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African Black Soap Revealed

There are more than 100 different varieties of real African black soap. In the recent past, the name "African black soap" has been misused by some in order to make money. Black soap is known in West Africa by several names, but the most common is Ose Dudu (doudoun), which is derived from the Yoruba or Anago languages of Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Ose Dudu means literally Soap (ose) Black (dudu). In actual fact, black soap varies from a light brown to a deep black depending on the ingredients and method of preparation. In Togo, the different varieties each have their specific applications and uses. However, they all have one thing in common - black soaps are our oldest and healthiest soaps.

The oils used to make African black soap vary by region and include palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and shea butter. Any combination of these ingredients is possible and is determined based on availability (coastal regions tend to use more coconut oil, savanna regions use more shea butter, for example). The different oil combinations result in color variations.

In addition, the potash that is used to make African black soap can be derived from the ashes of several plant sources, including cocoa pods, shea tree bark, plantain leaves, and the byproducts of shea butter production. Most importantly, authentic African black soap is made with hand-made potash in small batches and is not manufactured in factories with commercial potash and refined oils.

We make our black soap in small batches following the traditional recipe of central Togo. We use at least 45% unrefined shea butter and the rest is virgin palm kernel oil. The potash that we use comes from ashes of plantain leaves, shea butter residues and bark from a local tree called Agow. Note that the bark is harvested in a way that does not harm the tree.

Be cautious of soaps that are labeled as black soap or African black soap, but are manufactured in the United States, Europe, or Asia on a large scale. These soaps are not authentic African black soap. It is important to look at the list of ingredients and make sure they do not contain and cheap oils or fats. Also, determine how the black color was obtained. In some cases charcoal or black dyes are added. The dark color of a true, original black soap is obtained by the lengthy process of saponification. In an industrial setting, it is not economical to use the traditional saponification method, and so black coloring agents are added to get the dark color.

Agbanga Karite black soap is original and authentic. We make the soap in our Sokodé center in Togo using traditional methods and recipes. We take pride in offering this true black soap, and consider it a prime example of the beauty of traditional knowledge.

For more information on African black soap, please call 1-800-664-8005.


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