What is Black Soap? Where does it come from?

Black Soap, Alata Samina, Ose Dudu or African Black Soap is made from plantain skin blended with pure palm kernel oil. It is a natural source of vitamins A & E and iron. Plantain is a popular food in Africa, South America & other parts of the world. In some recipes, Cocoa Pod is used instead of plantain skins. Others use both the Cocoa Pod and plantain skins. Cocoa Pod is the shell of the Cocoa fruit. The cocoa beans are used for making chocolate or cocoa butter among other things.

For centuries, Ghanaians have used Black Soap to help relieve acne, oily skin, clear blemishes, rashes and various other skin issues. African Black soap has been used to achieve beautiful skin among West Africans. Africans have also used this natural soap for bathing and washing their hair, great for removing make-up too! Black Soap will leave your skin soft, clear and smelling delicious. This soap is not scented or fragranced with artificial perfumes but has a natural herbal scent.


Black Soap, Ose Dudu or Alata Samina has it’s origins among the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, but more widespread in use and production by the Ghanaians.

Legend has it that the black soap was introduced to Ghana many years ago, by Yoruba traders doing business in Ghana. These traders were women and many were in the business of selling tomatoes and peppers. They were called the Alatas (Pepper Sellers). Samina is an Akan tribal word for soap. The word Alata Samina, coined by Ghanaians, means ‘The Pepper Traders Soap’.

What is Black Soap

Black soap is a soft dark colored lumpy block. It dissolves faster than commercial cold press soaps. Black soap produces a very rich emollient lather and gives the skin a clean soft feel. Black soap is 100% natural and vegan in origin no matter which West African tribal region produces it.

Varieties of Black Soap

The coloring of the soap varies from jet black to light brown depending on the balance of ingredients used in making the soap. The basic ingredients used in black soap are Red Palm Oil, Coconut Oil, Roasted Plantain Skins, Roasted Cocoa Pods, Sea salt and in some blends, shea or cocoa butter. Other additives like Agoa bark, scents and other oils are optional. The darker soaps tend to have more of the roasted plantain skin in the ingredients. The oxidation from the plantains make the soap bar darker. For a lighter bar more roasted cocoa pods are used. Black soap does not contain conventional lye, however the ash from roasting the plantain and cocoa pods are the local equivalent of lye that are used in the saponification process.

Beware of the FAKES

WHY? Because REAL BLACK SOAP simply consists of roasted plantain skins, cocoa pod, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, salt and ash. Plantains look just like bananas but much bigger.

Plantain used in Black Soap

Because plantains grow in the tropics, it is readily available for making Black Soap. Plantains are a major component of Black Soap. The longer the plantain skins are roasted the darker the soap but never completely black.

For this reason people who try to imitate Black Soap do not tell their consumers that a major component of the soap, plantain skin, is LEFT OUT. Also Black Soap’s method is a well kept secret by their original makers. So unless the recipe is given to a person or company, there is no way that person or manufacturer can produce traditional Black Soap.  In an effort to duplicate the soap, fakers have disregarded the original components, added their own, and labeled the soap AFRICAN BLACK SOAP. The FAKE SOAP is hard, very black and has no inherent benefit to the skin at all. Plus all the fake soaps contain perfumes. Real Alata has no fragrance.

In this era of Shea butter craze, Black Soap has also fallen to a million and one versions out there. Many commercialised Black Soap sold now includes Shea butter, vitamin E (which the original black soap has plenty of naturally) and various other ingredients. As long as the formulation still contains plantain, ash and palm kernel oil, the soap is still beneficial, though not 100% original to the heirloom recipes of the tribes.

So don’t get yourself confused with all the jargon out there. Do yourself a favor and purchase samples. Ensure it is FREE from chemicals, parabens, alcohol and fragrances. Try it out for quality and true benefit and then decide from there.

So remember, original, traditional African Black Soap is brownish-black in color. It is soft with an organic shape that can be molded in your hands. It has a delicate texture & a natural earthy smell. It is not oily or scented. It melts easily if left in water and with regular use pimples, acne and blackheads will start to disappear.

We have a policy of only purchasing original products from the source, in this case, West Africa and from suppliers who support Fair Trade and community development. Our Black Soap comes from Ghana or Lagos, West Africa.  We fair trade with a major no-nonsense hard working women’s cooperative. The business is owned & operated by women who have been in the business for many years. The money they earn helps to support their community and build schools, houses and buy bicycles for families. They were featured on Voice of America in 2004 and are now represented by Fair Trade organisations in Europe and USA. Their production methods and secrets have been passed down from mothers to daughters to keep the soap blend close to the original recipes of hundreds of years and to avoid exploitation & imitations by commercial conglomerates. Many commercial companies have tried to create their own version of Black Soap with all kinds of fake ingredients. Ghana’s and Lagos’ black soap is the best quality Black Soap because it is the ORIGINAL.

We do not ever purchase Black Soap from commercial companies or distributors in Asia as they mainly supply fake Black Soap, or Black Soap adulterated with perfumes, fragrance oils and coloring. These are damaging to the skin and provide NO therapeutic benefits to users at all. We do not want to contribute to the damaging of people’s skin.


Why Is Black Soap So Popular Now?

Since Black Soap was taken by Europeans to their countries and to America, it has become increasingly popular including among young catwalk models with pimply and acneic skin. So much so that various blends and brands of Black Soap have popped up in European and North American cities to satisfy demand. Black soap is great for all skin types, including ageing skin as it does not contain any chemicals or preservatives. It can even be used on toddlers. Combined with Pure Lavender essential oil, it helps to relax and calm!  It makes excellent travel soap as it can be used on hair, face and body.

Visit Heirloom Beauty  or today for your Pure African Black Soap and experience the benefits to your skin. Ask us about adding pure essential oils to relax, energize, or invigorate your senses!

Take care,

Yasmin & Hava


6 thoughts on “BEWARE OF THE FAKES! About TRUE Black Soap

  1. please can I ruh it in my face inthe night and leave it till morning. I hope it will not shrink my face or body.I am using it and I love the soap

  2. thank you soo much for this! was wondering why my skin reacted to “DUDU OSUN”, its this Shea butter nonsense!. Everybody uses Shea butter in every single “natural skin or hair product” they make now disregarding the fact that some people(me inclusive) react to it. My body just doesn’t like this ingredient; my hair and skin. I used to use the original “ose dudu” when i was a child because I had(still do) very sensitive skin, it made my skin scar and blemish free, no irritations at all!.. The only downside is that, it is messy, it isnt a bar soap, its just mashed Think I will go look for it.

  3. Hi there! Great write up! I just wanted to drop a quick note that many of the black soaps from Ghana do, in fact, contain shea butter. I don’t know how original this ingredient is. But, many of the people making it today in West Africa are adding it to their recipes. So, just be aware of this even when you order direct from the co-ops. We buy direct along with our raw shea butter. While shea isn’t for everyone, it can be a very useful ingredient to many. Thanks for the information!

    • Hello Jon

      Thank you for your input. We are aware that many producers are now adding Shea butter. But some of our customers have a reaction to shea so we keep searching for suppliers who do not add shea. Shea is best used separately any way. But we are glad you read our blog.

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