The History of African Black Soap

african black soap crumbles and quick mix | bramble berry

African black soap has a rich history. We asked our friends at Baraka Shea Butter to tell us more about how it's made and why it's so amazing for the skin. Learn more below!

Shop the Bramble Berry x Baraka Collection here, including our exclusive African Black Soap Crumbles and Quick Mix.

It's not black magic, but African black soap is definitely magical.

African black soap is a gem coming from traditional African communities. Made with natural ingredients and filled with blissful properties, African black soap products are a great alternative to the western highly chemical and unsustainable cosmetic industry.

Where does it come from and how is it made

In the western world, we know this product as African black soap, but in western African communities where it has originated from, it is commonly known as “alata samina” or “ose dudu.”

African black soap was created in the Yoruba communities in western African countries, such as Ghana, Togo, or Benin, and since then the recipe has been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. Women in these communities relied on African black soap for the health of their skin, since the product is packed with bacteria-fighting oils and phytochemicals found in the plants it is made of. It is known by its deep cleansing and nourishing properties for pretty much all the skin types.

african black soap from baraka | bramble berry

African black soap

Traditional black soaps were a simple combination of water, plantain skin ashes, palm oil, and cocoa powder. Later in time, recipes including other ingredients such as tropical honey or shea butter started to become more popular. Today, we can find a number of variations of the recipe and the final outcome - there are over 100 types of African black soap products, since recipes vary from region to region, tradition to tradition, and different ingredients found in different parts of Africa.

There are different ways to produce African black soap that can reach a great level of detail, but in its simplest form, African black soap can be made by drying plantain peels - under the sun outside - and roasting its skins in a clay oven to produce ash (water is then added to the ashes and filtered). These will then be mixed with other ingredients such as shea butter, coconut oil, and palm kernel, and local women hand stir this mixture for 24 hours. The soap solidifies and moves up, and it will be ready to cure and dry for about 2 weeks until it takes the desired format/shape. 

African black soap has been traditionally used for skin (both face and body) and bathing. It can come in a variety of different formats, which have different purposes and usages. From raw soap that can be used for both bathing and skin cleansing, to its liquid format which is meant to be an easier way to use it and that allows for products such as shampoos or moisturizers to be produced and distributed. 

baraka employees packaging black soap | bramble berry

Baraka employees packaging black soap

Why we like it so much

As previously said, African black soap is known by its nourishing and cleansing properties, and a number of benefits have been associated with its use. Here are some of our favorite benefits of African black soap. 

  • Many users have reported that by using African black soap, their skin developed a lovely glow. After using it for a couple of weeks, you will start seeing these positive effects on your skin. 
  • It is rich in antioxidants that protect the skin from harsh environments and sunlight.
  • Many users have reported that African black soap helps soothe dry patches and irritated skin.
  • African black soap has great exfoliating properties.
  • It is great to remove makeup because of the oils and butters it contains.

There are not many risks associated with the use of African black soap, since it's made of all-natural gentle plants. The product is safe for most people, but there have been a number of minor reports that its usage has created irritations or rashes. If this happens to you, just stop using it and make a strip test - you might be allergic to one of its components. 

Overall, African black soap is a great natural product with a number of benefits and great properties. In today's highly chemical cosmetic industry, natural products offer a great alternative with plant-based, non-chemical/harmful ingredients, coming from small communities with old traditions of production, usually in a non-industrial sustainable way. 

african black soap kit | bramble berry

Find projects made with African black soap here!