Growing up, I remember moisturising my skin and smelling of Palmers Coco butter, and my mum using a few different products to moisturise and plait my hair. I used perfumed soaps, such as Palmolive and Imperial Leather (which was my dad’s favourite soap) I knew early on that looking after my skin and hair was going to be a very important daily task and interesting learning experience!
As a child, I suffered from very bad eczema. I had it at the back of my legs, in the creases of my arms, legs and the back of my neck. I suffered with eczema until I was 14 years old. From all that I’ve learned about nutrition as an adult, I can confidently put this condition down to my nutrition as a child, and then my healing down to changing my nutrition at 9 years old to a plant based diet.
I didn’t experience any scarring or dark marks as a result of the eczema, as I always looked after my skin and made a huge effort not scratch or itch when my skin felt sore. I was also using a steroid cream prescribed by my doctor, but I know now that steroids are more of a hindrance than a help and it never worked. I only used skincare products my mum brought and I don’t think she was aware of anything natural to use or where to access it if it was available, but as soon as I was able to choose and then buy my own skincare products, sadly, I chose skincare products that were perfumed and loaded with ingredients.
Like so many young females, particularly melonated (Black) females, I can shamefully admit that I went through a truck load of products that were no good for my skin, not designed for my skin type and never really improved or enhanced my melanin. Like many women, I’ve experienced spots and pimples, and there was a time, especially as a teenager, I didn’t really have a skincare regime, other than washing my face with something that smelt good and felt like it was exfoliating my skin. I also experienced blemishes and uneven skin tone, and I spent a significant amount of money on skincare products and treatments that claim to replenish and address uneven skin tone, with their products that only have traces of natural ingredients. However, they never quite live up to the hype that the sales people give you or the advertising. Little did I know, after lots of intrigue and research, I would later discover the natural and very ancient African skincare products that would give me glowing skin, make it super soft and compliment my melanin.
WHAT IS MELANIN
Melanin is the primary determinant of skin and hair colour. However, few people know that melanin is found in almost every organ of the body and is necessary for the brain and nerves to operate, the eyes to see, and the cells to reproduce.The more melanin you have the darker your skin colour; less means lighter skin colour. Having lots of melanin gives women of colour an added advantage when it comes to how their skin handles sun exposure and how soon the damage becomes visible. Dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, author of “Brown Skin,” points out that Blacks and other people of colour generally look younger than their lighter-skinned peers because of the higher levels of melanin in their skin.
WHY IS AFRICAN SKIN UNIQUE?
Although basic skin-care needs are the same for everyone, there are some issues that darker skin tones are more likely to experience. For example, African skin may be more prone to skin issues like keloidal (raised) scarring, pronounced hyperpigmentation, and ingrown hairs. Research shows that the only real difference between African skin and Caucasian skin is the amount, size, and distribution of melanin (the cells which produce our skin’s pigment). Melanin protects our skin from the ultraviolet rays from sunlight. The melanin in Black individuals is, therefore, a natural advantage. Apart from the natural beauty of Black skin, there are a number of health benefits as well. These include a lower risk of developing skin cancer, a lower risk of sunburn and fewer signs of premature ageing such as wrinkles, lines and age spots.
I want to express my disappointment I feel about melanated women bleaching their skin. Skin bleaching is very popular in the Caribbean, Asia, South America, the Middle East and several African countries. Among African countries, skin lightening products are most popular in Nigeria, with over 75% of Nigerian women using them. Following Nigeria, is Togo with 59%, South Africa with 35% and Mali with 25%.The global concept of beauty in the 21st century tends to be dominated by eurocentric standards, which includes having a fair complexion. In this context, skin lightening products are appealing and has become a very profitable business. It is a multi-billion dollar market in Africa. It’s a profitable business for the manufacturer, importers and marketers. The sad thing is, regardless of the price, including price rises, demand will still remain steady.
These products are so dangerous that one African country banned them.The health ministry of Côte d’Ivoire was concerned that the side effects of whitening creams could impact people’s long-term health. The ban includes any creams containing mercury, cortisone, vitamin A, and more than 2% hydroquinone, which is a lightening agent used to develop photos. Scary, I know! Many people have suffered side effects because of the lightening creams; they can cause hypertension, thinning of the skin, skin infections, stretch marks, exogenous ochronosis, and skin cancer.
Within our culture, some people think women with lighter skin are the most beautiful. This standard of beauty pushes many women to de-pigment their skin. Advertising doesn’t help, as many companies showcase Black models with very light skin. Giving further impression that the lighter one’s skin is, the better one’s life, or the more desirable you are to men.
We have so many examples of beautiful melanated women that have differing shades of melanated skin, that we shouldn’t feel the need to destroy something so unique. We should also be looking at these women and the many Black women that we walk past daily, as a realistic and healthy standard of beauty. I believe that melanated women who bleach their skin have very low self-esteem and negative perception of themselves, which can’t be fixed with hydroquinone or other bleaching agents!
RETURNING TO OUR ROOTS
What is confusing and disappointing is the African Continent is home to an abundance of ancient, and natural skincare ingredients, that many inhabitants and western Black people are not taking advantage off. These ingredients are blended together to make some of the most richest and purest skincare products available, that stimulate and enhance our melanin. For many African’s these ingredients are free and readily available, so they could easily make the own supply and even distribute it around the continent. Just like the chew stick that I blogged about in Ditch the toothbrush which is another ancient, African, natural method healthcare method, I feel we should be loving the skin we have been blessed with and embracing the natural products that were founded on African soil that enhances and connects with our diverse complexions.
If you want to naturally improve your skin tone, fade skin discolourations, reduce inflammation and skin irritations, heals skin problems, exfoliate and deep cleanses and gives you healthier looking skin, then African Black Soap is a must for your bathroom cabinet.
Cocoa pods which are an important ingredient in African Black Soap.
In countries such as America and the United Kingdom, African Black soap can be found in many African and Asian stores that sell skin and hair care products; and the cost, well, you may want to sit down for this. A bar of this natural goodness costs £1.00 or you can buy 6 bars for £4.99 in some stores.
If you’re unable to get your hands on this plant-based miracle bar is available from Amazon
African Black soap is made from dried plantain skins, along with palm leaves, kernel oil and cocoa pod powder. This concoction nourishes skin with vitamins such as A, E and iron. You know, the same things supposedly in those fancy, and expensive creams we like to buy. The cocoa powder has special healing powers, and the palm and kernel oils help shape the whole thing into a bar of soap for easy, everyday use. Oh, and did I mention, you can wash your hair with it! There are variations available on the market, some with or without honey, but all with the main ingredients.
USING AFRICAN BLACK SOAP
While some people may find the soap moisturising, others might find it drying. When I first used it, it felt really dry on my face. However, I persisted and didn’t use the soap on a daily basis. Everyone’s skin will react in different ways depending on the individual and the product, especially since black soap can vary from batch to batch and can have varying proportions and types of ingredients. Upon first use, even those with oily skin might notice that the skin feels dry and tight.This might last for a week. It’s believed this is caused by the soap drawing out impurities and excess oils. After a few days, the PH levels of the skin will balance out (which is why it is believed to be good for both dry and oily skin.) I would also recommend that you don’t leave it to sit on your skin or rub into your skin too harshly, as this can cause irritation, burning and tightness.You should also be careful of small pieces of the ingredients sticking out of the soap, which could scratch the skin. Apart from this, use the soap exactly the same way you would use any soap. But store it in a dry place when you’ve finished.
I’ve been trying to keep my magic soap a secret, but with so many women abusing their skin or those experiencing skin irritations from perfumed soap’s, I thought it would be useful to share a natural method that has been used for generations with beneficial results. I love the smell and the way the soap feels on my skin. African Black soap, coupled with my plant based diet gives me amazing skin if I do say so myself. The saying ‘you are what you eat’ is definitely correct, as synthetic, toxic foods and products will show up through your skin when you use them, so it’s important to make wise decisions about what you put in and on your body.
Please let me know if you use African Black Soap and what it has done for your skin.
Give it a try x
*the soap used in this post is for illustrating purposes. Dudu Osun soap would not be suitable for vegans, as it contains honey.