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The continent of Africa contains 50 countries and over 3,000 ethnic groups. Like all the other continents, Africa offers the world unique remedies for the dis-eases that affect our bodies. West Africa and East Africa are famous for a plethora of different cultural and social achievements even though they seem primitive to some cultures around the world. One of those achievements is the cultivation and harvesting of shea butter.
Shea butter comes from the nut of the shea tree. East African shea butter is primarily used for cooking and West African shea butter is used to treat eczema, acne, and sunburn as well as several other medicinal uses. Black soap, which is used to clear the skin of acne, dark spots, and blemishes, is on that list as well.
Black soap is a soft, crumbly, unscented organic product that’s made from palm kernel oil, plantain skin ashes, palm oil, cocoa pods and unrefined shea butter. Black soap doesn’t have to be crumbly; it can also be smooth as well. The consistency depends on the finishing process.
African black soap contains 50% shea butter and that ingredient alone gives the soap the ability to minimize dark spots, and heal skin blemishes, which include blackheads and acne, plus it’s a great sun block.
The first step in making black soap is burning the bark and leaves of cocoa pods, shea trees, plantain, and at times herbs are burned as well. The bark and leaves are burned until they are ashes. This process gives the soap its unique color. The color of soap varies because different bark is used at different times. The ash is combined with water and it is allowed to boil until the ash dissolves.
A separate pot is used to heat shea butter or other oils like palm or coconut. Once the shea butter is heated it is slowly combined with the ash. The heat is reduced and the mixture is stirred constantly and a foam forms on the top. The foam is scooped off the top until it stops forming. That process could take a day if it’s a large batch; smaller batches usually take less time. Any residue left in the pot after the water has evaporated is black soap.
The soap is taken out of the pot and allowed to cool on a non-stick surface. When it is cool enough to handle it can be molded into any shape, but it needs to cure for a few weeks before it is ready for use.
The plantain bark gives the soap Vitamin A & E as well as iron, and shea butter gives it UV protection as well as skin healing properties. The ash is sometimes used to heal cuts, but the finished product is what the Africans consider a sensitive skin healer.
The beauty of black soap is the all natural ingredients. White soaps from Europe contain preservatives and other substances that may not treat the skin in a gentle manner. Black soap is gentle and doesn’t have a smell unless a sweet smelling herb is added to the heating pot.