History of African Black Soap
An Ancient African Recipe
African Black Soap is familiar to many people of African descent for its skin care benefits. It has been known to soothe skin irritations and diseases from simple rashes to contact dermatitis and psoriasis, as well as fading skin discolorations and evening out skin tone.
Nigerians and Ghanaians have used black soap for centuries for bathing and for reducing body odor, and as a shampoo for hair, not only to cleanse, but also to alleviate scalp itchiness and irritation.
It was used to relieve oily skin and certain skin conditions, such as acne and eczema. Women used black soap for skin care during and after pregnancy to keep from getting dry skin, stretch marks and other skin conditions caused by hormonal changes. The soap was also used on babies because of its purity and it was gentle on sensitive skin.
Origins of “The Black Soap”
African black soap or ose dudu originated with the Yoruba people in Nigeria and the Yoruba communities in Benin and Togo. The Yoruba words ose (“soap”) and dudu (“black”) literally translates to “the black soap.” It is also called anago samina in Ghana. (Anago is the name of a Yoruba sub-group in what is now Republic of Benin). Samina means, “soap” in the Twi dialect of the Akan language.
Another name for the soap, alata samina, is now used throughout Ghana. Alata means “spicy” in Yoruba. According to an article on the Shea Radiance site, it is believed that Yoruba traders, specifically women traders, who sold tomatoes and peppers, introduced black soap to Ghana.
These women were called “Alatas” (pepper traders) and alata samina was a term coined by the Ghanaians that meant “the pepper traders soap.”
Yoruba women had an important and unique role in agriculture in pre-colonial Yorubaland. They were responsible for processing raw farm produce into finished goods for trading. This included harvesting produce from trees and they also tended to the gardens where vegetables and fruits, such as peppers, were grown. They were also responsible for selling the produce, including black soap.
Traditional black soap was typically a mixture of water and the ashes of plantain skins, cocoa pod powder and palm oil. Other recipe blends can include the ashes of palm leaves, or shea tree bark, and a combination of palm oil, coconut oil, shea butter or tropical honey.
Village women in western Africa are still handcrafting black soap. According to Africa Imports there are more than 100 varieties of African black soaps. Recipes have been passed down in families from mother to daughter. Ingredients can differ by region and each batch can be unique. Age-old formulations and production methods make a big difference in the final outcome of the soap.
How black soap is made
Our African Black Soap is made by drying Plantain skins to precise texture in the hot African sun. The skins are then roasted in a clay oven. This base is mixed with palm oil and palm kernel oil to result in the finished product. This "play-dough" like soap is then packaged into air-tight bags in Africa to preserve its centuries old cleansing and medicinal power. When ready, this is mixed with generous amounts of Ivory Shea Butter. The soap is then hardened by being put into molds and left for days in the African sun to harden.