Written by Thibs Lacombe
The magic of the African Black Soap lies in its simplicity. In these modern times, how many of you reading this have stood in the shower gel section of a supermarket and been positively attacked by the seemingly endless array of colourful plastic packaging and egregious choice of exotic yet artificial flavours? Most of which are picked to be an original and unheard of combination of flavourings in the ever-competing market.
While fun to browse through the elderflower and pineapple shampoos and the mango face creams, many of these products contain artificial ingredients including Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Parabens. SLS is a powerful de-greasing and foaming agent. Definitely NOT a wholesome natural addition to your daily skincare and it has been linked to adverse skin reactions. Parabens are chemical preservatives, which can trigger an allergic reaction.
Why not go with a soap that is as old as the 100% natural and vegan ingredients it contains? A scent-free, Fairtrade and hand-made soap that has been used in one form or another since the beginnings of human civilisation!
While this may seem obvious when talking about soap, the Alata Samina mixture is tough on bacteria yet soft enough to be used on any part of the body. Perfect for any situation from a scrub to clean and a scrub to shine.
The antifungal ash in the soap helps to kill dandruff-causing yeast, most especially the Candida Fungus variety and moisturises the scalp. It can also be used to help treat athlete’s foot and toenail fungus...yum!
The soap both nourishes the skin through its traditional oils such as baobab, shea butter and coconut oil as well as exfoliating hyper pigmented skin. The natural vitamins A & E found in the blends have been proven to decrease irritation caused by eczema, acne and psoriasis.
Using traditional plants such as cocoa pods, shea tree bark and plantain as a base, the mixture is burnt to ash which along with the oils and water alkalises the mixture (resulting in the soapy lather effect when rubbed) and creates that signature black colour. Afterwards, various oils and fats such as virgin palm kernel oil and coconut oil are added. The mixture is then cooked and hand-stirred for 24 hours, and then left to “cure” or set from anywhere for a few days to weeks.
To see more of the physical process and cultural significance of the making of Black Soap, please watch this video.
Whilst there is no clear archaeological evidence to give us an exact time period as to when the African Black Soap (also called Alata Samina) began to be used, we can trace its roots to the Yoruba people of West Africa, who have inhabited what is now Nigeria since the 7th century BCE - which is a hell of a long time ago. We know that it has been used in its modern form for centuries in the region. Millions of people use it every day for the cleansing of the skin, face and even as a shampoo, making it a jack of all trades in all-natural skincare.