African black soap: Physiochemical, phytochemical properties, and uses

Dermatol Ther. 2021 May;34(3):e14870. doi: 10.1111/dth.14870. Epub 2021 Mar 10.

Abstract

The African black soap is popular for its cleansing and medicinal properties particularly amongst those of African descent. The "traditional" African black soap" refers to soaps made from the ash-derived alkali from agricultural waste and oil extracted from vegetable matter without the addition of cosmetic enhancing products. Production of black soap has been traced to west Africa especially Nigeria and Ghana. The raw materials are readily available in the region making the soap available and affordable for most in sub-Saharan Africa. It has been described as gentle, super fatted and hypoallergenic. It is advertised as antimicrobial, anti-acne, exfoliating, skin toning, scar fading, and having medicinal properties. It is popular for its management of skin diseases, although some of the claims remain anecdotal. Generations of Africans abroad continue to use modified versions of the soap and claim they are satisfied with the results obtained. However, in the management of patients with skin disorders, especially eczema, in sub-Saharan Africa, prescribing an ideal skin cleanser can be challenging as many cannot afford the imported nonsoap cleansers with skin friendly pH. Studies have shown that the traditional black soap does have antimicrobial properties against Staphylococcal and some Streptococcal organisms, which are commonly seen in the tropical climate. The recent ban of some antiseptics in popular antibacterial soaps in this environment, emphasizes the need for production of safer antimicrobials. The antimicrobial, physiochemical, and phytochemical properties of the African black soap suggest it may have beneficial effects on the overall skin health.

Keywords: Black soap; Nigeria; physiochemical; properties; uses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Cosmetics*
  • Humans
  • Nigeria
  • Phytochemicals
  • Soaps*

Substances

  • Cosmetics
  • Phytochemicals
  • Soaps