There’s Nothing Basic About Africa’s Black Soap
We’ve all been there before; you walk into a department store and head for the health and beauty section. You examine a wide variety of cleansing bars and you choose one that seems to match your needs. It usually takes a few tries before you find that one soap that really works for you.
Have you ever stopped to look at the ingredients of this soap? You are likely to find triclosan, which can disrupt the thyroid hormone and increased exposure can contribute to the development of breast cancer.
You will find fragrance, which is usually a safe word for pthalates, a chemical which can cause birth defects and liver damage.
There are so many chemicals that are used in nearly all “cleansing bars” sold in stores today. One rule of thumb is that anything you put on your face you should be able to eat. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin!
Whatever soap you use will be absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin. This is why African black soap and other natural soaps are suddenly getting more recognition today.
African black soap is an all-natural soap hand-crafted in Western Africa. There are more than 100 different varieties of black soap. The production and recipe for the soap varies depending on the region of Africa that it is made.
Most black soap is made with a blend of plantain skin, cocoa pod powder, tropical honey, and virgin coconut oil. It is most commonly hand-crafted by village women in Africa who make the soap for themselves and to support their families.
The same women who make the soap choose to use only black soap on their babies, as its purity makes it gentle and non-drying for babies’ sensitive skin. In fact, black soap is generally the only soap used in most Western African countries.
What Makes Black Soap Different:
– It is made with rare tropical honeys that are known for softening the skin and creating a smooth surface.
– It is also a natural source of vitamins A & E and iron. This helps to strengthen the skin and hair.
– It contains a high amount of glycerin, which absorbs moisture from the air and literally deposits it into the skin, making the skin soft and supple.
– For centuries, Ghanaians and Nigerians have used black soap to help relieve acne, oily skin, clear blemishes and various other skin issues. Many swear by it for skin irritations and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
– Women in Africa will use black soap during pregnancy and afterwards to keep them from getting stretch marks and to protect them from dry skin that is often accompanied by pregnancy.
– Black soap can also be used as a hair shampoo. The shea butter in the soap softens the hair, while the vitamins give it strength.
– Men can use black soap in shaving. The high shea butter content leaves the skin smooth and protected.
– African black soap is unique in that it contains no preservatives, color enhancers, or fragrances. African black soap creates a soft lather without the animal fat additives that are commonly used in soaps made in the US.
How Black Soap is Made:
1 – First, leaves and bark of various trees and plants are burned in a vat or kettle. These may be leaves from banana trees, plantain skins, palm tree leaves, shea tree bark, and/or cocoa pods.
2 – Secondly, water is added to ashes to be filtered. Oils such as coconut oil, shea oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter are added to the water to create the soap.
3 – The soap is then hand-stirred by local women for at least a day and then set out to cure for two weeks.
People have tried to re-create African black soap in the west, but it has never been able to truly replicate the authentic product. This is because genuine black soap is created using age-old traditions that are passed down from one generation to the next in smaller villages in Africa.
The most common form of black soap is called Ose Dudu (doudoun), which comes from the Yoruba or Anago languages of Nigeria, Togo, and Benin. Ose Dudu literally means Soap (ose) and Black (dudu).
Not all Black Soaps are Created Equal
As the popularity of this soap and other natural soaps increases, some retailers are using the label African black soap. Many are just dyeing soap black, but using none of the key ingredients of true black soap.
True black soap is from West Africa. It has raw ingredients that give it an earthy smell, and a more delicate texture than typical storebought soaps.
If you are starting to feel differently about the softly scented white “cleansing bars” you have next to your bathroom sink, don’t despair. Natural soaps are becoming more and more widely available and many can repair the damage your skin has experienced over the years.
If you try black soap, don’t be surprised; that muddy-looking water lathering on your face is literally cleaning all the impurities out of your skin from the inside out. The cocoa pod powder gives the soap a black color and hence it will create a “muddy” looking lather when you use it.
If you are ready to see what benefits you can experience, then you can find black soap in some whole food markets, as well as some stores specializing in products from Africa.
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Africa Imports assists African craftspeople and African orphanages through its network of local sales distributors in the US.