The Science Behind Common Over-the-Counter Remedies Used in Dermatology
August 2014 | Volume 13 | Issue 8 | Original Article | 960 | Copyright © August 2014
Ross Brothers MD, Rawn E. Bosley MD, and Steven Daveluy MD
Wayne State University Department of Dermatology, Detroit, MI
There are many over-the-counter products used to treat dermatological conditions. Patients are inundated with information about these
products. Dermatologists often encounter questions about the usefulness of over-the-counter products as anecdotal data about such
products is often adapted as common practice in the medical field. Modern dermatology training does not include pharmacological
education on many of the over-the-counter products commonly used by patients. In this current age when patients have increasing
interest in using “natural” remedies, it is important that dermatologists can provide guidance to patients regarding some of the most
common products that they may encounter. This article is designed to provide introductory information on the common uses for several
over-the-counter products as well as to display any evidence in support of these products for dermatological diseases.
J Drugs Dermatol
Our patients are inundated with information and misinformation
about many over-the-counter products
used for various dermatological conditions. Family
remedies and folktales regarding the use of products to treat
skin conditions are often passed down generation to generation
and among friends. Anecdotal data about such products is
often adapted as common practice in the medical field. Modern
dermatology training does not include pharmacological education
on many of the over-the-counter products commonly used
by patients. This article is designed to provide introductory information
on the common uses for several over-the-counter
products as well as to display any evidence in support of these
products for dermatological diseases.
Black soap is purported to provide deep cleaning of the skin and
are thought to be helpful in conditions such as acne vulgaris
and rhytides. Black soaps are also used for excessive oily skin
and as shampoo.
Black soaps are made from oils and ashes of agro-wastes.
Agro-wastes are derived from cocoa, palm fruits (cash crops),
groundnut and sorghum (food crops). Other raw materials
needed for traditional black soap production are natural fats and
vegetable oils such as shea butter, palm kernel oil, and palm oil.
Black soaps are made from the debris of argo-wastes. The
sorted wastes are dried in the sun for 7 days then ashed in an
ashing kiln at 250°C for 1-2 hours. The product is then ground
into a fine grey powder. The powder is then leached, filtered
and concentrated before being saponified and cooled. The final
product is then shaped and packaged for distribution.
In an analysis, the contents of black soap ashes were found to
have an alkaline pH. The main ingredients were potassium carbonate
followed by potassium hydroxide, sodium carbonate
and sodium hydroxide. The analysis revealed Black soap has
excellent solubility, consistency, cleansing/lathering ability.1
The popularity of black soap may be related to its completely
natural contents, which can be favorable to patients seeking
natural remedies. The lathering ability of black soap is complimentary
to patients looking for natural soaps and shampoos.
Despite its vast popularity, there are no scientific studies to
support or refute claims of the effectiveness of black soap in
Shea butter is a natural fat extracted from the nut of the African
shea tree. The Shea tree, Vitellaria paradoxa, is found in sub-Saharan
and east Africa. Shea butter is known for its moisturizing
and anti-inflammatory properties and is advertised to be useful
in many inflammatory conditions such as eczema, psoriasis
and other inflammatory rashes. Other common uses of Shea
butter include healing and scar prevention in minor burns and
cuts. Shea butter is also used in an attempt to help restore elasticity
to the skin and minimize stretch marks.
Shea butter contains fatty acids, predominately stearic and oleic
acids, phytosterols and triterphenes. The anti-inflammatory
properties of Shea butter may be related to the shea kernal,
which is rich in phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds
have antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties.
Verma et al exposed murine macrophages to a shea butter ex-