create a rich lather in your hands with the soap and massage your scalp; after 2-5 minutes rinse with cool or warm water, then condition and style your hair as desired.
The Essence of Balance
As African black soap’s popularity has grown, many brands of commercialized products have been touted as authentic soaps after being stripped of their original goodness; true black soap has soft, more brown than black, and contains these all-natural ingredients.[vii] It is extremely safe to use, including for newborns and for the elderly. As African black soap has a high content of glycerin, check with your dermatologist or family doctor if you have a known glycerin allergy.