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African Black Soap 101: The What, Why And When

by Angel

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?

SHOP THE PRODUCTS

THOUGHTS? HAVE YOUR SAY!
  • Karen J

    The only face cleanser for me, husband and children is black soap. I`ve been using it for about 2-3 years now. I liquify it with water and add tea tree oil (for extra help with my acne) – lasts longer this way. First massage in coconut oil (or oil of your choice) on my face and then add the black soap. Its the best.

  • Jesus-in-the-City

    I started using ABS on my baby girl as her hair and skin cleanser when she was about 6 months old, maybe less, and then as my facial cleanser. I love it! But I don’t buy the bar kind, I tend to buy the kind in the tub that is kind of soft and gooey and you dip out a scoop and use that. When my skin starts tingling, I wash it off, don’t know what more kind of tip I could use, otherwise it’s just soap. I think it’s the best. Gentle but deep cleansing as well.

  • Tisha

    I have acne prone skin…I have pimples on my back,my chest and face. After having tried everything in skincare aisle in my drugstore, I decided to try more natural options. My internet search led me to black soap. In spite of the glowing reviews, I was skeptic. But one day while shopping for hair products at an African shop, I saw a bar of black soap on display and thought “why not?”. I have never regretted my decision. My scalp and particularly my skin have never been better. It’s not perfect but the results are still there. So I say give that ugly soap bar a try, it is gold!!!
    Can’t wait for tomorrow’s article.

  • nikki

    I’ll be tuning in tomorrow! My skin is crazy sensitive & I never know what it’s gonna do next. I heard how great black soap is and finally decide to get a bar. That was over 6 months ago. A bar of Dudu Osun has been sitting under my bathroom sink all this time, and I’m afraid to use it!

  • http://becominglola.blogspot.com Letitia – The Fashion Editor

    I do indeed and I can’t wait to see your post tomorrow! I didnt mis-use it because I was turned on to it by another blogger as well who kind of hinted at pros and cons. I saw brightness in my skin asap but nothing more yet. And some people say shea butter causes more breakouts and I was wonderin about that :/

    • http://mavis-musings-music.blogspot.co.uk/ Mavis

      I love love love black soap. My parents are from Ghana, so black soap has been a staple product in our house since i was a child.
      I’ve recently started using black soap again, and i’ve really noticed a difference in my skin when i do, and when i don’t use it. I definitely have clearer, softer and brighter skin.
      I use the liquid black soap rather than a bar (more just for general ease). But i’ve never had any issues with it (i don’t know if it’s the ingredients or just the way i use it)





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