Referred to as a miracle product by many, African black soap is steadily gaining popularity as a powerful cleaning item and a staple of beauty routines. With regular use, the soap can impart a number of skin-clearing and -repairing benefits on the user. The best African black soaps are handmade, free of chemicals and artificial ingredients, and often fair-trade, making them a clean beauty lover’s dream product.
As the demand for black soaps grow, so does the number of available products. When shopping it can be difficult to understand what sets a great black soap apart from a mediocre one. Fortunately, we’re here to help you out.
- What Is African Black Soap?
- Top 10 Best African Black Soaps 2021
- 1. Best Overall Soap: Incredible by Nature African Black Soap
- 2. Best Premium Soap: Wonderfully Natural African Black Soap
- 3. Best Budget Soap: Shea Moisture Face & Body Bar
- 4. Best Raw Soap: Our Earth's Secrets Raw African Black Soap
- 5. Best Body Wash: Alaffia All-In-One Body Wash
- 6. Best Soap for Exfoliating: Tropical Naturals Dudu Osun Black Soap
- 7. Best Solid Bar Soap: O Naturals African Black Soap
- 8. Best Organic Soap: Sky Organics African Black Soap Bar
- 9. Best Raw Liquid Soap: Dr. Woods African Raw Black Liquid Body Wash
- 10. Most Versatile Soap: Hera Nature African Black Soap
- The Complete Guide to African Black Soap
- A Unique Cleaning Experience
What Is African Black Soap?
African black soap, or “ose dudu” in the Yoruba language, is a traditional, handmade soap that originates from Nigeria’s Yoruba people. Today, it is crafted and exported by many West African countries, the most notable being Ghana.
It is a raw soap comprised of plantain ash and other skin healing ingredients. It has a number of benefits when used as a cleanser, such as balancing skin’s natural oils, clearing acne, and brightening skin. We discuss these benefits more in depth later.
Types of Soap
There are three main categories that African black soap falls into, and each one has its own specific uses and benefits.
Raw soap is the most natural form of African black soap. It has rough surface of lumps and bumps and breaks apart easily. It is formed into somewhat of a bar shape or left in small to medium sized chunks.
This type of soap is better for users with more oily and acne-prone skin since it is the most natural, potent form of black soap you can get. On the downside, it can be more drying than other soap varieties.
Sometimes packaged in the form of body washes, like Alaffia, liquid African black soap is smooth and lathers easily. Often times it is mixed with other skin soothing ingredients that help to clean and moisturize your skin.
Liquid soap is gentler on the skin and can even be diluted further down for use on sensitive skin or children.
The solid bar soap is a smoother version of raw African Black Soap. It is processed to take to away the rough edges and bumps, and does not break apart as easily. It is the most similar to today’s traditional hard soap bars.
Bar soap is beneficial for pretty much every skin type. It can help with exfoliating or be blended with ingredients that make it better for use on dry or sensitive skin. If a solid bar interests you, check out our best budget pick Shea Moisture Face and Body Bar.
Ingredients to Look out For
There are elements unique to African black soap that give it its many skin benefits. Look out for these ingredients in whichever product you buy to ensure you get the maximum benefits possible out of your soap.
- Plantain Ash: Plantain ash is derived from the leaves of plantains. It is what gives the soap its recognizable dark brown to black color. It also cleanses and exfoliates.
- Cocoa Pods: These can either be in ash form or ground up in the soap. They are moisturizing and detoxifying.
- Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil: This is added to help bind the soap. It moisturizes skin and balances oils.
- Coconut Oil: This is sometimes included in black soap. It is intended to nourish and repair skin.
- Shea Butter: Usually the base of the soap, this ingredient works to cleanse and moisturize skin.
Whichever soap you buy should feature some type of ash and shea butter, as these are the most important ingredients of African black soap. Your soap may have just a few of these ingredients or all of these ingredients. It may also have other added essential oils or plant-based moisturizers, but should be free of artificial fragrances, colors, and preservatives.
Now that we’ve discussed the basics of African black soap, let’s head straight into our list of the top 10 best products out there!
Top 10 Best African Black Soaps 2021
1. Best Overall Soap: Incredible by Nature African Black Soap
Type: Solid bar
This soap bar has every ingredient you should look for in a traditionally made African black soap. Plantain skin ash and shea butter are complemented by cocoa pods and palm oils to make a simple, effectively cleansing recipe. Additional vitamin E is added into the blend to enhance skin repairing properties.
Incredible by Nature’s soap bar works for every skin type, and is formed into a sturdy bar. This bar doesn’t dissolve easily in water, but is soft enough to be cut up into smaller useable pieces. It is a good choice for anyone who is brand new to African soap and wants a reliable natural product.
Due to its smoother shape and formula, this isn’t the best soap for exfoliating. It doesn’t have as many rough pieces in it as other raw soap bars. If you are looking for something extra exfoliating that is still a sturdy bar, we recommend Tropical Naturals Dudu Osun Bar.
- Traditional recipe
- Sturdy soap bar
- Work on all skin types
- Added vitamin E
- Not the best for exfoliating
Type: Solid bar
Each sale of Wonderfully Natural’s black soap directly benefits individuals in Ghana. It is a fair-trade product sold by an African owned company, making it a great choice for individuals who are looking to support small African businesses with their purchase.
This product comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee. If, after trying the product out, you decide it isn’t for you, all you have to do is contact the company and they will take care of the rest. The soap also comes with an acne treatment guide for use with all skin types, so you can purchase this product with the confidence of how to use it.
Compared to other products on our list, this soap is rather soft. It dissolves easily in water and doesn’t last as long. To combat this, cut the large bar into smaller blocks to make it last as long as possible. If you would prefer a hard soap bar that doesn’t dissolve as easily, check out O Naturals.
- 60-day money-back guarantee
- African owned company
- Included acne treatment guide
- Soap bar is too soft
3. Best Budget Soap: Shea Moisture Face & Body Bar
Type: Solid bar
For anyone looking to find beneficial black soap on a budget, Shea Moisture’s face and body bar is a perfect option. At under $5, the bar allows you to experience black soap without breaking the bank. Shea Moisture is also a fair-trade company, and their products are all certified cruelty-free.
This bar is easy to use. It is more like a traditional soap bar in that it is harder and lathers up easier. The surface is soft enough to apply it directly to your face. It does have added skin-friendly ingredients blended into it, such as soothing oat flour and gentle aloe vera.
Because it is a blended soap bar, there is some fragrance added. This may be a drawback for those with sensitive skin looking to avoid a fragrance. It also lacks plantain ash, making it less potent of a black soap. Check out Incredible by Nature if you are looking for a more traditionally made yet still gentle soap.
- Very affordable
- Mixed with additional skin-soothing ingredients
- Easy to use
- Certified cruelty-free
- No plantain ash
- Added fragrance
4. Best Raw Soap: Our Earth's Secrets Raw African Black Soap
This soap is completely raw and all-natural, and contains stearin oil in addition to palm oil. Stearin oil is a solidified form of palm oil and works to provide additional fat content, stabilizing the soap. This can make the product more long-lasting than other brands. This also makes it a great product to buy in bulk sizes and stock up on.
Our Earth’s Secrets works directly with sustainable sources to acquire high-quality soap products. This soap is a direct Ghanaian export and as traditionally made as you can find. It makes a good choice for anyone looking for a potent, raw soap.
Because this soap is raw and very strong, it needs to be used very carefully to prevent your skin from becoming irritated or too dry. You shouldn’t apply this soap directly to your face, especially if your skin is sensitive or already on the dry side. For a raw soap that won’t upset sensitive skin, check out Dr. Woods Raw Liquid Soap.
- Direct Ghanaian export
- Completely raw and all-natural
- Available in bulk sizes
- Included stearin oil
- Needs to be used carefully to prevent skin drying
5. Best Body Wash: Alaffia All-In-One Body Wash
Available in a large variety of scents, this body wash is multipurpose. It can be used as body soap, a facial cleanser, hand soap, shampoo, and as a shaving cream. It is a great choice for someone who wants a pleasant-smelling product for all of their cleansing needs.
The soap is made from melted down African black soap and every bottle contains the powerful signature extracts of ash and palm oils. Other skin cleaning ingredients and added fragrances like mint and tea tree are ethically sourced and biodegradable. It has a very rich lather, so if you are looking for a more luxurious black soap experience, this is the product for you.
This product can leave somewhat of a sticky residue on the skin. It may feel like it doesn’t rinse off properly and irritate your skin. For a product with a rinse that is cleaner yet still ethically sourced, look into Sky Organics Black Soap Bar.
- Large variety of scents
- Multipurpose body and hair wash
- Rich lather
- Ethical, biodegradable ingredients
- Can leave a sticky residue on skin
6. Best Soap for Exfoliating: Tropical Naturals Dudu Osun Black Soap
Type: Raw/solid bar
While this is a solid soap bar, it does still have elements of a raw black soap in it. There are some rougher textures throughout the bar and the addition of ashes and palm oils make it more traditional. It’s good to use if you want a bar that is smooth enough to use directly on your face while still being as close to natural black soap as possible.
In addition to plantain and cocoa pod ash, the Dudu Osun soap features honey. Honey is a natural exfoliator and can help soften and brighten skin. Citrus juices such as lemon are also blended into this soap and work to boost skin repair and cell regeneration. It makes a good choice for anyone who is looking for a soap that effectively exfoliates and cleans pores.
This bar does not have a lot of lather. This can be a downside for someone who enjoys the feel of a richer lather while they exfoliate. To remedy this, you can try applying the soap to a washcloth or loofah before using on the face, as that might produce more lather.
- Added honey for added exfoliation
- Citrus for skin repair
- Cross between raw black soap and solid bar
- Does not produce a lot of lather
7. Best Solid Bar Soap: O Naturals African Black Soap
Type: Solid bar
O Naturals African Black Soap comes in a value 3 pack and is French triple milled – all of the ingredients in the soap are thoroughly mixed and pressed in a way that eliminates any extra water and air. This type of process results in a soap that is less water and more potent. It is a very smooth, hard bar soap, perfect for people who prefer that texture over rougher black soaps.
For extra pore purifying benefits, this product is blended with dead sea mud. This type of mud pulls out dirt and oil from pores, leaving skin both clearer and brighter. The addition of lavender helps to soothe itchy skin. If you have uneven skin texture or rough patches, this product is a good choice for you.
This soap does not have as many moisturizing ingredients as the other black soaps on our list. It can leave skin a little on the dehydrated side. Always be sure to follow up with a moisturizer after use so your skin does not become overly dry. You could also look into a more moisturizing hard soap bar such as Shea Moisture Face and Body Bar.
- Blended with dead sea mud
- Added lavender for soothing skin
- Comes in value 3 pack
- French triple milled soap
- Not as moisturizing
8. Best Organic Soap: Sky Organics African Black Soap Bar
Sky Organics is certified organic and handmade in Ghana. The texture of the soap is soft without being too crumbly, and it is easily cut into pieces for storage or ease of use. It makes a good choice for someone who wants a black soap that is easy to use and long-lasting.
Like Incredible by Nature, this product has added vitamin E to enhance skin healing properties. It also has organic coconut oil blended in for additional antioxidant properties.
Because of the added coconut oil and breakable texture of the soap, this is not the best choice for someone with very oily or acne prone skin. It is not as potent as it needs to be to effectively balance these skin types. For this, we suggest a stronger raw soap such as Our Earth’s Secrets instead.
- Certified organic
- Coconut oil gives antioxidant boost
- Easily breakable without being too soft
- Rinses off cleanly
- Not the best for oily or acne-prone skin
9. Best Raw Liquid Soap: Dr. Woods African Raw Black Liquid Body Wash
For anyone looking to reduce fine lines and signs of aging, this raw liquid product is a good choice. It has added vitamin B, A, and iron, all of which help to erase skin imperfections. They can also brighten skin, which is a great bonus if you have dark spots.
The soap has a thicker, creamy texture that is great for lathering up and using on your entire body. It exfoliates skin and hydrates it, which makes perfect for someone who may have dryer skin but still wants the benefits of an exfoliating product.
On the downside, even the unscented version of this product does not have a great smell to it. It is slightly cloying and overpowering, making this soap a bad choice for anyone sensitive to strong fragrances. If you are interested in a better smelling liquid soap, we recommend Alaffia Body Wash.
- Sea salt helps to balance skin
- Added vitamin B reduces signs of aging
- Thick, creamy texture
- Overpowering, unpleasant scent
10. Most Versatile Soap: Hera Nature African Black Soap
Type: Raw/solid bar
One of the most versatile products on our list, Hera Nature’s African Black Soap is perfect for use as a DIY soap base. It is easily melted down, combined with other ingredients or essential oils, and reformed into a bar or liquid soap. If you are a lover of DIY soaps and want to incorporate black soap into your recipes, this is a good choice.
The Amazon listing for this product has 3 different recipes for suggested use. This makes it great for beginners to DIY soap making who need a little guidance. The soap bar itself is large and can last for months in whichever form you keep it.
This block of soap is a little too hard to cut into, which makes proportioning for use or DIY recipes difficult. It also stains easily, and can leave a mess in your tub or on your washcloth. You may be interested in a more clean rinsing product such as Sky Organics.
- Website has suggested recipes
- Designed to last months
- Great as a DIY soap base
- Too hard to cut
- Stains easily
The Complete Guide to African Black Soap
If you’re still wondering what exactly makes African black soap so wonderful, don’t worry! We have the answers to all of your questions and more in our full guide.
How African Black Soap Is Made
African black soap is traditionally made in West Africa, with its origins coming from Nigeria. Today’s most popular exporter of the soap is the country of Ghana. It is usually fair-trade, since many of the stores selling it handmake and sell their own products.
The trademark dark color of the soap comes from the ash of various plants and tree barks, with plantain leaves being used more commonly. Specific ingredients depend heavily on the region that the soap is crafted in.
The most popular process of making this soap is to gather all the dry ingredients such as cocoa pods and ash, and mix them together in a large cauldron or kettle. The ingredients are mixed and allowed to roast, at which point shea butter, palm oil, or palm kernel oil are added into the kettle. From there, the soap is thoroughly combined, dried, and prepared for packaging.
For more information on this process, you can check out this video to watch African black soap being handmade.
How to Tell if It Is Real African Black Soap
Just because it’s called African black soap doesn’t mean the color will always be a dark black. Raw, natural black soaps can range in color from a light brown to a dark black color. This type of soap will be rough around the edges and have an imperfect texture. It should be soft and crumbly, but never unbreakably hard like a traditional bar soap. It will also not have a strong fragrance; it may have a natural chocolate scent due to the addition of cocoa pods.
Some companies, like Shea Moisture, purchase raw black soap and melt it down, combine it with other skin-friendly ingredients, and form it into a smooth, more solid bar. The same goes for companies that produce liquid body washes and soap like Alaffia. They melt the raw soap, stabilize it, and combine it with other skin benefitting liquid ingredients.
In products that are not traditional raw soaps, look for ingredients such as plantain ash, cocoa pods, shea butter, and palm oil. These are the ingredients that make black soap so powerful, and the trademark of a potent soap.
The Benefits of African Black Soap
There are a number of benefits that African black soap can give to your skin – some beauty experts even consider it to be a holy grail of cleansing products. Read on to see what this special soap can do for your skin!
The unique ingredients of African black soap give it natural antibacterial properties. It may even be more effective than certain chemical cleaners. Plus, it is gentle enough to be used on your face, hands, and body.
Shea butter, coconut oil, and cocoa are all important ingredients in this kind of soap. They are also all highly moisturizing. Shea butter works to soothe dry skin, and coconut oil and cocoa repair it while adding moisture. From our list, we recommend Sky Organics as an especially moisturizing soap.
Works With All Skin Types
One of the most popular benefits of African black soap is that it works with all skin types. It is naturally fragrance- and chemical-free, which is perfect for sensitive skin and dry skin types. For oily skin, the soap works to clean skin and balance natural oil production.
As an added bonus, you can often find a soap mixed with other ingredients that are tailored to your skin type, enhancing the soap’s natural benefits.
African black soap is perfect for treating acne-prone skin. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and soothing properties that work to clear skin, balance natural oils, and repair cell damage. It may even help clear itchiness caused by eczema and psoriasis or soothe conditions like rosacea.
If you are interested in finding a soap with the most acne-fighting properties, check out our premium pick Wonderfully Natural African Black Soap.
Effective in treating seven different types of fungus, African black soap can be used to combat Athlete’s foot and conditions such as toenail fungus.
A natural exfoliant, African black soap can improve overall skin texture. Antioxidants found in shea butter work to reduce the presence of dark spots, and coconut oil helps to fade fine lines and wrinkles. All of these factors work together to make your skin look younger, brighter, and healthier.
Incorporating African Black Soap Into Your Routine
Since African black soap can be so potent, you may want to consider your skin type when using it. Below, we have some recommendations of how to incorporate this powerful product into your routine.
Users with sensitive skin should consider getting a gentler, raw soap like Incredible by Nature. This kind of soap is guaranteed to have no colors, fragrances, or preservatives. A patch test should be done before use, and the soap shouldn’t be used more than once every other day. You may want to dilute the soap in warm water to create a milder liquid soap for using on the face.
Normal and Dry Skin
If you have normal to dry skin, you can try using black soap once or twice a week as a cleanser. Overuse of the soap may dry your skin out more, so it’s important to use it sparingly. If you would like to use the soap more often than that, consider investing in a solid bar soap like O Naturals. Solid bars are often mixed with other skin soothing and moisturizing ingredients that enhance the natural benefits of African black soap and allow you to use the soap more often without negative side effects.
Oily, Combo, and Acne Prone Skin
African black soap is a fantastic product when it comes to balancing oily skin and treating acne. If this is your skin type, consider using a raw black soap or an exfoliating liquid soap like Dr. Woods on your face as a daily cleanser.
If you have combination skin, you can use the soap to spot treat your oilier areas and balance them out.
How to Use African Black Soap
In its natural, unprocessed form, African black soap has a rough texture perfect for exfoliation. To use it for exfoliation, break off a chunk of your soap, gently lather it between your hands, and then rub it across your face. There is no need to scrub, as it is already rough and you don’t want to damage your skin.
You should keep in mind that it isn’t recommend you apply raw black soaps directly to your face or other skin as the rough texture can cause abrasions.
To use it as a traditional soap, break off a small chunk and rub it between your hands, smoothing out the chunk. You can lather up directly from the smoothed chunk, or for more gentle cleansing, you can rub the soap on a loofah, washcloth, or exfoliating glove to first create a lather.
If you prefer a liquid cleanser and would rather make your own than buy something like Dr. Woods, you can drop a small piece of soap in warm water until it dissolves. You can then use this as you would any other liquid soap.
Always make sure to rinse the soap completely off your skin with lukewarm water, pat your skin dry, and use a moisturizer after use to lock in hydration and the soap’s many skin benefits.
Can You Use It Every Day?
African black soap can take your skin some getting used to. Due to its natural form, it can be drying on skin, especially sensitive skin. Before using the soap on your face, you should try a patch test on your neck or arm to make sure it doesn’t cause any negative reactions. Once you determine that the soap is safe for use, you can start out by using it every 1 to 2 days to give your skin time to adjust.
Even users with oily skin may experience a skin tightening feeling after the first use. You may also experience redness. This should go away with time, as your skin starts to balance, but if it doesn’t, discontinue use of the soap.
You can use the soap every day as soon as you feel your skin is adjusted and comfortable with it. Be sure to follow up every use with a moisturizer to lock in skin benefits and prevent skin from becoming overly dry.
Storing Your Soap
You should be storing your soap in a cool, dry place, away from water. When exposed to air, a thin white layer can form on top of your black soap. You can use the soap with this layer on it, or you can cut it off before using.
When not using the soap, or if you buy soap in bulk, it is a good idea to wrap it in plastic or paper before storing to prevent it from accidentally being exposed to air or water. The soap absorbs moisture and will disintegrate if you are not careful; allow your soap to dry out after use before placing it back into plastic.
Potential Side Effects and Risks
While not common, there is the potential for you to experience some negative side effects of black soap. If your skin becomes excessively red or dry and itchy, the soap may be too potent and irritating your skin. If your skin begins to peel, you may be experiencing an allergic reaction. In both cases, stop using the product and consult a doctor or dermatologist.
You may want to avoid this product if you have an allergy to chocolate or caffeine. The high concentration of cocoa pods in black soap may trigger a reaction.
A Unique Cleaning Experience
To many, African black soap is considered a miracle product. And it’s easy to see why when you consider all the unique skin benefits the soap can provide. The choice of which product to select can be difficult, but as long as you select a product that features many of the traditional African black soap ingredients, you will be guaranteed a unique cleaning experience time after time.