From fighting off acne and eczema, to fading dark spots and brightening skin, the benefits of the African black soap are simply incredible.
My love story with the African Black soap started seven years ago, courtesy of a phone call from a friend of mine living Stateside. She had seen first hand how the Dudu Osun African black soap cleared her Nigerian boyfriend’s pimples surge in no time.
Armed with such evidence, she enthusiastically went on to convince me to give the Black soap a try. Needless to say that she didn’t have to try too hard, given my decades-long struggle with acne, eczema, and hyperpigmentation. Countless skincare products and a little fortune spent in dermatologists’ clinics had not managed to improve the state of my troubled skin. I was desperately in search of the “holy grail”.
As a disillusioned guinea pig embarking on another skincare experiment, my expectations were lacklustre at best. To my own surprise, I was shocked to experience a dramatic improvement in my skin within three days of using the Dudu Osun black soap!! The acne on my face had started to dry out, the dark marks had dramatically faded, and my skin tone and texture were more even.
You may wonder what the buzz is about the African black soap. What makes it so unique? And, where can you get hold of it? Read on to find out more, and to check out my highly recommended products made from the all-natural African black soap.
This post contains independently selected affiliate links. If you buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission. See our disclosures here to find out more.
What Is African Black Soap?
The African black soap is an all-natural traditional soap made from the ashes of locally harvested African plants and dried peels that is formulated to treat troubled skins. The natural ingredients found in the black soap gives it its characteristically dark colour.
The black soap originates from West Africa. It is called locally under various names. For instance, in Ghana the black soap is known as Alata simena or Anago soap. The Hausa tribe of Nigeria call the black soap Sabilum-salo. For the Yoruba people, the African black soap is known as Ose-dudu and in Igbo as NchaNkota.
Women in Africa use centuries-old soap making techniques and recipes containing palm kernel oil, burnt cocoa pod ash, dried plantain peels to formulate the traditional African Black soap.
The traditionally crafted African black soap has a rough texture, a medium to dark brown colour, and it is free from fragrances, dyes, or any other additives.
When shopping for traditional African black soap, make sure to read the product ingredients list to find out whether it is an unscented version of the product or not. This is also important to help you determine whether the selected black soap formula will address your specific skin concerns, as black soap formulas vary depending on the regions of Africa and the world where the soap is made from.
What Makes African Black Soap Work for your Skin and Hair?
The African black soap works wonders on the skin and hair because of the high quality of its natural plant-based ingredients. Some of the key ingredient you will find in the all-natural black soap include:
- cocoa pod ash
- Palm kernel oil
- Palm oil in some soap variations
- Virgin coconut oil
- Roasted plantain skin in some soap formulas in West and Central Africa
- Shea butter
African Black soap or black soap is a natural source of vitamin A and E, and iron.
With advances in science and technology, other black soap formulas in both solid and liquid forms have emerged on the market. Some contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, citrus peels, camwood tree powder, aloe vera, oatmeal, and essential oils to better tackle different skin concerns.
Many of these ingredients have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, gentle skin exfoliating and moisturising properties that help them clear and clarify skin, nourish and improve texture.
Here are some fantastic African black soap products worth adding into your skincare routine. Pick the one(s) that best suit your skincare needs for maximum results on a budget.
Best African Black Soap Products To Try
OKAY African Black Soap from Ghana with Shea Butter
© OKAY Pure Naturals
This all-natural traditional African black soap formula contains all the great ingredients to deliver a gentle, cleansing experience for all skin types.
Cocoa pod ash helps exfoliate the skin and clear skin bumps. Nourishing coconut oil, shea butter, and palm kernel oil work together to calm inflammation, fade dark spots, lock in moisture, and strengthen skin barrier function.
It’s Pure Natural African Black Soap Bars with Activated Charcoal
© It’s Pure Natural
This black soap formula contains additional ingredients best suited to oily skin types. Enriched with natural exfoliants such as camwood and plantain peel powder, the all-natural soap works to deeply clean and rebalance sebum production. The added honey and peppermint oil offer antibacterial and antiseptic to help combat acne and all skin irritations.
Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap, Unscented
The all-in-one unscented African black soap in a liquid form from Alaffia uses sustainable ingredients from Fair Trade produce to offer a powerful product for all skin types. Enriched with unrefined shea butter and palm kernel oil, use it as a face cleanser, a body wash, for shaving, and as a shampoo.
Tropical Naturals Dudu-Osun African Black Soap
© Tropical Naturals
The all-natural formula is infused with pure honey, shea butter, and Osun (camwood extract) to deeply cleanse and hydrate troubled, oily, and acne prone skin. Lime/lemon juice and aloe vera extract gently brighten and even out skin tone and texture for a healthier looking skin.
Nubian Heritage African Black Soap Body Wash
© Nubian Heritage/Unilever
The African black soap body wash enriched with mineral-rich salts from the Dead Sea
gently exfoliates and balances blemish-prone skin. Natural jojoba beads combined with oat and aloe extracts help unclog dead skin cells to reveal a refreshed, brighter, and smoother skin.
Shea Moisture African Black Soap Problem Skin Facial Mask
© Shea Moisture
Formulated for problematic and acne-prone skin, the face mask contains a black soap base enriched with bentonite and kaolin clays to draw out toxins from skin. Salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and Moroccan chamomile oil help reduce skin inflammation and irritation. Jojoba oil and argan oil deeply nourish skin and help regulate sebum production.
Benefits of African Black Soap
1. Is Suitable for Most Skin Types
The fragrance-free, dyes free traditional African black soap is safe for most skin types, including very sensitive skin.
The few but highly effective all-natural ingredients used in the authentic formulas of the black soap make them suitable for problematic skins.
When selecting your soap formula, very sensitive skin types should consider opting for the unscented liquid version of the traditional African black soap to avoid any adverse reaction.
2. Has Antimicrobial Properties
The African black soap has great antibacterial properties that help the skin to remain healthy. A 2012 comparative study revealed that the traditional African black soap was more effective than medicated soaps at fighting the following bacteria from harming the skin:
- Staphylococcus epidermidis
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Corynebacterium spp
- Echerichia coli
- Bacillus spp
3. Is a Natural Exfoliant
The African black soap gently helps remove debris, impurities, dead skin cells, and unclog pores to reveal a cleaner, softer, and brighter skin texture.
The plant ashes and peels such as cocoa pod ash and peels from dried plantain leaves naturally in the product formula naturally cleanse skin.
Natural ingredients such as palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and shea butter nourish, strengthen, and brighten the skin barrier to minimise transepidermal water loss.
4. Helps Relieve Acne
Another great benefit of the African black soap is that it helps fight acne related to bacteria infection and balance oil production. A 2012 clinical study on the antibacterial activity of the African Black soap revealed its effectiveness in destroying the following bacteria from the skin:
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Escherichia coli
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa
This therefore justifies the use of African black soap for other antibacterial purposes
5. Reduces Blemishes and Dark Spots
Black soap is highly sought after for its ability to help fade and minimise the appearance of dark spots and blemishes.
Exfoliating ingredients such as plantain skin peels, cocoa pod ash, camwood tree, and oatmeal in some black soap formulas are highly effective in tackling blemishes. Moisturising, anti-inflammatory, and skin brightening ingredients such as palm kernel oil, virgin coconut oil, and shea butter enhance the skin barrier function and fade and prevent dark spots.
In a 2017 research survey on the attitudes and practices of black soap users, 45% of respondents were very satisfied by the effectiveness of black soap in treating dark spots. 40% of respondents declared to be somewhat satisfied by how the African black soap helped in the treatment of dark spots.
6. Reduces Razor Bumps
According to a 2012 study, the African black soap is commonly known to be beneficial in helping to reduce razor bumps caused by ingrown hairs and skin rashes.
In a 2017 research survey, 46.2% of people reported that they were very satisfied by the effectiveness of black soap in treating their razor bumps. 46.2% additional black soap users responded that they were somewhat satisfied by how effective black soap was for healing razor bumps.
7. Has Soothing Effects
Virgin coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and shea butter contained in many black soap formulas have skin soothing benefits. Virgin coconut oil is clinically proven to have anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties. These help ward off bacteria, skin infections, and strengthen the skin barrier function.
Rich in unsaturated fatty acids such as alpha-oleic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid that are helpful to fade dark spots, shea butter has strong skin protective and emollient properties. The butter is known to help soothe irritated skin and lock in moisture that are essential to calm inflamed skin affected by:
- Skin rashes
Palm kernel oil is an emollient that helps moisturise the skin and prevent transdermal heat and water loss.
8. Helps Protect Against Sun Damage
According to a 2012 study black soap made with shea butter may offer protection against damaging UV rays.
Antioxidants such as vitamins A and E contained in black soap may also be helpful in protecting the skin against sun damage. These vitamins are great at combating free radicals and protecting healthy skin tissues from environmental aggressors.
9. Improves Skin Texture
One of the great African black soap benefits lies in its ability to improve skin texture by gradually cleansing it from impurities, evening skin tone, and softening the dermis.
A 2017 research survey revealed that the most popular usage of black soap was for overall skin care (70%) and all regions of the body (56% face and body). The vast majority of users believed back soap to be helpful for their dermatologic conditions; 51% were very satisfied and 40% were somewhat satisfied.
How To Use African Black Soap
The best way to use traditional African black soap, which tends to have a slightly rough texture, is to rub the soap bar in between your hands. This will help create a lather that you can then apply on your wet face or body.
Alternatively, you can rub the soap bar on a gentle muslin cloth or an exfoliating glove that you will subsequently use to clean your skin.
A third option is to soak a small portion of the soap in water to liquify it and use it to clean your face, body, and even your hair. Rinse it off with lukewarm water.
There are already liquid versions of unscented African black soap available on the market to make your life easier.
If you choose to use black soap as a clarifying shampoo, follow up your hair care routine with a deep conditioner to replenish the scalp and hair strands with moisture and hydration.
Possible Side Effects and Risks
Research currently indicates that the traditional African black soap is safe for most people.
There are no clinically known risks and side effects linked to the use of African black soap. Further research is needed to better understand black soap’s impact on skincare.
However, black soap is anecdotally known to cause mild irritation or skin dryness, depending on the soap formula.
Mild skin irritation is generally caused by small unrefined particles or additives contained in the original black soap formula.
To avoid it, consider lathering the soap on your hands or a muslin cloth first before applying it onto skin or hair.
Alternatively, use a liquid form of the soap. Sensitive skin types should stick to unscented African black soap formulas.
To prevent skin dryness, select African black soap that is rich in deeply nourishing oils such as shea butter, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil. Their moisturising effects will help lock in moisture and maintain skin hydration. Follow up with a deeply nourishing moisturiser.
Bashua OC, et al. (2017). Antimicrobial activities of the indigenous black soap fortified with honey on some selected skin pathogens.
Jonathan SG, et al. (2013). Antifungal properties of indigenous black soap commonly used in Ibadan, Nigeria.
Mongadi AG, et al. (2012). Analysis of some of the antibacterial activity of African black soap on some selected pathogens.
Olajuyigbe OO, et al. (2017). A comparison of the antibacterial activity of some African black soaps and medicated soaps commonly used for the treatment of bacteria-infected wound.
Agbo B. E. (2012). Comparative studies on the effect of locally made black soap and conventional medicated soaps on isolated human skin microflora https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303544065_Comparative_studies_on_the_effect_of_locally_made_black_soap_and_conventional_medicated_soaps_on_isolated_human_skin_microflora
Sandeep R.Varma et al. ( 2019). In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil, JCTM https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2225411017300871
Ikotunet A. A. al. (2018). Studies on enhanced African black soap from Theobroma cacao (cocoa) and Elaeis guineensis (palm kernel oil) https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Studies-on-enhanced-African-black-soap-from-cacao-Ikotun-Faboro/f9525e082a688fe4f206ea1c663374cd18a4b1ea?p2df
Ann Lin, DO et al. (2017). Discovering Black Soap: A Survey on the Attitudes and Practices of Black Soap Users
Andreas Chiabi et al. (2011). The empiric use of palm kernel oil in neonatal skin care: justifiable or not?https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22139548/#:~:text=Palm%20kernel%20oil%20is%20a,transdermal%20heat%20and%20water%20loss