African Black soap is a wonder product! Many of the ingredients are sourced from West Africa, particularly Nigeria and Ghana. Every ingredient in black soap is 100% natural and plant-based. There are ingredient variations; the most common ingredients being native tree barks, ashes, oils and peels, most commonly from plantain, cocoa pods, coconuts and shea trees.
But how do these ingredients benefit your skin?
Plantain is a fruit from the banana family, and the peels are often used in black soap. These peels have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties because they contain a compound called allantoin. When applied to the skin, it helps kill harmful bacteria and encourages healthy cell regrowth in its place. This means it can kill the bacteria that causes acne, whilst helping to reduce scarring during the healing process.
Allantoin is used in anti-inflammatory commercial products like suncream, anti-acne ointments and pharmaceutical products to treat infection and reduce irritation. It is a natural emollient, meaning it can soften and moisturise the skin while decreasing flaky skin and itchiness.
This is why it is an excellent remedy for skin conditions like eczema, rosacea and psoriasis, as it helps soothe the symptoms, which stops the individual scratching at the skin and damaging it further.
Shea butter is one of the richest moisturisers you can get, and is perfect if you have dryer skin. It’s biochemical qualities mimic the characteristics of our sebaceous glands, meaning it is more easily absorbed and penetrates moisture into the deeper layers of the skin. It acts as a “refatting” agent, restoring your skin’s lipids and creating more moisture at the same time. It also restores the skin’s natural barrier, locking moisture in and reducing the risk of dryness occurring again in the future.
Shea butter can also treat acne, as fatty acids like linoleic and oleic help clean up sebum (oil) your skin produces. Excess sebum is one acne as it can clog your pores, so balancing out your skin’s natural oil production may stop acne forming in the first place.
Cocoa might be more associated with tasty treats, but it also has multiple skin benefits!
Cocoa ash is formed when the fat (cocoa butter) is removed from cocoa pods. The remaining dry solids are burnt and ground, resulting in cocoa ash. Like shea ashes, it contributes to the dark brown colour of black soap.
Cocoa contains flavonoids and polyphenols which help reduce damage caused by UV rays. This is because these compounds increase the thickness of your skin, meaning there is a strong protective barrier against environmental damage. This extra protection means your skin is less likely to suffer from free-radical damage - this includes minor things like dullness and dark patches, but also helps prevent skin cancer.
Another benefit of this flavonoids is they help keep the skin hydrated. However, as a whole, the vitamins and minerals in cocoa powder help to increase the skin’s moisture content. It contains essentials like iron, zinc and magnesium and vitamin A, B, C and E which are vital for healthier skin.
Cocoa can also promote anti-ageing, as it’s high level of antioxidants stop the skin cells from oxidising and ageing. The antioxidant properties promote blood circulation in the face, which helps to firm out your wrinkles by plumping up your skin, leaving you looking younger for longer!
Directly applying coconut oil to the skin can prevent acne as a whole for its antifungal properties. It contains lauric acid, which was proven to be extremely effective at killing the bacteria that can cause acne. Furthermore, it showed lauric acid can kill “Propionibacterium acnes”, which is a cause of chronic acne.
Coconut oil has also been proven to be a safe remedy for psoriasis, as its moisture content can help relieve itchy and scaly patches of skin. It nourishes and strengthens your skin’s tissue, and removes the dead cells on your skin’s surface; with multiple uses, it has the potential to leave your skin softer and brighter.
There are many more ingredients that go into black soap depending on the region it is made, but all of them have the same goal: to deeply moisturise, cleanse and nourish your skin, as it was originally designed to protect Africans from the elements.