Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Traditional African Black Soap

Blemishes, acne, uneven skin tone, eczema, psoriasis…. the list of skin and hair conditions that Traditional African Black Soap has been found to treat goes on and on. I have found it to be a wonderful all over cleanser, and have had customers rave about its use as a shampoo and all around soap.

In honor of the unique history of Traditional African Black Soap, I’ve decided to give you some valuable information regarding this wonderful product.

History of Black Soap

In every culture, out a need to clean hair, skin and clothing, homemakers developed a means of combining readily available oils, salts and botanicals to create “soap”.

The more I learn about natural soap making, the more I am amazed at this very technical, chemical process, because unlike many other scientific innovations, this was first developed by women working to maintain the household.

In Africa, Ghana specifically, the soap developed centuries ago by women used nearby natural resources to create a soap not only effective as a cleansing agent, but also maintaining healthy skin and hair. So effective, the recipe has not changed much since first formulated. If you look at the soap created by other cultures, it was has been in constantly re-engineered to make it more suitable for use.

Traditional African Black Soap has been used to help relieve acne, oily skin, clear blemishes and various other skin issues. Many swear by it for skin irritations and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Traditional African Black soap is been used to achieve beautiful skin as well as for washing hair and bathing.

African Black Soap is known by many names based on the language in the area of Africa. It is also called Ose Dudu or Alata Samina.

How is Black Soap made?

Making African Black Soap begins with plantain skin. Plantains are a natural source of vitamins A & E and iron. (The Plantain is a popular food in Africa, South America & other parts of the world. It can be found in ethnic or international grocery stores such as Latino, Caribbean or African. It looks like banana but much bigger. However, the taste does not resemble that of a banana very much and plantains cannot be eaten raw.) The skin of the plantain is dried in the sun prior to being roasted in a clay oven. The heat must be constant in order to achieve a particular color, texture & smell. In some recipes, Cocoa Pod is used in combination with or instead of plantain skins. Cocoa Pod is the shell of the Cocoa fruit. The cocoa beans are used for making chocolate or cocoa butter among other things. The roasting of the plantains determines the color of the soap. The longer the plantains are roasted, the darker the soap.

The next step in the process is extremely important because if it is not done properly, with the right ingredients, there will be no soap. The roasted plantain skin is mixed water and filtered, then combined with palm oil, coconut oil and/or palm kernel oil to form the soap. For you more experienced soap makers, the ashes of the plantain skins and/or cocoa pod ashes are used as the alkaline agent (potash) in the saponifcation (mixing of alkali and oils to create soap) process. For those who make soap now, it would be the “lye” component. Handling the varying levels of alkalinity in this handmade potash is one of the reasons this recipe is not easily replicated outside of Africa.

The soap is then hand-stirred by local women for at least a day and then set out to cure for two weeks.

The roasting of the plantains determines the color of the soap. The longer the plantains are roasted, the darker the soap. African Black Soap is centuries old, has numerous benefits & is not scented. It can be used by anyone who wishes to improve the quality of their skin. At all costs.

Benefits of Black Soap

- Black soap is also a natural source of vitamins A & E and iron. This helps to strengthen the skin and hair.

- Black soap contains a high amount of glycerin, which absorbs moisture from the air and literally deposits it into the skin, making the skin soft and supple.

- For centuries, Ghanaians and Nigerians have used black soap to help relieve acne, oily skin, clear blemishes and various other skin issues. Many swear by it for skin irritations and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

- Men can use black soap in shaving. The high shea butter content leaves the skin smooth and protected.

- African black soap is unique in that it contains no preservatives, color enhancers, or fragrances. African black soap creates a soft lather without the animal fat additives that are commonly used in soaps made in the US.

The Commercialization of Black Soap

As the popularity of black soap and natural soaps increases, some retailers are using the label African black soap for commercially produced cleansers. Many of these soaps are not made based on a Traditional African Soap recipe at all. African Black Soap is soft in texture, sometimes crumbly and varies in color from very dark brown to very pale tan. Most have a marbled color combination of these hues. This variation in color is due in part to the natural nature of the soap, roasting times of the plantain skins and/or cocoa pods, different combinations/levels of natural oils and shea butter in soap.

The easiest Black Soaps on the market to identify as not Traditional African Black Soap are those that are molded into smooth perfectly formed bars. The soft texture and properties of natural African Black Soap are not malleable into perfectly smooth bars. Also, contrary to its name, Traditional African Black Soap is NEVER black in color. Black colored Black Soap is made that way by adding artificial colors or dyes.

However, the best way to make sure the soap you are considering purchasing is Traditional African Black Soap is to read the label. Genuine Black Soap will only have plantain and/or coco pod ash, indigenous oils (palm, palm kernel, coconut) and other natural ingredients such as shea butter, citrus juices (to balance PH), honey (be careful, this is natural but it is NOT VEGAN) which is used as a humectant. Any other chemicals such as SLS, artificial color or triclosan, it can be pretty safe in assuming it is not Natural African Black soap.

Liquid Black Soap

Would you believe that there is no such thing as Liquid Traditional African Black Soap? In actuality, when you see this statement, the truth lies in the fact that there is no way to produce liquid African Black Soap in the way one would produce a liquid soap beginning with alkaline and oils. However, it is possible to liquefy African Black Soap. Traditional African Black Soap’s soft and crumbly textures make it ideal for liquefaction.

It is just as important to read the label on Liquid African Black Soap as it is on African Black Soap. The best liquefied versions of Traditional African Black Soap will have a high content of actual African Black Soap in the product, meaning it should be very high on the ingredients list – second only to water would be the ideal. The lower African Black Soap is on the ingredients list, the less actual African Black Soap is contained in the product. Many producers use as little as 5% African Black Soap in their liquid African Black Soap products. Shea Essentials Liquid African Black Soap is 50% pure African Black Soap. 

Remember, the ingredients list will also identify any artificial chemical additives, which should be avoided.