i had my first run in with African black soap a few years ago. all the range amongst a small group of my friends at the time, i’d passed over their advice to try this interesting looking bar many a times. at the time it sounded so trendy, like it would fade away soon enough, but a year later they were still going on and on about this “miracle soap.” “throw out everything else girl! this is the business!” on the last plea from a friend i caved in and she dropped a bar into the palm my hand. other than thinking, “this one strange looking bar of soap,” i only had a snippet of advice from her on how to use it which was, “don’t over do it!” and was sent on my merry way. boy did she set me up good…
traditionally hand crafted by women in West Africa, there are more than 100 variations to African black soap depending on the region. made of a base of plantain skin, cocoa pod powder, honey, and shea butter and/or virgin coconut oil, it’s a natural, lye-free soap that moisturizes and cleanses the skin and hair. the roasted plaintain skins, which also give this soap its unique color, are chock full of vitamin a and e and make this soap potent when it comes to skin maintenance. cocoa powder and palm and palm kernel oil are then added to the soap giving it moisturizing properties along with the shea butter and/or coconut oil.
there is no rhyme or reason to the shape, it’s just an “organic” block of soap usually found in a finished and semi-smooth rectangular or square shape. the first time i saw a bar of this soap i wasn’t sure what to think. i wasn’t moved, wasn’t convinced. i wasn’t anything. it just looked like a blob of chocolate-ish…something. but after using it for over a year, i’m more than a convert.
black soap works wonders as a deep skin cleanser for all skin types by helping to manage oily skin and clear up acne and sooth eczema and psoriasis. i use it to remove makeup, wash my hair without leaving it stripped and also bathe with it sometimes.
the key to a great experience with black soap is first buying authentic and fair trade soap. when you buy fair trade products from developing countries it means that you are supporting “a movement of individuals and organizations working to ensure that producers in poor countries receive a greater percentage of the price paid by consumers.”* i buy my bars from a local dealer i trust as well as from my local organic grocery story, usually alaffia’s authentic african black soap. online and in store, Shea Moisture and Dudu Osun are other great brands and you can also buy black soap by the pound straight from West Africa.
since i’ve been using black soap, my skin has been blinging. the results of using black soap are akin to a Clarasionic brush or microdermabrasion. i feel like a glowing Alec Wek (who is not from West Africa but that’s neither here nor there because her skin slays)…without the long model legs. the key for me was figuring out how to use black soap without burning the shit (really there is no other word for the misuse of black soap) out of my skin like i did the first few times i used it. i’ve found that a bad first experience with black soap turns a lot of people off, even i was about to chuck the deuces. however, i’ve finally conquered black soap and have a few tricks up my sleeve on how to use it effectively without stripping or burning your skin – because really, who does not want the skin of an African model. anyone?
do you black soap?
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