What is African Black Soap?

And is This Cleanser Right for You?

Corrie D.
ByCorrie D.

If you've gone down the natural cleanser rabbit hole, or just like to keep an eye on beauty trends, you may have seen people talking about black soap, or African Black Soap. It tends to pop up as people search for natural products that combat excess oil production and enlarged pores, but dont over-dry skin. We even covered it as an emerging Gen Z trend in 2017! 

For our deep dive on African Black Soap, we turn to cosmetic chemist and founder of Sister Scientist, Erica Douglas. Erica has partnered with SheaMoisture to educate consumers on the importance of quality ingredients in cosmetics products and she lends that expertise to us here. 

“African Black Soap (ABS) is not your standard bar of soap. In addition to its wonderful skin benefits, there is a cultural significance behind the making of ABS. It is part of a very rich tradition in West African cultures where recipes are passed down from generation to generation.” (Erica Douglas)

Erica Douglas in a lab coat

What is African Black Soap?
African Black Soap (ABS) is not your standard bar of soap. It’s like the super-soap of all soaps! Unlike other soaps, the process of making ABS is extremely unique. Different people and cultures have their own special recipes, but for the most part, all ABS will include an ash from the burning of palm leaves, cocoa pods, shea tree bark, and/or plantains combined with moisturizing oils such as palm oil, coconut oil, and shea butter.

This vitamin-rich ash is the magical secret that gives ABS the ability to not just clean the skin but help soothe skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis, reduce hyperpigmentation and help fight off bacteria that causes acne. In addition to all of these wonderful benefits, there is a cultural significance behind the making of ABS. It is part of a very rich tradition in West African cultures where recipes are passed down from generation to generation.


What are the skincare benefits of African Black Soap?
ABS helps remove bacteria from the skin such as E. Coli, staph and other common strains which are often the cause of acne, folliculitis, and other skin infections. It also:

  • soothes inflamed or irritated skin.
  • naturally cleanses and exfoliates, removing dirt, oil, and impurities from the pores to reveal brighter, clearer skin.
  • is rich in Vitamin A and E which helps to reduce blemishes, lighten dark spots and prevent hyperpigmentation 
  • has anti-fungal properties that can help alleviate athletes’ foot, ringworm, and other fungal infections.

Can you use it on your face? 
Before using African Black Soap on the face or body you should always do a patch test to make sure that you will not have any adverse reactions. ABS is alkaline, so it can be pretty drying on some skin types and since the face is one of the more sensitive parts of the body, I recommend taking extra precaution when using raw black soap on your face. Make sure to not apply the bar directly to the skin. You can dilute the soap by foaming it up in your hands and applying the foam or use a product formulated with ABS so that it is not as potent as the raw soap, like SheaMoisture’s ABS Bamboo Charcoal Detoxifying Foaming Facial Wash.  All the benefits of ABS without the risk of drying out the skin too much!

Is it suitable for all skin types? 
African Black Soap has benefits for all skin types but is best for the oily skin types because of its natural ability to remove excess oil from the skin like a magnet! I recommend that you always do a patch test before incorporating anything into your skincare regimen, no matter your skin type, especially if you are using raw ABS.  

The best place to do a patch test is on the inside of your wrist or in the crease of your elbow.  Apply a small amount of product to the area and cover.  Check the area after 24-48 hours to see if you observe any adverse reactions such as bumps, chronic burning, or itching. 


How does African Black Soap help with preventing or treating breakouts?
Acne is mainly caused by hair follicles on the skin becoming congested with oil, dead skin cells, dirt, and/or bacteria.  One of the most effective benefits of ABS is its ability to exfoliate and remove dirt, oil, and bacteria from beneath the skin. This means that not only does ABS help to fight off acne once you see it, but it also can be used as a preventative measure as well to attack all those “nasties” on the skin before they wiggle their way too far underneath the skin.

About the Author
Corrie D.
Corrie D.
Former Influenster. You can see my reviews and product insights on my OG Influenster account: @corriedavidson. Follow me on Instagram @CorrieReviews, YouTube @CorrieDavidson, tiktok @CorrieDavidson.