African black soap is a handmade soap created by African women. It has regional variations and a number of different names. In recent years, black soap has become popular in the West for its skin rejuvenating benefits.
Black soap, also known as ose dudu, anago soap and alata simena, has been created by the female members of various African tribes for hundreds of years. Made in Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria (to name a few), the soap is a West African specialty. Each tribe adds its own ingredients and secret additions, which cause the texture and color of the soap to vary between tribes. Although sometimes manufactured in Europe and the United States, only West African black soap can be considered authentic African black soap.
Black soap contains water and the bark of the shea butter tree, the leaves of palm trees, the bark and leaves of the banana tree bark and leaves, plantain plant and the pods of the coco plant. The soap also contains a number of oils including shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and kernel oil. The actual content depends on the brand of soap as well as any additional scents, herbs and fruits that are added to the base ingredients.
Numerous claims have been made about African black soap. Some believe it cures acne and removes blemishes and others think it heals dry and cracked skin. Many people use it as a skin enhancing cleanser because it is reported to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. Overall, black soap is a deep pore cleansing soap crafted from natural ingredients using a process developed centuries ago.
The leaves and bark of the various plants and trees are shredded and put into a metal vat or cooking kettle and burned until all that is left is ash. The ash is then mixed with water. The ash water is poured through a filter to remove the large ash particles. The filtered water is mixed with oils or butters to create the soap. The work is all done by women by hand and the mixing process takes an entire day. The soap is then left to set for about two weeks.
Black soap is available online and in specialty and fair trade shops. Always check the label for country of origin and to make sure that the item has been fairly traded. The soap is available in block form as well as in lotions and creams as the main content or as a supplemental ingredient.