With all the buzz around various chemicals to beware of, the many who gripe of how pricy our natural hair cosmetics seem to become, and the anxiety of testing a new product on your hair while being weary of what it’ll do to your lovely coils, curls, or kinks, I feel that sharing do-it-yourself (DIY) products and recipes are almost imperative in our community. So as a fellow natural, I will do my part and share my African Black Soap Shampoo recipe and do my best to explain as many of the benefits this product has graced my locs with.
What is African Black Soap?
African Black Soap is the product of a compilation of roasted material and their ashes, such as plantain and cocoa pods, as well as an oil blend that varies by region, primarily West African regions. Our ancestors have been using this medicinal cleanser for hundreds to thousands of years and with very good reason. This powerful soap, pure enough for newborns, has an endless list of benefits that, in my opinion, are unmatched. One of the things that make African Black Soap such a great cleanser is its clarifying capability. Because real African Black Soap is raw and unprocessed, there may be fine little specks at pieces as the soap breaks down with water. These make for great exfoliation when using it, a wonderful addition for those with acne trouble. Black soap has many anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that make it great for curing things like ringworm, athlete’s foot, and even candidiasis (yeast infection). Alongside its cleansing ability, black soap has amazing moisturizing qualities that are great for those with dryer skin. Black soap has also been used by many to treat eczema, alopecia, and other inflammation difficulties.
This doesn’t even begin to cover the list of amazing benefits, but you can find a lengthier description in articles like this.
Side Note: Before you begin using black soap, you should learn the difference between Real African Black Soap and others that may have chemicals in it that take away from its true nature. Real African Black Soap is not known to actually be the deep black color that some may be familiar with. In fact, it is actually varying shades of brown, depending on what region of Africa it comes from. Real African Black soap is also soft, mushy, and malleable. If you want to figure out if your black soap is real or not, try mashing it with your hand. If the soap does not disfigure or begin to mold, it is probably a commercialized version. You can also test this by trying to dissolve it in warm water. If the liquid only changes color and maintains its water fluidity, it is most likely real. If you water changes consistency and becomes more mushy, chunky, and less brown in color, it is most likely fake.
Why can’t I just buy shampoo?
Now, now… This is just a suggestion. But if you have this question, I think I would respond something like this:
When I first considered this product, truthfully it wasn’t its ingredients that piqued my interest. It was that fact that I felt this would be a more economic decision than going through one $9 purchase of two cups or less of shampoo in about two and a half washes. I had all the oils I wanted on hand; it was nothing to make this concoction. I typically make my shampoo enough to fill a mason jar to last me about six washes. And before you say, “But I may have more hair than you” (which you probably do, my hair is about 4 in. all around), shampoo is meant to be applied directly to the scalp. If you must use it down your strands, using a sparing amount should still allow you to get ample uses out of your batch. This shampoo suds quite a bit as well, so using the lather to help wash your strands may also work.
My second, and probably more important reason for ditching store-bought shampoos is how customizable this product is. Manufacturers will never be able to accommodate hair as much as the person who’s head it’s attached to. Because you made your batch of shampoo, you know what ingredients are interacting with your hair and scalp, and you know how well they play together. Typically, companies craft their product to suit a larger group of people. While one person may love the product, perhaps olive oil doesn’t play well with your hair. With this simple solution, that problem is eradicated immediately.
So what’s the recipe?
I know I’ve kept you waiting, I just wanted to get the lengthier information out of the way first. But now, let’s get into the good stuff. My choice ingredients are as follows:
- African Black Soap (primary cleanser)
- Coconut Oil (can be a light protein; moisturizing; aids in detangling)
- Jamaican Black Castor Oil (strengthening; anti-inflammatory)
- Tea Tree Essential Oil (primarily a preservative; anti-inflammatory; soothing)
- Lemon Essential Oil (a natural cleanser; soothing; fragrant)
- Rosemary Essential Oil (anti-oxidant; anti-inflammatory; soothing; fragrant)
You will also need:
- A bowl or container with warm water
- A knife (or something that can cut)
- A storage container (I use a recycled mason jar)
- An applicator bottle (for use)
- Measuring tools (optional; eyeballing is okay too)
I have everything. Now what?
Break or cut your African Black Soap into pieces and let them sit in a container of water that is warm enough to melt and dissolve your soap. Stir the mix occasionally to help the soap fully dissolve.
Once fully dissolved, transfer the contents into your desired storage container (such as my mason jar). You could actually use this as is without adding anything else, if you choose.
Begin adding your oils. For a 16oz mason jar, add 1/8th cup of coconut oil, 1/8th cup of Jamaican Black Castor Oil and about a teaspoon of Tea Tree Essential Oil. I also add 15-20 drops of both Lemon and Rosemary Essential Oil. Shake to stir.
Fill your choice applicator bottle for use.
- Two optional ingredients some may want to add are an emulsifier and a preservative. An emulsifier is the binding agent found in many products to hold water and oil together. I recommend testing a small sample if you are not familiar with emulsifiers. Secondly, any product that contains water is susceptible to decay or bacteria. If you do not wish to use preservatives, properly storing your shampoo should allow it to last a fair amount of time. Store your shampoo in a cool, dark place to preserve it for anywhere from one to two weeks, as bacteria prefer warmer environments. Storing your mix in a fridge may extend this time. Because this mix has a large portion of Tea Tree Oil in it, I am comfortable keeping my mix for four weeks or longer; I typically judge by smell (the smells changes from a more fragrant, minty scent to more woody, like trees).
- Lemon Essential Oil can be phototoxic. This means that it doesn’t react well with sunlight and can make your skin susceptible to sun damage. Cold- or Expeller-pressed Lemon Essential Oil is considered phototoxic. If you wish to use this in your products, I advise using it in the evenings or at night (that is, if you intend to leave the house). Here is an article that further explains phototoxicity and other essential oils that may also be phototoxic.
- Remember that this recipe is just a guideline or basis and is 100% customizable. All listed ingredients are just what currently work for me. You may add and remove things as needed.