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African Black Soap

What is African Black Soap?

African black soap is a type of natural, hand-made soap that’s ideal for those with oily or acneic skin types, though some can contain properties that are beneficial for severely dry skin. Patel notes that it’s been used in Africa for centuries, and is typically sourced from raw farm produce in West African regions. African black soap is handmade and used as a shampoo, face soap, and body bar. Its black color is due to the ash in the product. Usually black soap is a mixture of water and the ashes of plantain skins or palm leaves, cocoa pod powder, palm oil, coconut oil, shea butter, and honey.” Unlike traditional soaps—which tend to be synthetic—black soap has a rough texture, making it excellent as an exfoliant. But because plants don’t grow the same every time, batches can vary, even if they’re from the same brand. It’s possible that one batch could be fine for you, while another has more of an ingredient that could possibly cause a skin reaction. Everyone is different, and black soap can not only have varying proportions and types of ingredients, but depending on where you’re getting your products, they can vary.

Benefits of African Black Soap

  • It’s antibacterial. The strong, antibacterial properties African black soap contains makes it an effective cleanser and a natural alternative to others that may be filled with chemicals.
  • It’s anti-inflammatory. The active ingredient in the ashes of the soap is sulfur, a potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent. The rough nature of the soap exfoliates the skin, and the sulfur kills bacteria and fungus on the skin. This works not only on the face, but on the body as well, thus helping with shave bumps.
  • It’s moisturizing. The oils in the soap stop excessive water loss caused from bathing so water stays trapped in the skin, locking in moisture. This, combined with its anti-inflammatory properties, makes African black soap great for soothing irritation caused by eczema or psoriasis.
  • It improves skin tone and texture. The rough nature of the soap helps exfoliate the skin. Over time, it can help with exfoliating dead, hyper-pigmented skin.
  • It helps with dandruff. The anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory activity of the ash helps kill dandruff-causing yeast. “The oils can also help moisturize dry scalp.

How to Use African Black Soap

The key thing to remember with African black soap is that a little goes a long way, and using too much will definitely be drying to already parched skin. Below, Patel outlines the sequential steps to using African black soap.

  1. Wet your face.
  2. Wet the bar until you get a lather.
  3. With the soap on your hands, wash your face in a circular motion for 90 seconds, avoiding the skin on the eyelids.
  4. Rinse off with cool water.
  5. For a deeper clean, rub with a wash cloth or exfoliating brush before rinsing off. 
  6. If you have dry skin, apply a moisturizer.

Upon first use, even those with oily skin might notice that the skin feels dry and tight, which should last for a week. In theory, this is caused by the soap drawing out impurities and excess oils, and the pH levels of the skin will eventually balance out after a few days. The soap can also cause a tingling, sometimes burning sensation, leading to reddened skin. This also eventually resolves for most people, but before going full-throttle and using African black soap on your face, Patel recommends doing a patch test on another part of your body—such as your neck or arm—before using the soap all over.

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