African Black Soap
African black soap has grown in popularity. Traditionally an artifact created using natural ingredients and processes, the soap is fast becoming commercialized. In fact, synthetic versions manufactured by large cosmetic companies have found their way into store shelves allotted for beauty products.
African Black Soap Origins
African Black soap hails from West Africa and is much sought after on account of local lore surrounding its efficacious effects on the skin. It is known by many names, including Ose Dudu, as it is called by the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria, a term which literally means “black soap.” Black soap is said to have been used throughout the African Diaspora.
Ingredients and Properties of African Black Soap
The color of this type of soap ranges from light brown to deep black, depending on indigenous ingredients and method of production. Palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter and shea butter are commonly used as base oil, while the lye component, usually in the form of potash (potassium hydroxide), is derived from the ashes of plantain skins, cocoa pods, shea tree bark and the by-products of shea production.
African Black soap is a great moisturizer. It is mild and good for sensitive skin. It is well known for its healing or dermatological properties. Partly because of the plantain skins used in its production, the soap is rich in vitamins A and E, and is considered a treatment for eczema and acne. It is even said to provide relief to children suffering from ring worms and measles. African Black soap is also a natural shampoo for the hair, and has been prescribed for dry, itchy scalp. This beneficial effect on the scalp is attributed to the lubricating property of palm kernel oil.
Because it is soft and dissolves in water easily, the soap should be left to dry when not in use, preferably deposited in a slotted soap dish where it can drip dry. One manufacturer sells African Black soap in large blocks so that the individual can cut smaller bars from it when soap is needed. The smaller chunks can also be melted to allow the addition of preferred fragrances and herbs, in a modification process called Melt and Pour.
How African Black Soap Is Made
The traditional procedure for making African Black soap requires some muscular power. The base oil is extracted from palm by hard pressing. In the meantime, lye in potash (potassium hydroxide) or ash is made by burning cocoa pods and plantain skins. The resulting ash solution and the palm oil are mixed and cooked in water. Semi-liquid hot soap is then scooped off from the pot and placed on a table to cool and harden.
Today there is some concern over the inclusion of synthetic ingredients of dubious safety in the mass production of what some large cosmetic companies call African Black soap. These include the harsh degreaser and foaming agent sodium lauryl sulphate, and the chemical preservative Parabens, both of which are also found in most liquid soaps.