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Think about what happens to your skin when you're exposed to the elements for long periods of time: it can become dry, imbalanced, congested, and damaged, right? The people of western African have a solution for that—one that they've harnessed for generations to protect their skin from the general arid, sun-drenched climate. It's known as ose dudu, the Yoruba (an official language of Nigeria) words for soap and black, respectively.
What Is African Black Soap?
African black soap (ose dudu) originated with the Yoruba people in Nigeria and other West-African nations. It is derived from plantain skins and is known for its various skincare benefits.
Skincare benefits of African black soap include:
- Purifying skin
- Balancing oil production
- Healing breakouts
- Fading scars
- Brightening complexion
Traditional African black soap tends to be brown rather than black, and it's usually crafted in or made with ingredients sourced from western Africa, specifically Nigeria or Ghana. It should be free of chemicals like parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrances, and preservatives. These are the main ingredients that usually make up pure black soap (although other natural ingredients might be added for extra nourishing properties):
- Shea butter: This is usually the base of the soap and gives it cleansing and moisturizing properties.
- Palm kernel oil: This is a moisturizing and skin-balancing ingredient.
- Cocoa pods or plantain leaves: These are cooked until they turn into ash or charcoal, which not only gives the soap its dark hue, but also detoxifies and exfoliates skin, and adds antioxidants to neutralize free radical damage.
- Coconut oil: This is often added to nourish skin.
A word of caution: raw black soap might not be for everyone. It can be drying and irritating to sensitive skin and other skin types if you aren't used to it. If you have oily skin, you might even experience some breakouts as the skin purges, especially if your skin is congested. It should eventually adjust and begin to retain more moisture. In the meantime, you definitely need to use a moisturizer after washing with black soap. Ultimately, this miracle product should help fade dark spots, clear acne, and brighten the skin.
Ready to dive into the 12 best authentic black soaps on the market? Keep scrolling.
Best Overall: SheaMoisture African Black Soap
SheaMoisture African Black Soap is made with Fair Trade shea butter and is great for acne-prone skin that needs to be balanced. It promotes healing and leaves skin feeling clean and soft, and looking bright. It can also calm eczema and itchy skin but still might be a bit strong for dry or sensitive skin.
Best Budget: Nubian Heritage African Black Soap
Nubian Heritage African Black Soap features oats, aloe, and vitamin E to nourish, soothe, and protect skin. It detoxifies, heals blemishes, and gradually fades old scars and discolorations. It’s good for relieving eczema as well. Essential oils are also used here, so be mindful of that if you have sensitive skin. Mineral pigment or vegetable color give it the black hue (there are no synthetic dyes). Note that it may stain the sink or bathtub, but that easily washes away.
Best for Oily Skin: Tropical Naturals Dudu-Osun African Black Soap
Made in Nigeria, Tropical Naturals' pure African black soap is a bit harder in texture than the raw form, but it features the core ingredients: shea butter, palm kernel oil, and cocoa pod ash, along with some extra natural ingredients. It also has essential oils for fragrance.
This soap is best for oily skin types, as it truly does remove excess oil. That being said, even if you have oily or combination skin, the soap can initially feel drying, and skin might look a bit ashy. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you might prefer a gentler brand.
Best for Multitasking: Sky Organics 100% Pure African Black Soap
This pure, organic African black soap is gentle, yet extremely effective at healing skin issues like breakouts and eczema. Cocoa butter helps fade spots and scars. Use it for your face and body. The reviews are glowing and your skin will be, too.
Best for Breakouts: Raw Apothecary African Black Soap
Raw Apothecary African Black Soap features just the essential ingredients: shea butter, palm oil, cocoa pod, plantain ash, vitamin E, and sodium. Pure and gentle, it cleanses and exfoliates skin, treats blemishes, and protects against free radical damage.
Best for Scars: Incredible by Nature African Black Soap
Made in Ghana, this raw African black soap is another offering that has just the essentials—palm oil, cocoa pod, coconut oil, unrefined shea butter, plantain skin ash, water, vitamin E, and sodium—but works like a dream. It clears breakouts, diminishes spots and scars, and protects against free radicals.
Alaffia's Fair Trade's unscented offering is as basic as black soaps come—the ingredients are shea butter and palm kernel oil. It's pure, clean, and gentle, making it the perfect introduction to black soap for sensitive skin.