What is Black Soap and why does it make me the black sheep groomer?
We are getting back to a more natural approach to pet care. Most of us professional groomers, and other pet professionals are looking at alternative ways to better serve our clients. As well as find products that do no harm to them and us, as we are elbow deep in it all day, 5 to 6 days a week.
So, when another groomer asked me what to use as a good hypoallergenic shampoo, I told her about African black soap. She looked at me befuddled. I explained the virtues of it and she promised to look into it. Shortly after I become known as “that weird groomer”, which morphed into “that oily groomer” neither I took offence to. I am always telling other groomers about alternative things to use in their grooming, and thus have a bit of a black sheep reputation. This isn’t a negative thing to me, there is something to be said about questioning the status quo so to speak. Here is how a little black soap convinced me that thinking outside the shampoo bottle can turn out well for you and the pets you serve.
African Black soap is made from the ash of locally harvested plants and barks such as plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves, and shea tree bark. First the leaves and bark are sun-dried and then roasted in a kettle or pot at an even, constant temperature, which is important to ensure color, texture and smell. Then water and various oils are added to the mixture and stirred for at least a day. After that, the "soap" is left to set for two weeks to cure. The plantain skins infuse the soap with Vitamins A, D and Iron, purportedly this blended with other ingredients in the soap creates a natural UV sunscreen.
Why should you care to know about African Black Soap? Because it is a very under used resource available to us as pet groomers. This should be a part of your tool kit. Not a pet groomer, don’t worry it is being marketed for humans, but it works great on animals as well. Now I love products that can be multipurpose, multi species specific and come from a more organic and natural creation process. African black soap fits that mold…Pun intended.
Black soap, also known as African black soap (anago soap, alata simena, and dudu-osun), has long been used to heal problem skin. The deep moisturizing properties aid in healing a myriad of skin issues from Schnauzer bumps, Seborrhea, Hot spots, Stinky dogs, Eczema (in humans and common groomer hand/skin issue) dry itchy skin, overly oily skin and more. While Oatmeal has been touted as the panacea for all things skin, I beg to differ and have jumped off the oatmeal train a long time ago. There are better healing products available to us now. African black soap has the highest concentration of shea butter than any other type of soap available.
African Black Soap is used to lightly exfoliate producing healthier skin. The soap can be used on any skin type and even pets with high sensitivities. This is the “secret weapon” when looking for that hypo allergenic shampoo. It rinses clean and leaves no residue. I have safely used it on both feline and canine clients without any distress to their skin and coat.
African Black soap is generally made by women and is fair-traded. Black soap is traditionally made in west Africa, typically Ghana, from secret family and village recipes. Different tribes and communities have adopted their own specific (secret) blend of oils and cooking techniques, which can be seen in the different color variations among black soap. The ash itself was often used to heal wounds and skin abrasions. Varieties of black soap made in Africa tend to be pure, while soaps made in Europe or the United States sometimes have added artificial ingredients. Depending on the recipe and how long it is cured, it can have many different colors and textures. Experiment with different companies to see who produces what you like.
Using a bar soap for any pet grooming commercially is sometimes a bit tricky. First and foremost, you don’t want cross contamination between pets. Sometimes using a full bar of soap on a pet isn’t practical. I like to cut my soaps into smaller pieces to use on that one particular pet. When the bath is finished so is the small piece of soap I used. No way to cross contaminate, using the soap again on another pet.
African black soap produces a nice rich lather, and you can usually feel the luxurious richness of the shea butter come through. Once you rinse your pet and condition the coat. You will see such a difference in the skin and coat over time, for the pets that you groom regularly. A great little side effect is that your hands will be so much softer and less dry from the harsh detergents in most commercially produced shampoos.
I hope you become a black sheep groomer like me, or better yet get a reputation as being The Oily Groomer in your community. Different can be better.
*Disclaimer* This is not a substitute for medical advice for humans or animals. This is my opinion as a CA for humans and animals and a professional pet groomer. Always consult with a professional before using essential oils on yourself or your animals*