soap2When my son was a baby, someone recommended African Black Soap for his skin, which was prone to eczema. My Ghanaian husband concurred; black soap is pretty popular in Ghana. But the stuff you find on the store shelves here in the U.S. is not quite like the stuff “back home” in West Africa. I have found that making my own batches of Black Soap (called that because of its dark brown/black color after boiling) can often produce a more satisfying, gentle soap for cleaning and soothing face, hair, and body. Plus…it’s fun to make stuff! 🙂

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • Coconut oil or some other oil to use as your base (palm oil, raw cocoa butter, or raw shea butter)
  • Cocoa pods to crush and burn (this produces ash, which will be a good cleaning agent; you can also use the skins of plaintain, and some folks add tree bark as well)
  • Double boiler
  • Distilled water
  • Fine strainer
  • Soap molds
  • OPTIONAL: Your favorite essential oils, dried herbs or flowers for scent

If you’re wondering where they heck you would find cocoa pods or plantain skins, try the closest African grocery store (in many cities with a decent Ghanaian, Nigerian, Somalian, or Ethiopian population, you can find an ethnic grocery store within the community). Otherwise, try a Latin/Caribbean grocery store, or check out this online directory of African grocery stores in the Diaspora.

Okay, so here’s what you need to do:

  1. Roast and then burn your cocoa pods/plantain skins to produce an ash. This ash will be your potassium hydroxide, the caustic agent that makes soap a good cleaner. The more ash, the more concentrated your soap will be.
  2. Add the ashes to 2 cups of warm water and stir until dissolved. The liquid should become dark.
  3. Bring water to a boil and then lower the heat.
  4. Once ashes are completely dissolved, strain the mixture through a fine strainer.
  5. Heat your oil over low heat until it’s melted and warmed through.
  6. Add the ash mixture, stirring as you pour. Add until the oil is black. Keep stirring over low heat until the mixture is smooth.
  7. This would be the time to add a few drops of essential oil, if you like.
  8. Keep stirring. The mixture will start to look like cappuccino (frothy on top). Scoop the frothy liquid from the top as it forms, and place into soap molds.
  9. Play the waiting game. It can take up to 2 weeks for the soap to “cure,” producing a firmer, more lathery, longer-lasting bar of soap.
  10. Store your finished soap on a dry surface, as it dissolves easily in water and (in my experience) can leave a black film along your sink if it gets wet.

And, there you have it: Black Soap, AfroGranola style!

Have you had good or bad experiences with soap, and soap-making? Post below or drop me a line, anytime, at afrogranola@gmail.com

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