Of all of the exotic health and beauty traditions North Americans import (ahem, argan oil), it’s a downright shame few have discovered the wonders of black soap. I never found a list of ingredients, but it seems to contain olives, argan oil and effectiveness.

With a little elbow grease, this pungent glop will leave you clean and sparkly, the perfect antidote to a couple of weeks’ baked-on traveler grime.

Spa day in Marrakech

Morocco black soap
Your beauty regimen doesn’t need to be any fancier than this

In Marrakech, we met a nice woman who had her own small spa and, upon inspection, were satisfied enough to try out some services. It didn’t resemble a traditional hammam experience in the least, but we did enjoy the benefits of traditional Moroccan products like black soap.

Not quite a gel, not really a paste, black soap works with time, steam and muscle. To get all of the benefits, you strip down to your skivvies and sit is a steamy room with your newest, closest friends. The spa-mistress covers you from tip to toe with black soap and leaves you to marinate for 20 minutes or so. Then, the scrub.

The scrub isn’t a loofah or even puff, it is a pot scrubber. It looks like the prickly side of velcro. The spa-mistress attacks your body like she’s out for revenge. Scads of grey mystery meat fly off and, after about 10 minutes of exfoliating and a cool rinse to wash off the remaining gunk, you are left shiny and new.

My post-scrub condition was “tenderized,” though it’s probably more fair to say “very clean.” As I dressed in my grimy travel clothes and open sport sandals, I couldn’t help but think, “I’ll never be this clean again.”

Finding black soap in the souks

When you’re wandering the souks in most cities in Morocco, keep your eyes peeled for black soap in small, open cans like in the picture. It may not be easy to find, but the reward will be worth the effort.

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