Thursday, December 2, 2021

Best Ones, Benefits and More

  • African black soap has antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities to help control acne breakouts and support healthy skin
  • Traditional, raw African black soap is coarser in texture and has greater exfoliant abilities 
  • This soap contains the ashes of palm leaves or plantain skins, coconut and palm oil, and shea butter
  • African black soap can also restore moisture and help regulate the skin’s natural oil production

African black soap is a hand-made, plant-based product widely used for a number of skin concerns, as it offers so many benefits. Within the United States, acne is the most common chronic skin disorder, caused by a combination of excessive sebum (oil) and the presence of bacteria. This results in the formation of mild–severe lesions. African black soap for acne can target these causes to reduce and control symptoms.  

This soap is a natural solution for reducing excess oil in skin, clearing pores and addressing inflammation.

What Is African Black Soap?

African black soap has a long history, and can be traced back to western Africa, especially from Nigeria and Ghana. It is a gentle and fragrance-free soap best known for its cleansing and medicinal properties.

This soap is made from ash taken from locally-harvested plants such as plantains, palm leaves and tree bark, which are then combined with palm oil and cocoa pod powder. Some African black soap formulations contain honey, shea butter or coconut oil  – making it an all-natural, plant-based product. This soap is safe for all skin types.

Ingredients in African black soap 

African black soap contains some or all of the following nutrient-rich ingredients, depending on the blend:

  • Cocoa pods are high in antioxidants and help soften skin
  • Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids to inhibit bacterial growth; it also hydrates and soothes irritated, inflamed skin
  • Palm leave derivatives such as palm oil and palm kernel oil are hydrating and antioxidant-rich
  • Plantain skins have an abundance of iron, plus vitamins A and E
  • Shea butter is an emollient as well as a moisturizing, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory ingredient

Some African black soap contain other ingredients, such as essential oils, aloe vera or oatmeal. 

Best African Black Soap for Acne 

African black soap is made by using the ingredients specific to that region and will vary depending on what is available locally.

To treat acne, look for a soap that contains shea butter and coconut oil, as these two ingredients have anti-inflammatory properties. Ensure the color is brown and not black, as this is an indication the product is authentic – genuine African black soap is browner in appearance.

Raw African black soap 

Raw African black soap is traditionally made from unprocessed ingredients which results in a darker color and coarser texture. Raw African black soap adds another level of exfoliation because of this texture. 

While deeper exfoliation may be beneficial for some people with acne, it may be too harsh for those for sensitive skin or more severe acne.

Regardless of your choice, for both soaps, examine the ingredients label to determine if there are any other ingredients or additives – this list will tell you if you are purchasing an authentic product.

Additionally, look for soap that is certified Fairtrade for best quality and if you wish to support fair practices in other communities.      

Benefits of African Black Soap for Acne

Due to its multiple acne-fighting properties, African black soap offers many benefits for acne-prone skin. 

As an acne treatment, it can soothe lesions and the accompanying sensations of irritation and pain. It can prevent future acne breakouts by clearing oil, debris and bacteria from the skin’s surface. Overall, this soap can support skin health by nourishing skin.

Exfoliates

The ashes within African black soap, and especially the rough texture of the raw version help to exfoliate skin. This action sloughs off dead skin cells from the skin’s surface and clears pores of oil and debris buildup. Exfoliation encourages new skin cell growth and brightens the complexion. 

By addressing skin cell accumulation, this soap may also help minimize the appearance of mild acne scars by lightening hyperpigmentation. 

Kills bacteria

As an antimicrobial, African black soap has been shown to inhibit or kill certain bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis. In one study of treatment against fungal infections, undiluted coconut was found to be very effective against Candida albicans.

While there have not been any studies on its effect on Cutibacterium acnes, the bacteria related to acne development, this soap may have the potential to have the same effect on C. acnes bacteria.  

Reduces inflammation

This soap is rich in vitamins A and E; both reduce inflammation by targeting free radicals that can damage skin cells. These vitamins also support collagen production to smooth and firm rough, dry skin. 

Coconut oil promotes wound healing and protects skin from water loss, both of which contribute to stabilizing the skin barrier. 

Shea butter has a high percentage of fatty acids and allantoin which work to heal skin by increasing cell generation. Allantoin also soothes, softens and protects the skin. Together they can effectively reduce acne breakouts and reduce the appearance of acne scars. 

Removes excess oil

Excess oil is a common cause of acne breakouts, as it clogs pores. African black soap can effectively remove excess oil from skin without stripping the natural oils. This function can help balance the production of oil in the skin to avoid future breakouts. 

This soap helps to moisturize skin, improve texture and tone, and promote healthy skin.

How to Use African Black Soap for Acne

It’s easy to incorporate African black soap into your daily skin care routine. You may simply replace your usual facial cleanser with this soap or you may opt to use it on alternate days to allow your skin to become accustomed to a new product.

Whether you choose African black soap or the coarser version, use with care due to the exfoliative nature and rough texture versus your acne. 

To use African black soap: 

  1. Moisten your bar of African black soap with lukewarm water
  2. Gently apply the soap to your skin in a circular motion
  3. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water; pat dry
  4. Use a toner to rebalance your skin’s pH; allow to dry
  5. Apply your moisturizer of choice to maximize the soap’s hydrating properties
  6. Follow with your regular skin care routine

Alternatively, if you want to avoid putting the bar directly on your skin, lather a wet washcloth and gently wash your face.

Side Effects and Risk Factors

African black soap is considered safe for all skin types. That being said, those with sensitive skin, rosacea or active acne may want to proceed with caution to avoid aggravating their skin.  

Some common side effects of African black soap include:

  • Burning
  • Dryness
  • Flaking
  • Irritation
  • Peeling
  • Rash
  • Stinging

Before washing your face, patch-test a small area of skin to determine if you have a  sensitivity or allergic reaction. Discontinue use and contact your doctor if you develop a rash.

Can African black soap make acne worse? 

If you are sensitive to this soap or have purchased a product with additives and fragrance, your skin may become irritated and your acne may worsen. 

If you experience dryness after using (or especially overusing) this soap, your skin may overcompensate and overproduce oil as a response to this dryness. This may cause your acne to worsen.

Takeaway

African black soap is a natural product, hand-made using ingredients indigenous to Africa, and is an effective treatment for those experiencing acne breakouts. It boasts a number of healing and skin-supporting ingredients to target active acne and prevent future breakouts from forming.

This soap provides multiple benefits: sloughs away dead skin cells and debris, removes excess oil and regulates oil production, reduces inflammation, and moisturizes and strengthens the skin barrier. 

Although African black soap is safe for all skin types, it may be too harsh for sensitive or dry skin, and for those with rosacea and active acne breakouts. Proceed with caution to see how your skin reacts.

For optimal results, choose a Fairtrade product to ensure your purchase is authentic and free of additives.

Sources

  • Oge’ LK, Broussard A, Marshall MD. Acne Vulgaris: Diagnosis and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2019 Oct 15;100(8):475-484. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31613567/
  • Karim AA, Azlan A. Fruit pod extracts as a source of nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. Molecules. 2012 Oct 10;17(10):11931-46. doi:10.3390/molecules171011931
  • Joshi S, Kaushik V, Gode V, Mhaskar S. Coconut Oil and Immunity: What do we really know about it so far? J Assoc Physicians India. 2020 Jul;68(7):67-72. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32602684/
  • Pereira A, Maraschin M. Banana (Musa spp) from peel to pulp: ethnopharmacology, source of bioactive compounds and its relevance for human health. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015 Feb 3;160:149-63. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.11.008
  • Zerbini C, Vergura DT, Latusi S. A new model to predict consumers’ willingness to buy fair-trade products. Food Res Int. 2019 Aug;122:167-173. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2019.04.008
  • Ikpoh, Ikpoh. S. et al. “Comparative studies on the effect of locally made black soap and conventional medicated soaps on isolated human skin microflora.” Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology Research 2 (2017): 533-537. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Comparative-studies-on-the-effect-of-locally-made-Ikpoh-Lennox/3c8de2bbaee9864c8d4a663ae5124cb75f68e9c1
  • Ogbolu DO, Oni AA, Daini OA, Oloko AP. In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria. J Med Food. 2007 Jun;10(2):384-7. doi:10.1089/jmf.2006.1209
  • Ogunbiyi, A, Enechukwu, NA. African black soap: Physiochemical, phytochemical properties, and uses. Dermatologic Therapy. 2021; 34:e14870. https://doi.org/10.1111/dth.14870
  • Niki E. Evidence for beneficial effects of vitamin E. Korean J Intern Med. 2015 Sep;30(5):571-9. doi:10.3904/kjim.2015.30.5.571
  • Varani J, Warner RL, Gharaee-Kermani M, Phan SH, Kang S, Chung JH, Wang ZQ, Datta SC, Fisher GJ, Voorhees JJ. Vitamin A antagonizes decreased cell growth and elevated collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases and stimulates collagen accumulation in naturally aged human skin. J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Mar;114(3):480-6. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1747.2000.00902.x
  • Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. Published 2017 Dec 27. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

» Show all

Latest Articles