Saturday, March 3, 2012

Skincare Saturday: Nubian Heritage African Black Soap Review

The combination of Shiseido Ultimate Cleansing Oil, Philosophy Purity Made Simple, Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum, and the occasional use of sulfur-based products has my skin generally pretty happy, but I am (of course) always wanting to make it even better. After reading Pink Sith's review of an African Black Soap-inspired cleanser, I did some research and decided it was the product for me. I found several options at one of the local health food stores (Capella, for those of you in the area), and after checking out the consensus (yay for smartphones), I decided to pick up the Nubian Heritage option, which was coincidentally the cheapest, score! It cost ~$3.50 for 5 oz, which is pretty awesome.

Background: African black soap is made with the ashes of plantain skins and cocoa pods mixed with shea butter, shea tree bark, and various other shea by-products mixed with palm (kernel) oil and cocoa butter. It's been used by West Africans for centuries (supposedly) for its skin-clearing properties, and is supposed to help with acne, eczema, and a multitude of other skin maladies.

So, my heart high with hopes, I started using the soap to wash my face at night after my oil cleanser. It lathers really nicely, though thanks to the ash, it looks grey and dirty, and it smells pleasant and faintly of shea butter. It's got pieces of oatmeal in it for exfoliation, but honestly, those do diddly-squat unless you use the bar directly on your face (which you really, definitely shouldn't do, because it's way too rough!). It takes awhile to get it fully rinsed off, but it left my skin feeling squeaky clean (literally) but not stripped or tight. So far so good. But I bet y'all can see where this is going...
After 3 days, I noticed a definite increase in blemishes on my face. I decided to keep using the soap anyways in the hopes that they would go away (since none of the reviews on MUA said it had broken them out, so I hoped my skin grouchiness was due to something else), but after another couple of days, it had only gotten worse. It didn't give me cysts, thankfully, but lots of smaller pimples, in weird places that I'd never gotten them before (like under my eyebrow?). I regretfully put it aside and returned to my tried and true products, and planned to review it last weekend. But then I re-read the reviews on MUA, and (very stupidly) thought that it had perhaps been a fluke, and that maybe the soap hadn't broken me out after all, perhaps I'd just been imagining it. And yet, when I started using it again, within 2 days my skin was a mess again, and I knew that twice failure wasn't a coincidence.

And so, my dear readers, I had to admit a painful truth: African Black Soap just doesn't work for me, or at least, the Nubian Heritage variety doesn't. I can't return it, and it takes too long to rinse off to be an effective hand soap, so I will probably hold onto it for a couple of weeks, pondering how to make use of it, before chucking it in the trash. *sob* I do so hate wasting products!  Some people argue there's a difference between made-in-Africa black soap and the commercialized Western "equivalents"; I may have to order the former at some point to compare, because I am eternally hopeful...

The lesson I'm taking away from this experience is that a) my skin hates me, and I really shouldn't provoke it by trying new skincare products. Just leave well enough alone already!, and b) just because a product works for other people (in this case, pretty much everyone else ever) doesn't mean it will for me, because see a). Oh wells. Such is life! (But see the last sentence of previous paragraph for the likelihood I'll actually follow either of these lessons...)

Have you tried African Black Soap? Do you stand with the masses re: its amazing effectiveness, or was it a fail for you, too?
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