I love finding new cleansers as I believe that they make a huge contribution to the skin's texture and proneness to breakouts, rosacea and the like. A good cleanser is a treatment in its own right. My latest discovery is Sky Botanicals African Black Soap Brightening Cleanser ($16.19) and it does all that a good cleanser should at a reasonable price.

Although Skye's cleanser made on Martha's Vineyard by a third generation herbalist, African black soap really does hail from West Africa. In Ghana, it is called alata soap and in Nigeria it is known more evocatively as ose dudu. There are numerous variations on the basic recipe. For example, some require all the ingredients to be roasted, while others (and this is the version Skye seems to have followed) roast only the plantain. Either way, the amount of roasting gives the soap its black color. Or, in the case of Skye's, a dark brown.

Plantains are a very good source of vitamins A and C and they have a reputation for soothing irritated skin and even combating acne. Cocoa, the signature ingredient in the new Amala range, is a natural sunscreen and wrinkle reducer. Shea also absorbs UV light and is a 'natural moisturizing factor'. As an NMF, it helps keep the intercellular structure of the epidermis intact, and effectively  keeps bacteria out, facilitates the skin’s healing process, prevents dermal irritation and regenerates the skin.

With a zesty perfume of lemon peel, this is a lovely cleanser for skin of all ages. Those prone to breakouts or with dry, sensitive skin will find it especially soothing.


Shea butter and shea bark, palm butter, cocoa butter, cocoa pods, roasted plantain skins and leaves, vegetable glycerin, lemon peel extract, lemongrass essential oil, seaweed extract.