What is African Black Soap and how does it work?

I keep seeing this soap recommended in beauty articles and it's like 3 bucks for a bar, so I got some for my husband who gets terrible backne.

I've never seen his skin this clear, but I'm curious is this a fluke? Why does it seem to work so well?

Here are some articles that mention it:


  • First, here are the ingredients: 
    African Black Soap Base, African Shea Butter, Oats, Aloe, Plantain Extract, Vitamin E, Essential Oil Blend, Vegetable Glycerin, Palm Ash, Rosemary Extract, Iron Oxides.

    I don't see anything here that has a scientific basis for reducing acne so I'm stumped as to why it would work. 

    The only thing that even looks close is the "Oat extract" because colloidal oatmeal is proven to have skin protectant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, the oatmeal has to be boiled to extract the gelatinous materials. Just chucking some dried oats into a soap bar wouldn't provide the same benefit. 

  • I think this is just a case of something being considered exotic and so heavily promoted.
  • Rozy I think I agree with you but then I might not. I have one VERY skeptical friend who has tried so many different products and nothing works as well as black soap to keep her clear. I really think it might be the shea butter just calming her skin because before that she was using baking soda scrubs and home made lemon juice concoctions to combat her acne, can you just imagine the amount of irritation? I think for acutely sensitive skin, there's nothing like just soothing it to calm down the acne. 
  • It could be a case, maybe, of old things becoming new again.  As in the case of Rosebud Salve. My grandmother was never without it.  Now it has become popular again. Why? Because it is simple and it works.
  • It's true, sometimes a little petrolatum does that lip protecting job. On a similar note, there's a new "lip maks" from Bite Beauty which they say has Agave nectar as an active ingredient. Really, lanolin is the main functional ingredient but everyone who tries it is all, WOW, agave nectar is the most effective lip conditioner ever, I wish there was a cheaper alternative to this lip mask.

    The lullllllz are so real when you work in the cosmetic industry but understand how to read ingredient lists.
  • edited February 2014
    LOL or am I supposed to say lulllz? I can never keep these abbreviations straight. BTW, Brainy, did you drink a BUNCH of coffee this afternoon? I saw that you just left like 20 comments on the Forum. LOL again.
  • Haha yes, I was posting as I was downing my special gallon size coffee mug (you think I'm kidding, I'm not).
    Sorry about the lullzing, it's irresistible when I'm recollecting a particularly delicious inner belly laugh. Don't worry, I'm not particularly proud of knowing what lulz means but now that I do heavily abuse it.
  • Oh my god! Baking soda and lemon juice!
  • @Rozy, I know, that was my reaction too. I wondered how she had any face left. She definitely took the aggresive approach to acne combat  
  • Wow, I tried baking soda once and it was awful, it's very irritating and it makes acne worse!!! Why would someone do that to their skin on a daily basis is a mystery to me
  • Sad thing is there are YouTube makeup gurus advocating use of lemon juice on the face.
  • and I'm pretty sure Michelle Phan has too!
  • I just went on Kandy's video and there seems to be countless people advocating for citrus juice on face for a number of skin problems. I reported about 6 of them and left comments explaining that it is harmful. I don't mean to "troll" but at least I'm doing it for a good cause. #logictroll
  • I did this as a young teen from watching Kandy's video. Luckily is was only a couple times. It made my skin feel sore.
  • The saddest thing is, rozy, the lemon juice trick isn't going to go away because it's so "cheap", just like duct tape for warts. :(
  • I read on futurederm that duct tape actually works but they forgot to consider that duct tape was never meant to be applied to skin. I wouldn't use it. I agree it will probably never go away because in this culture "natural"=good and "chemicals"=bad. A very naive view. Every time I disliked and reported a lemon on face video another one popped up in suggestions. It is going to end up with people's doctors telling them its bad and hopefully they listen.
  • Natalie Bell on Futurederm misinterpreted one study with the duct tape vs. mole skin trial. It actually showed it was no better than the placebo (mole skin). I've noticed that she tends to conflate "not statistically significant" with "treatments have the same effect". I should look at the other studies.

    The natural = good/chemicals = bad notion bothers me too. It'll eventually cause damage to the point where someone has to see a doctor/dermatologist. It also ticks me off that people are doing chemical peels like TCA at home! Even TCA CROSS! They don't understand that it takes years and practice to effectively do those peels and minimize complications, not to mention there is a very important "prep" time involved!
  • Yeah I find Natalie is too faithful in natural extracts. Thank you for telling me what the study really said, I didnt know just took her word for it. I think it was about warts though. I also didn't know buying the online peels is bad but I do know my amazing derm does them, you have to pay but yeah I would trust her more than me! Yes they do end up having to see a doctor and making the problem worse. Reminds me if you ever read the blog The Skeptical OB she tells people of how dangerous home birth is compared to at the hospital with an OB and is so hated for it.
  • Natalie Bell also misinterpreted the second study--that too was negative. Well, technically underpowered (not enough patients) and negative. I read the mole skin study again and that was underpowered, too. The one comparing cryotherapy was also underpowered.

    AKA, Bell's inaccurately concluded that duct tape works. She should've looked a little closer at the data.

    If you look on Amazon and eBay, you'll find vendors selling TCA anywhere from 5% to 100%! They're doing the same with glycolic and lactic acid. It's extremely dangerous, because you have no idea if it's counterfeit, diluted, or expired. Some of them come with directions which are likely not accurate. Yet buyers do this to save a few hundred dollars.

    Perhaps even worse, if you look on some of the forums, contributors are advocating DIY peels with TCA! They're getting even basic stuff wrong, like "frosting is bad" (no, it isn't; at least, in experienced hands), confusing frosting with precipitate, and recommending strong peels for darker skin types! This is super basic stuff! I do hope to get a chemical peel one day, but I'd never do it at home!

    I did check out that blog just now, and whoa! I knew home birth was a problem but not that bad, to say the least!

  • Yeah homebirth is really dangerous and scary and the midwife situation in the states is really bad because they aren't real medical professionals. There is even people who believe in unassisted childbirth despite that childbirth is more dangerous for humans than any other species and we need other humans there with us. Thank you again for the warning of the dangers of strong at home peels I never bought one bc I live in Canada and you pretty much can't buy anything online here anyways. Shipping prices from the US are INSANE!
  • Hey, no problem!
    Shipping prices from Canada are high, too. Maybe our countries could reach an agreement on shipping? ;)
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