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Clean Slate

Black soap may be the next big thing, but it has long been a part of the world’s best beauty regimes.


“she used to wash her face eight hundred times a day with black soap. Don’t ask me why.” So says a bewildered Woody Allen in Annie Hall as he holds up the object in question: a bar of Erno Laszlo’s Sea Mud Soap. Introduced at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1952, it was an instant cult favorite, garnering devoted fans like Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy.

Other luxury skincare lines have since made the move from ivory to ebony – Marseille’s Marius Fabre makes a liquid version, Origins’ Skin Diver soap gets its hue from antibacterial clove oil, and Carriage 44’s handcrafted No. 1 bar includes activated bamboo charcoal.

While these brands helped set the modern trend, variations of black soap have been in use for centuries around the world. In West Africa, it is traditionally made from plantain skins and cocoa pods. The name and recipe vary from region to region, though the final product – often more golden than black – is always touted for its skin-clarifying properties. Meanwhile, no Middle Eastern hammam experience would be complete without an application of the region’s own form of black soap, a dark paste made from crushed olives. Just have a steam, apply, wait and exfoliate. Or, book a treatment at Fairmont The Palm, Dubai’s Willow Stream Spa and let an attendant do it for you. The result? Skin so smooth you’ll see the light.  Eve Thomas


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