3 Skin-Beautifying Benefits (And Uses!) Of African Black Soap
The story of African black soap is taking on a new chapter in the natural skin care world: It's a multipurpose remedy with a long, rich history of use across many cultures—and thanks to the boom of clean beauty, there's been a growing spotlight on it. Read on for what to know about this now cult favorite clean, green beauty buy.
What is African black soap?
First, a quick soap lesson: Soap is made from a chemical reaction between a fatty acid and a base, forming a salt (yep, true soap is a salt!). This process is called saponification (which literally means "turning into soap" from the Latin root word sapo for "soap").
The ingredients in African black soap will vary between regions. For Alaffia's fair-trade body washes and soap bars from West Africa, saponification follows a Togolese recipe that the brand's founder, Olowo-n’djo Tchala, grew up using. Locally harvested shea butter and Orangutan-safe West African palm oil—the fatty acids—are mixed with a potassium-rich salt called potash—the base—then cooked for six hours. The "black" in its name refers to the resulting color, although it's naturally more of a brownish color (a soap that's actually black may have other ingredients added to it, like charcoal). The last step is curing soap in the sun for three weeks.
The finished product is a gentle yet highly effective African black soap without any added sulfates, parabens, phthalates, or mineral oil, and using it comes with some wide-reaching benefits that you might not realize. Alaffia created an entire line around it—the Authentic African collection—that's safe for all skin types, and its products (you've seen them in Whole Foods Market's beauty section) not only harness West Africa's indigenous knowledge and local resources but have also been helping fund empowerment projects that support gender equality, fair wages, and women's health care in West African communities for over 15 years!
What are the skin care benefits?
Based on the common plant-based ingredients like shea butter and palm oil, African black soap can have many skin-nourishing and protecting benefits.
- It could help combat acne. Anti-inflammatory and noncomedogenic in nature, African black soap is known to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties from its palm oil, clearing away more bacteria than conventional medicated cleansers.
- It may help calm and soothe irritated skin. Skin that's prone to itchiness might benefit from African black soap thanks to its moisturizing shea content. Studies have found that shea significantly improved1 the signs and symptoms of mild to moderate body eczema in adults in as little as two weeks.
- It may help smooth out skin texture. Both shea butter and palm oil are rich in antioxidant content2 (vitamins A and E), which can be useful in strengthening and repairing cells from damage caused by free radicals, as well as promoting cell renewal. Because of this, many studies are peering into how African black seed oil can help minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation, sun spots, wrinkles, and scars.
How do I use it?
One of the best things about African black soap is that its myriad benefits make it an amazing all-in-one product to use from head to toe, for all skin types. It's no wonder Alaffia's Authentic African collection comes in such generously sized bottles (bonus: They're made from 100% post-consumer resin).
Once it's found a home in your shower, African black soap is easy to use as a daily balancing and moisturizing face cleanser, body wash, shaving cream, hand wash, and more. The hardest part will be picking your favorite scent!