The Problem with Using Black Soap

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sheamoisture-black-soap
I’m not singling out SheaMoisture here—this is the only brand of black soap whose pictures I took myself and own…lol

So here’s the thing about black soap. It’s an age-old remedy for acne and helps to balance oily skins. I’ve personally been quite fond of SheaMoisture African Black Soap because it’s smoother and less irritating than many of the other black soaps I’ve seen (though note that I’ve read the more “authentic” black soaps tend to be more brown in color). BUT there’s something you should know about using black soap.

(Haha—if this were a video I’d dim the lights and switch over to dramatic music…lol)

I’ve received emails and comments from some of you guys telling me about a skincare problem you’re having. I ask what you’re doing in your routine (because I’ve found that sometimes people are sabotaging their skin with something they’re misusing or overusing in their regimen) and so many times the answer was cleansing the face with black soap daily.

I totally understand reaching for something like black soap because it’s something that’s been used from generation to generation and many are made of natural ingredients (though note that some have artificial ingredients added) BUT moderation is key. When I was using the SheaMoisture African Black Soap, I only used it 2-3 times a week max and it wouldn’t be something I’d use in my routine in the winter months. It’s a great deep cleanser for me in the summer months and I LOVED it for body acne but using it too often on my face could dry out my skin—and yes, you CAN “dry out” oily facial skin—what happens is it panics and then produces even more oil to compensate. Some people use it as an everyday facial cleanser and that can just be a recipe for disaster.

I also asked Rachelle Richardson, licensed esthetician and owner of Lespri Spa Services (a facial and massage service that comes to YOU) who joined us at our inaugural Face Flawless Skin Clinic her thoughts on black soap. Here’s what she said:

Black soap is a good deep cleanser but you want to ease yourself into using it and avoid using it daily. I suggest using it 2-3 times a week at most. Make sure to follow with a good moisturizer suited for your skin type. Overuse can lead to sensitized and dry skin. If you already have dry and more mature skin, it can make it drier especially during the cold months. If you have oily skin it can also dry out your skin triggering it to overproduce sebum (oil) and could result in breakouts. In addition choose a reputable brand of black soap where the ingredients are listed on the package. Avoid anything with artificial fragrances and dyes. Black soap is great for back acne. The skin on your body is more resilient than facial skin. It can handle more frequent use of black soap.

The key to a proper skincare regimen is in balance and understanding how often to use the products in your regimen. It’s also about slowing down and taking the time to read and properly follow the instructions that come with the products. You can read tons more skincare posts here or use the menu bar above to browse by topic.

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Allure.com, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.
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51 Responses to The Problem with Using Black Soap

  1. I was considering using a black soap for my bacne. Good to know that it shouldn’t be an every day thing because I sure was about to use it like it was.

    • Danielle says:

      Actually the skin on the body is different than the skin on the face (like it’s mentioned in the post). You’re probably fine using it more often on the body, but of course you may need to decrease use on the body in the colder months (I personally need more moisturizing products on my body in the winter).

      This post in particular is talking about overusing it on your face.

  2. Thanks, good info! I use it at night when I take a bath.

  3. Yep! You can’t use this too much. It make my oily skin peel and burn. I stopped using it. My husband is religious with it. He seals with coconut oil and away he goes. I don’t see how he does it.

  4. 'nelle says:

    I use black soap everyday however, I put a base of avocado oil first then use it. Other than that I couldn’t use it period.

  5. Right! Black soap can be very drying so one should always follow up with a moisturizer and or reduce the number of times it is used in ones regimen

  6. I love the stuff, but I seal with coconut oil as well. It works wonder for my skin.

  7. I can use the Shea Moisture Black soap on a daily basis without any problems, but only the bottle version. Any bar versions of the soap (regardless of brand) dries me out sooo badly. I definitely agree with the article on using it only a few times a week to start.

  8. I use Nubian Heritage (same company as Shea noted in pic) in winter for my sensitive skin and it really helps. I do not use any kind of soap on my face though as it will dry it out.

  9. I use black soap but always seal with coconut oil after. I have never had a problem & my skin never breaks out. Note: I say that & watch me have 5 pimples in the AM????

  10. I have this. Use it on my son 2x a week. I love that shit.

  11. I use black soap when I have worn make up , but I use the all natural type , I have very oily skin and it doesn’t dry me out but I will lessen my use and use my Mario basdecu cleanser and see if it makes a difference

  12. Rosie says:

    I used black soap before for my bacne and it did wonders. I wanted to try it on my face, but was hesitant. Glad I waited for this info

  13. Maisha says:

    I unfortunately learned my lesson the hard way. I was using African Black Soap daily and before I knew it my face was oily yet flaky and broken out in a fine rash. My skin took weeks to return to normal. Now I use it very sparingly.

  14. I use SM black soap once a day. And not even in a full lather, just light lather because I know it will dry out the oiliest of skins. It is my miracle product. I’ve had acne since I was 11. I started using black soap five years ago and I’ve never been this clear skinned in my life.

  15. Drea says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information! I had to learn this the hard way as well. A few months back, I revisited my old friend black soap to try to balance my oiliness. And I must have been using it too often (perhaps looking for a quick-fix), because I experienced some terrible break-outs. Not to mention, my face became oilier than it was before. Now I’m in recovery mode :(

  16. I can’t thank you enough for this information. I’ve been using black soap nightly for maybe 2 weeks after I take my make up off. My skin was feeling great. Then I got a cold. All the blowing left me feeling raw around my nose. But …. last night after my wash my entire face felt irritated and raw and I hadn’t done anything different. I had to wash of my moisturizer because of the sting – ouch. Now I know…. I have overused the black soap. I’m so glad that I read this because that would have been the last thing that I though would cause such irritation. Thanks for the info.

  17. Thanks for sharing! I found out in high school how easy black soap dried out my skin especially during the Winter. I do believe that you should always moisturize as often as possible even when you don’t think your skin is dry. I think black soap is not for me during the Winter however, during the Summer – it works wonders! :)

  18. I like black soap on my body , in summer ! That’s it! I’m not super oily but for sure I couldn’t use it every single day ! Summer time I love it during those triple digit days I feel super clean and detoxed but again on my body not my face! Same thing with charcoal products I can only take the cleansers/ masks a little at a time

  19. Natasha Blevins says:

    I got mine from an African store and I was using it daily…and that is exactly what happened! Breakouts on my chin area and dry spots in my normally oily areas. Thanks, I will be reading more topics and I have already eased up.

  20. Great article! I love the SheaMoisture/Nubian Heritage brand of black soap (bar or wash) for body care only. Use it few times weekly. I find it be a great exfoliant. It also keeps the mild KP (keratosis pilaris) that I have on the back of my thighs & arms in check. Very smooth. I didn’t like as a face wash. I’m oily and acne prone.

  21. Nicole says:

    I bought Shea Moisture and also Dudu Osum to try out. I only use the blk soap at night with my Mary Kay cleansing brush followed by my moisturizer which is coconut oil mixed with Lavender essential oil. Then in the morning I wipe my face with witch hazel, I use washing my face too much and drying it out. This has worked for me. I love the blk soap for my skin too, helps with acne and Its looking like dark spots are clearing up. Thank you for the information on not overusing it.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I used black soap and it felt good the first was the second wash not so good do you kno what is good to use to get it back to normal

  23. Victoria says:

    Ugh I wish I read this sooner! I’ve been having issues with my black soap, I’ve literally been using it everyday, morning and night, for over a year! It hasn’t been helping out my acne, and it is very drying on the skin in the winter. Now I know why I have dry patches in the winter!!! I’m searching for a new daily cleanser now! And using this sparingly!

  24. Jayden says:

    Use the black soap and Cerave cleanser alternatively.

  25. Angel says:

    I’VE BEEN USING BLACK SOAP MORNING AND NIGHT WHICH HAS BEEN GOOD FOR MY SKIN. MY SKINS BEEN BEAUTIFUL! NEW YEARS EVE I WENT OUT UPON RETURNING I USED AGAIN. BAD CHOICE ! I NOTICED WHEN I GOT IN MY BED MY SKIN WAS VERY TIGHT AND FELT IRRITATED SO I APLLIED MORE OF MY MOISTURIZER WHICH IS SHEAR BUTTER (I ALWAYS USE AFTER I WASH) THEN WENT TO BED. NEXT DAY I NOTICE MY SKIN WAS RED IN CERTAIN SPOTS (BURNS) AND SLIGHTLY BROKE OUT. SO I REFRAINED FROME USING THE BLACK SOAP AND BUTTER. I’VE JUST BEEN WASHINGTON MY FACE WITH WATER. I WISH I WOULD HAVE SEEN THIS BLOG SOONER. I WILL NO LONGER WASH MY FACE EVERY DAY. JUST TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO HEAL IT NOW . PLEASE COMMENT ANY SUGGESTIONS. THANK YOU & HAPPY NEW YEAR !

    • Blu says:

      Same here I have like dry patches on my chin and on the apples of my cheeks because I made a mistake of using it twice in one day… but if u found out how to fix it or know how long it takes to go back to normal please let me know cause i hate my skin at the moment it’s dry and gross and I have very oily skin so that says a lot

  26. Serena says:

    Thank you so much for the information. This will be helpful to me as I am just about to purchase Black soap for the first time. Won’t be using it as a daily cleanser but rather as an exfoliate. As you mentioned that the browner the soap the more authentic, which brands would you recommend as there are so many out there and for a first time, I’m really wrried abut buying one that’s not authentic, facial skin is very delicate and care needs to be taken.
    Once again thank you all.

  27. tiara Benton says:

    Maybe it’s just me but I have super oily skin and I’ve just added African Black Soap to my skin routine and it’s making my skin even more oily? Maybe the kind that I’m using? It’s the very authentic one, the one that is brown and has black spots kinda??

  28. Monisha cain says:

    I Love using black soap on my body morning and night. It works really well for me, I suffer from eczema so it doesn’t irritate my skin at all. I always use Heavy creams, oils and emollients so I’ve never experience drying skin on my body. However, I’ve tried it on my face and its little drying, I like using it on my face in the summer 2-3 times a week for a deep cleansing.

    • Danielle says:

      hey Monisha!

      Makes sense since the skin on the face is more delicate than the skin on the body (which is why there are different products for body and face).

  29. India Dillard says:

    Omg i wish i saw this last week ?. I’ve been using it 2x a day since i bought it last week ??. I have oily skin but now i have dry patches around my nose and i dont know what to do..

    • Danielle says:

      Hey India!

      And if it’s cold where you are now, that can be drying out your skin even more. I would say only use it maybe 1-2 times a week leaning more on the once a week or once every two weeks if it’s cold where you are now. Use a gentle cleanser that speaks to your current skincare needs and skin type twice a day instead. And make sure you’re using a moisturizer during the day with SPF that speaks to your current skincare needs and skin type—at night use a moisturizer that also speaks to your current skincare needs and type—your night moisturizer won’t have SPF in it and might be more hydrating than your daytime one.

  30. Candice Rose says:

    I have a small patch of rosecea on my face. Wondering if you should use it all over your face or Just on the problem area?

    • Danielle says:

      I personally would be very careful using black soap on rosacea—it can be very drying. I would use something in the calming/soothing category that speaks specifically to your current skincare needs and skin type when it comes to rosacea even a small patch.

  31. doug says:

    I think this stuff is making my hair fall out. I never had thin hair until now, nobody in my family is bald, starting using this a few weeks ago and my hair is wayy too thin. Too fast to just be “going bald” its coming out in clumps, this the only diff thing i used

    • Danielle says:

      You’ve been using black soap in your hair?

      • latoya says:

        IF I use dermalogica .5 salicyc acid face wash twice a day. would It be safe to use black soap in my routine once or twice a week as an exfoliator/deep cleanse and for my marks.

        • Danielle says:

          Hey!!! I would try it closer to once a week depending on if you wear makeup and how much (if you wear makeup often, twice a week might be more beneficial to you) BUT make sure you lessen the usage if you add any more acids to your routine so you don’t dry out your skin. Black soap isn’t bad in and of itself, the over usage is what makes it hard on the skin.

          Also make sure you’re wearing an SPF during the day.

  32. Nicole says:

    I had been doing oil cleansing (with Jojoba oil) which was working pretty well for my oily/combination and fine skin, but I wanted to try SM African Black Soap because of the recent hype over it. My skin was looking and feeling great for the first few days/week, but then I started having skin issues.

    I also recently started a non-hormonal birth control (Paragard), so I figured that could possibly be causing the issues but I wasn’t convinced. I am glad that I came across your blog post because it makes sense… I’ve been using SM daily and my skin has been SO dry and even flaky! I’m going to eliminate SM for a while and return to oil cleansing. I really hope overuse is the issue and not my birth control!

  33. Maria Martinez says:

    I wish I had seen this before using it. I used Rise and Shine African Black Soap 2x a day for 3 days. My skin looks the worst it has ever looked before in my entire life ? It’s bad I don’t feel like going anywhere. I would post pictures if it were possible. My skin is full of red bumps all over except my forehead that’s the only spot. I really hope it goes away.

    • Danielle says:

      Hi Maria!

      Sorry that’s happening to you :(

      It should go away with time. You have to be really easy on your skin and maybe cut back on certain other products in your routine until it goes away so you don’t further irritate your skin and make it worse. If you don’t see any improvement in a few days, I would suggest seeing a derm just in case there isn’t something else going on.

  34. Faith says:

    I use raw African black soap and I have acne only on my forehead. I don’t know if my skin is purging or not, I started using black soap about 2 weeks ago and my face started breaking out around my lip area and a bit on my forehead, the pimples around my lip have cleared up but they left dark spots and it seems like the acne on my forehead is not getting better or worse. I use it every night with witch hazel toner, vitamins E oil and coconut oil to seal everything in. In the mornings I use the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, the Cetaphil moisturizer with a purple top (it also has spf) and I use just a little bit of the vitamin E oil and coconut oil because it’s winter time. I really want this to work, it doesn’t burn or anything but it kind of breaks me out a little, but then they go away and leave dark spots. Should I stop using?

  35. Faith says:

    Hi, so I just recently bought African black soap when I went to Nigeria and I started using it about 2 weeks ago. I don’t really know if i’m purging or not, I got breakouts around my lip area which I had never gotten before, however they cleared up but they still left dark spots. My forehead is my problem area and the pimples there have gotten a bit worse since I started using, the breakouts cleared up and left dark spots. Should I discontinue use?

    • Danielle says:

      Hey Faith!

      So as I mentioned in the post, it’s the overuse of black soap that makes it not so great for skin. It’s often too harsh for daily use and better used as a deep cleanser only a few times a week. The black soap didn’t cause the dark spots in your instance (from what you’re explaining here), the pimples did. If you want to keep using it, only use it at a maximum twice a week. Use a gentle cleanser that speaks to your skin type and current skin issues daily.

  36. Amara says:

    I’ve been using black soap for almost 2years now and I keep getting darker no matter my skincare regimen including my face I need help. I actually thought it would really help my skin to brighten up but no way.
    My Bacne just keeps getting bad can someone help me with recommendations??

    Black soap: Shea Moisture

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