African black soap is taking the beauty industry by storm. To be fair, using this is not a mere trend. After all, many people have benefited from its ability to get rid of blemishes and moisturize the skin.
Sadly, the soap’s popularity led to the production of counterfeits that are now being sold online and in actual physical stores. Hence, I’m sharing this guide on how to spot real African black soap vs. fake.
Before we compare the features of the authentic soap against the dupe, let me give you a bit of background on African black soap.
Table of Contents
- What Is African Black Soap, Anyway?
- Real vs. Fake
- Tips on How to Find Authentic African Black Soap
What Is African Black Soap, Anyway?
1. A brief history
While many of us only learned about it recently, this soap has been around in Africa for years. It is hard to trace back to when it was first invented.
However, several sources, including this article on Byrdie, confirm that the soap came from the Yoruba people in Nigeria, Togo, and Benin.
In their language, the African black soap is called “ose dudu.” “Ose” means soap while “dudu” means “black.”
The soap made its way to Ghana through female Yoruba traders who also sold tomatoes and peppers. Hence, the Ghanaians have another name for this: “Alata Samina” or “Anago Samina.”
“Samina” is soap, while “alatas” or “alata” means spicy, referring to the spice that the Yoruba traders brought to Ghana. On the other hand, “Anago” is the Yoruba sub-group in Benin.
Let me also highlight that the female traders from Yoruba are not mere sellers. They harvest raw ingredients from farms and process them into finished products.
2. African black soap variants
Fun fact: Authentic African black soap is brown. With over one hundred varieties, the bar is generally textured but they come in different shades that range from beige to brown.
Traditional real African black soap ingredients are often composed of a combination of plantain skin ashes, palm oil, cocoa pod powder, and water. Other versions are mixed with coconut oil, tropical honey, and shea butter.
To date, many women in West Africa continue to produce handmade black soap using recipes that they have inherited from their mothers and those that came before them.
3. Real African black soap benefits
Medical News Today lists at least over a dozen of benefits. For as long as no fragrances or dyes are added, African black soap is safe for most skin types.
Users claim to take advantage of its antifungal and antibacterial properties. On top of the moisturizing effects, it has helped many people in reducing acne, fine lines, dark spots, and even razor bumps.
As a cleanser, the black soap can serve as facial and body wash and a makeup remover. When it comes to soothing rash and eczema, more research is yet to be done but some folks have reportedly been satisfied with its effectiveness.
Let me also emphasize that the benefits I mentioned above are based on what people have reported and not what each product claims. If you want to address discoloration, for instance, check the label to see if it says “African black soap even skin tone.”
Real vs. Fake
Given the information I provided regarding history, variants, and benefits, it should be easier for you to spot the difference between real vs fake African black soap.
To avoid confusion, I am using the word “fake” to mean that the product is made and sold by unauthorized manufacturers and resellers. These unauthorized dealers do not comply with the law.
1. Soap’s features
Both the method and the ingredients influence the features of an authentic African black soap, Rustic Wise shares. Since the real black soap is handmade, expect to see a coarse texture and jagged edges.
Besides cocoa pods’ natural colors, the amount of time that it took to combine the oils and plant ashes will produce a broad range of shades of brown. You will also see some bits of gray and black on the bar.
Another key distinction is that the African black soap feels soft to the touch, as though it will crumble if you hold it firmly. Meanwhile, an ordinary bar is hard due to the lye used to make it, specifically sodium hydroxide.
Yet, appearance does not always indicate the authenticity of a product. For instance, many people asked, “Is SheaMoisture African black soap real?”
This is mainly because the soap has a perfectly rectangular shape, which is a stark contrast to the description I shared above.
For those who do not know, SheaMoisture is one of the brands under Unilever and they comply with laws and regulations wherever they operate.
2. Poorly-designed graphics, packaging, and misspelled words
In the past, poor packaging and spelling errors used to make us think twice about buying them. Now that everyone has access to design software and gadgets at home, it can be harder to spot a fake.
Still, this does not mean that you should not check the packaging thoroughly before buying the product.
In the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission provides a list of requirements for the packaging, which is mainly:
- A word that identifies the product as a soap
- The product’s net weight
- The name of the brand and business address
If you don’t see these on the product’s packaging, it is best not to risk using them.
3. Price point
Products like soap have a broad price range. Some brands sell between $5 to $10 per piece while luxurious ones are twice as expensive.
As pointed out in this Nigeria Public Health article, labor cost, import fees, ingredients, and many other factors dictate the price of African black soap. In any case, it is best to check the market price of the brand and variant you like to get ideas.
If you see a black soap that is way below the market price, you’ll have to wonder. Is the seller simply trying to get rid of inventory to close the shop for good? Is the soap smuggled into the country? Is the business registered?
Granted, some of us may experience some adverse reactions toward certain ingredients, making acne worse. If you are dealing with legitimate businesses, you can hold them accountable.
When cheap fake African black soap burns your skin, you may have a hard time going after the vendor.
Tips on How to Find Authentic African Black Soap
1. Real African black soap brands to try
In the US, SheaMoisture is quite popular. As for my recommendations, check out African black soap from Alaffia and Shea Radiance. Besides these, Dudu Osun from Tropical Naturals is also worth trying.
These brands boast of selling “fair trade” products, which means the women in the communities who craft your soaps are paid fairly.
2. Where to buy real African black soap
One sure way to prevent authenticity-related issues is to buy directly from the brand’s website.
Apart from disclosing important information related to the product, the official website often shows a list of authorized distributors and resellers. Some of them even have store finder features. All you have to do is type your city or state and you will see the address of the shop.
You can also check out trusted e-commerce websites and apps since many of them provide user reviews. As such, it will be easier for you to determine whether the African black soap is fake or legit!
From time to time, we find ourselves wanting to explore new products to improve our skin.
Unless you are a soap connoisseur, however, it is almost impossible to differentiate real African black soap vs. fake by just looking at it.
If you can’t be bothered scrutinizing the soap samples and packaging, simply buy from authorized vendors so you know that you are not being scammed. Remember, counterfeit soap, cosmetics, and drugs may contain ingredients that harm your health.