African black soap is made in various locations in western Africa. It is called "ose dudu" by the Yoruba people, who live in western Nigeria, meaning "black soap." It is a simple, mild soap made using local ingredients, so the recipe varies somewhat depending on who and where it's made -- sort of like a chicken soup recipe.
Any soap must have oil and lye. The oil in ose dudu can be cocoa butter, palm kernel oil, palm oil or shea butter, which is made from the nut of the shea tree. The lye comes from shea tree bark, cocoa pods, leaves of banana trees and plantain skins, according to Eclectic Lady, a company that sells natural soaps and fragrances online. Black soap moisturizes well and is good for sensitive skin. It dissolves easily, lathers well, and cleanses nicely.
Black soap can be used to wash your face, body and hair. It's basically an effective soap made of natural ingredients. Depending on who's talking, claims for the soap range from it being good for dry skin, rough skin, oily skin and acne to wrinkles, ringworm and measles. Hmm, any decent soap cleans off dirt. As to the rest, you may not want to bet the family jewels on it. If you come down with, ringworm or measles, you should go see your doc and not rely on soap to treat what ails you.
How It's Made
The soap is made by local women and produced by hand. The plant material is burned to ashes in a big pot. Then water is mixed in and later filtered out. The oil is added, hand stirred in the pot for a day or more - the sort of thing you get a group together to take turns doing. The product is then allowed to set and cure for about two weeks. Black soap made on the coast has more coconut oil - more coconut trees grow there. Inland black soap has more shea butter.
Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to sell you a bill of goods, large cosmetics manufacturers in other countries have been mass producing imitation black soap, according to SoapMakingFun.com, an online website for soapmakers. The ingredients include chemical degreasers and preservatives common in other synthetic soaps, such as sodium lauryl sulfate and parabens. As another touch, black coloring is added -- and it's probably not from burning cocoa pods or parts of a shea tree. So don't be taken in. Check the source if you want the real thing.