Health and Beauty

African Black soap and its benefits

You already know I am a big fan of Moroccan black soap, a soft soap made with olive oil. But I had never tried its cousin, African black soap, made with shea butter. Shea butter comes from the nut of the Shea tree, that grows mainly in West African countries, particularly Ghana and NIgeria. It is very popular in Western countries now, and it is frequently used in cosmetics. However, the quality can be lacking. Unrefined shea butter should be white or creamy in colour, and have a nutty scent. For the best quality African soap, choose one that is preferably organic and unrefined. It comes with varying degrees of solidity, depending on the recipe used, but essentially it is made with Shea butter, plantain leaves and oil (either coconut or palm kernel).

Shea butter and nuts

Why is African Black soap good for you?

First of all, because unlike supermarket shower gels, it is made from natural ingredients and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals such as parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate, the two main culprits, but also perfumes that can irritate the skin. You might also come accross ingredients that are downright dangerous, such triclosan and phtalates. Secondly, you can find it in all types of containers and buy a big batch of it, so it is less plastic in your bathroom. It lasts for a while so it will probably end up saving you quite a bit of money too. Another important aspect to consider is that black soap is often made traditionally and sold by women working as independent traders. I would much rather my money goes to them than big brands or supermarkets!

Benefits for the skin and hair

Shea butter is one of my favourite ingredients for soap-making, because it is just so nice to work with. It’s creamy, it’s rich, it’s deeply moisturising and it has a slight nutty scent, unlike coconut butter than can be a bit overpowering. Shea has been used for skincare for centuries across Africa, and in many families, children are lathered in it daily, leaving their skin soft and protected. It contains a large variety of vitamins and nutrients, most importantly vitamins A and E.

African Black soap

Black soap thus ticks the boxes for me: very moisturising and gentle on the skin, no fragrance nor artificial ingredients so great for the whole family. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can make it useful for people suffering from candida or skin infection , and it also seems to help with eczema in some cases.

African Black soap can also be used on the hair, although I have to admit I haven’t tried it yet. My hair is quite thin and generally reacts pretty badly to any hard or handmade shampoo, so I have gone back to using organic bottled shampoo for now, until I find better!However, curly ladies seem to have great results with black soap, as it moisturises the scalp and adds curl definition. You simply need to dilute the soap with a bit of warm water, and you can add a few drops of oil for extra care.

Health and Beauty

My first batch of homemade Beldi Savon noir

I spoke about Moroccan Savon noir in a previous post, and since it seemed fairly easy to make at home I decided to have a go. In the UK, it is quite hard to find Savon noir, and some brands are not completely natural, adding chemicals or using bad quality ingredients. I felt it would be easier and safer to just make my own.

I also had a bag of dried black olives from Morocco that had been sitting in my cupboard for a while, and they seemed perfect for my recipe! I also got a litre of pure olive oil from a local deli shop, and ordered some caustic potash flakes online. This is my first time making soap with potash, as I usually use sodium hydroxide. Potash is used to make liquid soaps such as Castile soap, and it is a very ancient technique: people used to make soap using ashes from their stove, and the word ‘potash’ actually comes from ‘pot-ashes’. Using this technique has obliged me to research the history of soap-making, which is really more interesting than it sounds!

Here is an interesting page if you want to learn more.

Here is my Moroccan Black soap recipe:

I found using potash less straight-forward than using sodium, and it took longer. The texture is very different and I was a bit confused by it. I took inspiration from this recipe from a French website, which states to use 1/3 of the weight of the oil for olives, so I used 100g of olive oil for 33g of black olives, and then mixed everything together into a smooth paste. That’s how it looked like:

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I then added the lye (18.6g of potash flakes to which I added 30mL of water, to get 2% excess fat). I then mixed together with a hand mixer until I reached the ‘trace’ stage, which looks like a custard. This part took ages, so I only used the mixer for a few minutes, then let it rest for a bit before starting again. I then placed my bowl on top of a pan of boiling water and let it until it turned into a paste, turning every once in a while.

Once it has cooled down, you can add water or an infusion to get to the right consistency. I added a few spoons of Orange blossom water to keep in with the Moroccan theme, and drops of Tea tree oil. This is my end result, the consistency is quite creamy: Image

After letting it rest for a week, I have started using it on my skin (avoid the face though). It is definitely good for exfoliation, and it leaves my skin soft and moisturized, but it is quite ‘muddy’ in terms of colour and texture so it feels a bit strange! I think I will try again soon inshallah, using less black olives this time. I found this other recipe which only asks for 1/5 of the weight of the oil as black olives, so that seems a good idea. I hope this recipe is clear enough, please do not hesistate to ask more questions.

Stay blessed!

Health and Beauty

The benefits of Black Soap (Savon Noir)

I talk about the wonders of oil, in particular olive oil, in a previous post, in particular about their health and beauty benefits. Well Black Soap, produced in North Africa, is like a condensed version: it is made out of oil, often using the famous Moroccan Argan oil, and macerated olives, and it is thus packed with therapeutic qualities. Black soap is particularly rich in vitamin E and is known for deeply purificating the skin, as well as preparing the skin for exfoliation. In Morocco, women often use it in the hammam (public baths) before peeling their skin with a loofah. It should be applied on wet skin and left a couple of minutes to rehydrate and purify the body, before being rinsed off.

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Black Soap or Savon noir from Morocco

Don’t be fooled by its aspect: its texture is more like butter than regular soap, but it is all natural, works with all types of skin and has a light scent. The damage of chemical perfumes added to soaps, shower gels and shampoos on the skin and hair is well documented:  Black soap is a great, 100% natural and organic alternative, usually made the old fashioned way by small producers. If you want to try making your own black soap, try my basic black soap recipe.

Black soap can also be diluted with water and used as a cleaner and detergent. It has tons off properties: it can be used to clean floors and tiles, windows and leather furniture, it removes grease from ovens, baking trays or plates, and it is also used as a stain remover.

Furthermore, it can also be used in the garden to help get rid of parasite. Just spray diluted black soap on affected plants and leaves. It is a great product before it acts as a natural repellent without destroying the environment as would do traditional pesticides. In fact, black soap has so many different uses that I can’t list them all! Stay blessed!