Dr. Wood's Pure Black Soap
by Janice Cáceres
For several years now, I have been an aficionado of Dr. Wood’s line of castile soaps. I had never even heard of this line before moving to New York State, where I ran across it in the natural products section of several local grocery stores.
I was trying to find a product I could use on both body and hair that would not be drying. While I love Dr. Bronner’s, it has always been a bit drying for my hair, and is a bit expensive--although I still use it in both the bath, as hand soap, and in making my cleaning supplies.
So, back to Dr. Wood’s…my first purchase was the Lavender and Shea Butter product. I loved it!! I still love it!! It works on both my skin and hair, and is wonderful as a facial cleanser. The suds are excellent for removing makeup, and it works wonderfully for shampooing my hair after using henna—which can be difficult to remove—as well as every day.
I have heard that castile soap can leave a residue on hair, but I have never experienced that problem. However, a quick rinse of a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a quart of warm water would probably take care of that problem.
Browsing in the natural foods section of my local Price Chopper one day, I stumbled upon their “Pure Black Soap”. Used in conjunction with shea butter as a moisturizer, African Black Soap is traditionally credited with giving the women of Africa clear, smooth, and very young-appearing skin, and I have often wanted to try it.
I really do not care for bar soaps, so when I saw that my favorite line of castile soap had such a product, and for such a wonderful price ($3.99, 16 oz.), I said to myself, “SOLD!!”.
It must work—a second trip a couple of weeks later to the same store, and they were completely sold out. This may explain why it took me so long to discover this wonderful product.
The ingredients are as follows:
Purified water; saponified hemp and olive oils (with retained glycerin); black soap concentrate; natural fragrance oil blend; tocopherol acetate
(vitamin e); sea salt; citric acid; panthenol; rosemary extract; natural caramel
EWG rates it a 4, largely because of the fragrance (rated 8); however, these are essential oils and I do not seem to have a problem with them. The fragrance is very mild and there is more of a “castilly” smell than anything.
There are some reported allergies and contamination issues with vitamin E in products. Citric acid is a source of concern for the EWG, as well as hemp oil (a 2 on the rating scale). I tend to weigh my own knowledge of ingredients against the computerized system on the EWG and take it from there. It is a wonderful program and a useful tool; however, it is computer generated and does not pick up on subtleties.
The basic ingredient in Dr. Wood’s Pure Black Soap is, of course, black soap concentrate. The making of black soap has been handed down from generation to generation in Africa, primarily Western Africa. Leaves and bark from banana trees, plantain skins, palm tree leaves, cocoa pods, shea tree bark, etc. are burned. Water is added to the ashes and then an oil (palm, coconut, olive, etc.) is added. This is stirred for about a day, and then set to “cure” for approximately two weeks. Each tribe has its own method.
Whether Dr. Wood’s buys their black soap and shea butter from a participant in the Fair Trade Federation is unknown; my letters to them have thus far gone unanswered. I will keep readers updated as I receive more information. However, until then, I do love this product, and my skin looks and feels wonderful.
Dr. Wood’s Pure Black Soap, as well as other Dr. Wood’s products, is available online through several venues. If you live in the Northeast, it is available at Price Chopper, local natural food stores, Hannaford’s, and Wegman’s. It is eco-friendly, and comes in several sizes—from 8oz. through 32 oz. They also have a line of lotions; however, the last time I checked, the lotions contain parabens. Again, I will keep readers posted, especially as many companies are discontinuing the use of parabens in their products.