African black soap vs Castile soap: What’s the difference and which one is better?

African black soap and Castile soap have been used as natural cleansing remedies in various parts of the world for centuries. These two vegetable-based soaps are made with natural ingredients and are known to have gentle cleansing and conditioning properties. This makes them good for hair and skin care. Read on to learn more about the differences between these two natural soaps.

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What is African black soap?

African black soap is a 100% natural soap that originates from West Africa. Traditionally it is produced by mixing hot palm oil or palm kernel oil with plantain peel or cocoa pod ash to give a soft or hard brown soap. More recent variations of this soap include other ingredients such as essential oils.

What is Castile soap?

Castile soap is a vegetable-based soap that originates from Spain. Traditionally it is produced with 100% olive oil and sodium hydroxide (hard bar) or potassium hydroxide (liquid soap). Today the soap is made by combining various other vegetable oils like coconut oil and essential oils to add some fragrance.

Black soap vs castile soap: Ingredients

Depending on where the soap you purchased was made, original African black soap can have a combination of the following ingredients :

  • Plantain peel ash
  • Palm oil (Nigeria)
  • Palm kernel oil (Ghana)
  • Cocoa pods ashes
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil (Morrocan black soap)
  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter

Common additives include eucalyptus essential oil, lavender oil, camwood, aloe vera, honey, lime etc.

Traditional Castile soap is made with 100% olive oil and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) for bar soap, or potassium hydroxide (caustic potash) for liquid soap. However, it is common to find more modern bars with other vegetable oils such as :

  • Coconut oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Sunflower oil

Castile soap can have various scents based on the essential oils added.

Black soap vs castile soap: Uses

While African black soap is a skincare product, Castile soap is real multi-purpose soap.

This study revealed that black soap is used as an antimicrobial, anti-acne, exfoliant, skin toning, scar fading skin care product. African black soap is quite gentle and has antibacterial properties that help keep the skin clean.

It can be used in the form of:

  • a face cleanser
  • exfoliant
  • body wash
  • hand soap

Castile soap, on the other hand, has several uses. In body care, it is used as:

  • A body soap/ wash
  • Hand soap
  • Shampoo
  • Face wash
  • Make-up remover
  • Make-up brush cleanser

For household cleaning it is used as :

  • All-purpose cleaning agent
  • Laundry soap
  • Dish soap
  • Bug repellant
  • Toilet cleaner
  • Floor and window cleaner

Difference between liquid black soap and liquid castile soap

Below are the similarities and differences between both soaps.


  • Both are 100% vegetable-based and toxin-free
  • They are affordable and easy to use.
  • Gentle and can be used as facial cleansers and hair shampoos
  • Both are eco-friendly, biodegradable, and leave no polluting trace in the environment.
  • They are equally gentle on the skin.


  • Liquid black soap can kill bacteria due to its antibacterial properties while Castile soap simply washes away bacteria.
  • Liquid black soap can be very messy to use because of its brown color compared to Castile soap which has a clear color.
  • Castile soap can have a drying effect when concentrated and thus needs to be diluted before use. This is not the case with liquid black soap.

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Black soap vs castile soap for skin

Both Black and Castile soap have great benefits for the skin. Both have moisturizing (1, 2) and inflammatory properties (3, 4) as they are made with nourishing shea butter and olive oil. African black soap contains shea butter which is a known remedy for dry and itchy skin. Castile soap is made with olive oil which contains fatty acids that help boost the skin’s hydration.

However, African black soap has the advantage of being more suitable for all skin types. It is gentle enough for sensitive and dry skin and at the same time can help control the production of oil in oily and combination skin types. Castile on the other hand can have a drying effect when used concentrated. Making it less appropriate for dry and sensitive skin.

African black soap equally has great antibacterial properties that help protect the skin from infections such as acne.

It is known to improve skin texture by eliminating uneven skin tone. It equally works to eliminate and soothe razor bumps caused by ingrown hairs and skin rashes.

Added to this, a study on traditional soap revealed that African black soaps can be used to fight skin yeast infections like Candida Albicans. This is not the case with castile soap.

Black soap vs castile soap for hair

Castile soap is an ideal hair cleanser for sensitive or eczema-prone scalp. It is gentle and helps soothe irritated scalp thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil.

African black soap on the other hand due to its antifungal properties can help rid the scalp of dandruff. Although there is not enough scientific data to back this up, it is believed to help boost hair growth by cleansing the scalp and providing a healthy environment for hair follicles to be properly nourished.

Both are great for the hair however, they should be used with care to avoid drying out the scalp.

Black soap vs castile soap: Side effects

Whether for hair or for the skin both of these soaps need to be used with caution as both have a few side effects.

Side effects of Castile soap

  • Liquid Castile can cause dryness in the skin and scalp if used undiluted
  • Experts recommend never using castile soap on colored hair as it is a strong alkaline and can wash hair color off.
  • Also when using castile soap when combined with lime or apple cider vinegar can leave an oily film on the hair.

Side effects of African black soap

  • The main side effect of African black soap is that it may cause dryness in some people. Although recommended for all skin types, people with sensitive and dry skin need to proceed with care and start using it in small amounts and not leave it on the skin for more than 90 seconds.