This $5 All-Natural Soap Cleared Up Every Single Pimple on My Back — and the Scars
State of Skin is our monthlong exploration of what women love, hate, and need to know about their skin — from the most common concerns to the best kept secrets in beauty.
My late teens were a very strange time. On the outside, it seemed as though I had everything going for me — I graduated high school on the honor roll, got into a great university with two scholarships, and knew what career I wanted to pursue — but I never felt more insecure.
I didn't have full-on chronic bacne, but every type of blemish you could think of was present on my back at one point or another, whether it be hard papules, whiteheads, blackheads, or worse — the lingering hyperpigmentation they left behind. Every time I would get out of the shower and turn around to look at my back, I cringed. But according to Dr. Cheryl Burgess, a D.C.-based dermatologist, getting pimples in this area as a teenager is nothing out of the ordinary.
"The skin becomes oilier at puberty and the sebum can clog and block the pores," she tells me. "However, the pores can also become clogged by wearing clingy clothing such as exercise garments or sitting with your back against a chair all day." Gee, thanks a lot, school.
Seeing as I was quite young at the time, I obviously didn't have all the knowledge I have now when it comes to skincare. Plus, let's be honest, it's not exactly easy to treat the skin on your back when you can barely reach certain spots. I simply thought that being extra diligent when it came to washing my back in the shower would be enough, but boy was I wrong.
At the time, I was naively buying whatever overly floral-scented liquid body washes were on sale at the drugstore. And while, sure, as a broke high school student they were doing my wallet a favor, they didn't do much to benefit my skin. A few bottles even made things worse with their drying formulas, which meant more and more hyperpigmentation would eventually form all over my back.
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I continued to struggle with this issue for years, and it got to the point where I even stopped wearing clothing that I loved, like tanks, dresses, swimsuits, and strapless tops, because I was so embarrassed by my skin.
But I finally saw the light during my second year of college, after a friend of mine mentioned that she swears by black soap for clearing up the skin on her face. I don't recall how the conversation came about, or anything else she said about the soap — all I needed to hear was that it worked.
Black soap has been around for ages. It first originated with the Yoruba communities in Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, and Benin and has been used for centuries to heal a number of skin conditions, including dryness, acne, and eczema. It's made by roasting cocoa pods to create an ash, then adding water and other skin nourishing ingredients such as shea butter to form a soap bar — and it had been hiding in plain sight right in front of me, yet I had no idea how much its gentle and non-drying, natural formula could benefit my skin.
By the next morning, I was making my way down to the beauty supply store to find this magical cleanser so I could try it for myself. I hadn't used bar soaps in years (my parents always complained about the residue it left on the tub), but I was living on my own at the time and figured since nothing else had worked, it was worth giving a shot. Once I arrived, I took a whiff of a few bars to see which one I preferred, and Dudu-Osun Black Soap's clean, fresh scent took the cake.
The Dudu-Osun bar that I bought contains honey, shea butter, palm kernel oil, cocoa pod ash, palm bunch ash, aloe vera, and lime juice — all of which Dr. Burgess confirms are perfect for treating blemishes and hyperpigmentation. I started using it every single day, and within a few weeks, I noticed that my back was clear of any pimples. Then within a month or two, the hyperpigmentation had totally faded away. I almost wanted to kick myself once I realized how quickly I saw results.
"These ingredients have medicinal properties," Dr. Burgess says. "Ash, honey, and lime juice are all antiseptics. Additionally, ash products are high in sulfur and absorb oil. Lime juice is also acidic in nature, because of its lower pH, and like in chemical peels, will help to lighten the blemishes. Plus, the oils moisturize the skin to allow further penetration of the medicinal ingredients."
It's been years since I first tested out this magical product from Dudu-Osun, but I still swear by it to this day. Oh, and as for all those backless tops, dresses, and swimsuits I ditched because I was too embarrassed to wear them? Once summer hits, you better believe they're back in my regular rotation.