African Black Soap Can Do Wonders for Skin—Here's What to Know Before Adding It to Your Hygiene Routine

Here's where African black soap comes from, how it's made, and what it’s good for.

Whether you're looking to banish dry skin, fade dark spots, or heal existing breakouts, African black soap is a powerhouse cleanser and a boost to any skincare routine. Once known as an age-old beauty secret, African black soap is quickly becoming a much-revered body and facial product throughout the skincare industry.

According to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic, black soap is well known in African cultures as an ancient remedy for healthy skin. In Nigeria, black soap originates from the Yoruba words "ose dudu," and is composed of palm oil, cocoa pods, and other ingredients produced in traditional methods. It's characteristically known for its ability to improve uneven skin tone, razor bumps, and overall texture and quality of the skin. African black soap is also widely used for acne, eczema, and general skin care. Caroline Robinson, MD, FAAD, dermatologist and CEO of Tone Dermatology, shares tips and tricks for integrating this one-of-a-kind cleanser into your regular regime for incredible benefits.

01 of 04

Where Does African Black Soap Come From and How Is It Made?

"As a young girl, my Nigerian parents actually introduced me to black soap," Dr. Robinson says. "It has its origins in Nigeria and is used to address skin concerns like irritation, discoloration, acne, eczema, and more."

"It's traditionally created by blending the ashes of dried plantain skin with palm oil, cocoa pods, shea nut butter, coconut oil, and other ingredients," she says. "The palm oil and shea nut butter are then exposed to high heat or sometimes an alkali environment until they form solids. This process, called saponification, creates fatty salts, fatty alcohols, glycerin, and other ingredients that cleanse and moisturize the skin. These soaps are traditionally made by hand, and multiple varieties of this formula now exist."

02 of 04

What Makes African Black Soap a Skincare Favorite?

According to research, African black soap is loaded with bacteria-fighting oils and phytochemicals found in plants, which contain cleansing and nourishing elements, making it suitable for nearly all skin types. In a small study, users indicated that black soap helped reduce inflammation and skin irritations; soothe dry and irritated skin; and relieve dry patches, rashes, and red areas. Another study indicated that black soap was most effective in ameliorating acne.

03 of 04

Popular Black Soap Ingredients

What's a superstar without her backup dancers? Often made with heavy hitter additions such as coconut oil, shea nut butter, and palm oil, African black soap is jam-packed with luscious ingredients that will lead to soft, glowing skin.

RELATED: Apple Cider Vinegar Has Many Brilliant Uses, But Is It Safe for Your Skin?

04 of 04

Guidelines for Sensitive Skin

However, Dr. Robinson notes that those with sensitive skin should tread lightly with African black soap. Its rough texture can cause irritation and severe dry skin if used too frequently. "I do not recommend black soap for those with sensitive skin because of its drying tendencies," she explains. "I especially advise them to avoid it if their skin feels tight or squeaky clean post-wash, as this can be a sign of a compromised skin barrier devoid of natural oils."

However if you're not severely prone to acne, eczema, or dry and sensitive skin, it's likely OK to continue the use of black soap, Dr. Robinson adds. If you're just starting out, it's smart to talk to your dermatologist and spot-test your skin's reaction to black soap on a small portion of skin first.

The most important thing to remember when using black soap is to moisturize immediately after use because of the soap's propensity to leave the skin dry. "I would advise against daily use and opt for three times a week use if you are not prone to acne or dry skin."

RELATED: Ask a Beauty Editor: What Is the Right Order to Apply Skincare Ingredients?

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles