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What No One Tells You About Using Black Soap | Weirdskin

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

pyramid of raw african black soap
image from bulk apothecary

If you are African then you must have at some point in time heard about the million virtues of African black soap for the skin. From treating acne to brightening and healing the skin this "miracle soap" seems to do it all. But is black soap really good for your face or skin? In this article, we will cover all the ins and outs of the virtues of African black soap.

Origins of Black Soap

African black soap is a traditional soap made by the Yoruba people of Nigeria and other Yoruba communities in Benin and Togo. It is believed to have been introduced in Ghana by Yoruba pepper traders.

Some of the common local names given to this soap are "Ose Dudu" which is Yoruba for black soap, " Alata Samina" or "Anago Samina" in Ghana which means " spicy soap" a reference to the Yoruba pepper sellers who introduce the soap in Ghana.

How Black Soap is Made

All over the African continent there exist hundreds of black soap recipes but the original West African black soap is made by combining water, ashes of cocoa pod leaves, or plantain leaves with palm oil.

However, variations of the soap include ashes of the shea tree, coconut shells, butter, and oils like cocoa butter, she butter, and palm kernel oil.

It should also be noted that African black soap should not be confused with Moroccan black soap commonly called "Beldi soap". This black soap is made by mixing caustic potash and olive oil/pomace to form a thick paste.

Properties of Black Soap

The properties of black soap usually vary based on its composition. After carrying out my research here are the scientifically proven properties of African black soap.

Antimicrobial Effect

The anti-microbial properties of black soap come from the oils present in it that help prevent the proliferation of certain bacteria on the skin. There is no principal active ingredient in black soap that provides antimicrobial protection however some recipes are made with additives such as aloe vera, camwood, lemon powder, and honey that boost the properties of the soap.

Antioxidant and Anti-aging Effects

Black soap is also touted for its ability to get rid of fine lines, and wrinkles and make the skin look younger. Well, the truth is black soap contains antioxidants in the form of flavonoids, saponins, and terpenoids that help protect the skin from free radicals that cause skin aging. But to keep things real, this is in no way the secret of youthfulness.

Controls Acne and Excess Sebum

Black soap is a natural cleanser that is commonly recommended for oily and acne-prone skin. Despite its wide popularity, there exists no scientific proof to ascertain or refute these claims. Most of the claims in relation to treating acne and reducing excess oil on the skin are anecdotal reports from individuals who have used the soap. This means that, so far the exact mechanism through which black soap works to fight acne is unknown. While a lot of people have used the soap and were satisfied by its action against acne, a lot also claim using black soap worsened their skin condition. As such, there is no clear-cut answer to whether black soap is a good acne treatment.

Why You Should Not Use Black Soap On Your Face

A bar of black soap

I know a lot of people swear by this soap already, but black soap may not be the savior you think it is. The soap has non-negligible side effects which depending on your skin type and skin condition may make things worse for you in the long run

It is Overly Stripping

Because of its high pH which usually sits in the range of 8- 9 black soap has a very drying effect. It is common to experience some tightness on the skin immediately after use. And while a lot of people think it is a sign that the soap is effective, in truth, it means your skin has been completely stripped of its natural oils. These natural lipids are necessary for your skin barrier to function properly. Black soap, therefore, cleanses the skin too much. This is its biggest flaw, as anything that can compromise the skin's barrier is damaging.

It Worsens Dry Skin Conditions

Because it has a drying effect, for anyone with dry or eczema skin using black soap will worsen your skin's condition. Remember that no matter your skin type, hydration remains the foundation to have healthy skin.

It Can Trigger Acne and Worsen Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, using black soap on your face may also be a bad idea because due to its overly stripping nature, your skin cells will constantly go in overdrive to produce much more oil to compensate for the loss caused by the black soap. This may in turn worsen your acne breakouts.

Can Cause Significant Irritation

For sensitive skin, black soap too could be bad news. Origin black soap is made through a very traditional process which may sometimes not eliminate impurities. Also, although natural, it does not mean it is safer as common additives introduced in the soap after the saponification process may be known allergens. This includes things like fragrances, essential oils, lime powder, camwood, etc.

How To Use Black Soap Safely

Black soap is a skincare product that acts as a double-edged sword as its effect on the skin depends on a lot of factors; its composition, the individual using it, climate, etc. My personal experience with West African blacks was not good. It dried my skin from hard to toe including my hair so definitely a no-go for me.

However, the known benefits of this soap are non-negligible, and if you are willing to try or want to continue using it here are some tips on how to limit the damage it does to your skin.

Purchase The Purest Form

A lot of black soap on the market today contains lots of additives, especially in so many African countries where black soap is the new "glow soap". Skin brightening and skin whitening ingredients are usually added to the soap to lighten the skin tone and clear dark spots.

A combination of such compounds in high dosages may sensitize the skin to sunlight, increasing the risk of sunburn, and skin and liver cancer. As such when purchasing black soap, stick to the ones with as few additives as possible.

More modern versions of the soap equally contain fragrances, dyes, and essential oils to improve the aesthetics of the soap. Only, these are allergens that could trigger allergic reactions.

Use As a Cleanser 2-3x Times a Week Only

If you wish to stick to your black soap because you find it works best for you, I can’t stop you. However, you want to cleanse your skin without going overboard, As such, it is preferable to limit the use of black to 2-3 times a week and follow it with a gentle cleanser.

Include a Lot of Moisturizing Elements in Your Routine

I can not stress this enough, if you are using black soap no matter how moisturizing the brand or vendor claims the soap to be, you need to up your skin's hydration levels to avoid surprises. Make sure your moisturizer contains hydrators, emollients, and occlusive ingredients to attract and seal moisture in your skin to counteract any dryness that could come from the soap.

However, if you have dry skin, eczema-prone skin, or any inflammatory skin condition my advice is to stay away from black soap. There are other skincare products that will offer you better results with less risk of irritation.

Wear Sunscreen

Do not forget that black soap has some exfoliating properties due to the ashes used in its production. It is also common for some additives found in the soap to cause hypersensitivity of the skin to the sun. Such ingredients include; licorice root powder, camwood, kojic acid, fruit acids, lime or lemon juice/powder, etc. Always make sure to wear your sunscreen to avoid sunburns and photoaging when exposed to the sun. Here is a breakdown of how to choose the right sunscreen.

Final Thoughts

So is black soap good for your face? My answer is it is not the best option for a cleanser. Although Black soap has some good properties, its drying effect on the skin, in the long run, can prove counteractive due to the potential damage to the skin barrier it can cause.

Remember that for your skin to be healthy, it needs to be hydrated and moisturized properly irrespective of your skin type. Black soap is not one of the best cleansers due to how unstable its reaction is.

While some may find it satisfactory, before making a decision it is also important to listen to your skin and how it reacts to products. While some people may experience reactions some others might tolerate it better. You will want to do a patch test before you apply it to the rest of your body.


Can You Use Black Soap On Your Private Area?

In no case should you use black soap in your private area. This soap is quite harsh and the skin on the pubic regions of the body is very thin and sensitive. Thus, presents a higher risk of irritation.

Is Black Soap Best for Acne?

I will say no, they are more gentle and more effective cleansers with ingredients like salicylic acid that will work like a charm.

Is Black Soap Good for Dry Skin?

Absolutely not. Its drying effect on the skin will only contribute to drying out your skin even more.

Is Black Soap Good for Eczema?

No, it is not recommended for eczema-prone skin as it dries. A lot of black soap's natural additives may trigger reactions.

Check out my itch relief bar soap for eczema-prone skin

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