A 14-Year-Old Invented A Bar Of Soap That Prevents Skin Cancer — And It Only Costs 50 Cents

Bekele is not only shaping the way for other young scientists, but highlights the impact that one person can have, regardless of their age.

young woman smiling at the camera while holding a bar of natural soap close to her face. JLco Julia Amaral / Shutterstock

A 14-year-old freshman in high school is receiving a plethora of praise and approval after coming up with a genius invention that can help prevent one of the most common cancers in the country.

Heman Bekele, a ninth grader at  W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Virginia, is over the moon after earning accolades and the title of "America's Top Young Scientist."

Bekele invented a bar of soap that can help prevent skin cancer.

Bekele, who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia before moving to the United States when he was four years old, is described by his mother, Muluemebet Getachew, a special education teacher, as someone who is "self-driven," and recalled his fascination with science from a young age.


His scientific achievement had been a year and a half in the making. At 12 years old, Bekele began initially formulating the idea for a bar soap that could prevent skin cancer. The cost of a bar of his soap is reportedly only 50 cents, something Bekele sought to do.

“I was looking into the issue of skin cancer and the fact that, especially in third world countries, people living under the poverty line just can’t afford the treatment necessary for skin cancer led me to try to come up with a solution and that solution ended up being a Skin Cancer Treating Soap,” Bekele told AFROTECH.

RELATED: Hardworking Woman Earns A GED And Becomes A Teacher At The School Where She Was Once A Custodian


In the United States, one in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. About 9,500 Americans are diagnosed daily with some form of skin cancer. It's more common among non-Hispanic white Americans, who are almost 30 times higher than among non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islanders to be diagnosed. 

Bekele worked for four long months alongside his mentor, Deborah Isabelle, a product engineering specialist for the company 3M’s Automotive Aftermarket Division. As his mentor, Isabelle was responsible for providing guidance as Bekele went from having an idea to making it into a prototype.

The backing played a vital part in the development of his Skin Cancer Treating Soap, which is described as a “compound-based bar of soap charged with different types of cancer-fighting chemicals.”

“It’s supposed to help heal the skin internally, which will then show results externally because the skin cancer will slowly start to fade away,” Bekele explained.


Bekele was awarded money and other accolades for his invention.

Bekele was announced the winner of the 2023 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the nation's premier middle school science competition, for his invention of the bar soap to help fight against skin cancer. He also became the first Black scientist to receive this honor.

RELATED: College Student Annoyed By Classmate Who Leaves His Belongings On Desk Every Day Until He Discovers The 'Touching' Reason Why

As a recipient of this award, Bekele was given a cash prize of $25,000, which he admitted has given him more inspiration and drive for the next steps of his bar soap invention.

“More than anything, winning the 3M Scientist Challenge has given me even more motivation,” he told AFROTECH. “It’s empowered me to realize that science can get you somewhere and science is a viable option. It’s also taught me that people want to hear about my ideas, and I’m allowed to create."


"At first, this bar of soap just was a random idea by a 14-year-old, and look where it’s gotten me.”

Bekele's hope is that he can one day turn his Skin Cancer Treating Soap into more than a passion project. "By 2028, I hope to turn SCTS, which is right now just a passion project, into more than that... I hope to turn it into a nonprofit organization where I can provide equitable and accessible skin cancer treatment to as many people as possible," he explained. 


Bekele's initiative to provide not only a simple solution to helping prevent skin cancer but wanting to help disadvantaged communities who can't afford the necessary treatments is commendable. As the first Black scientist to receive the honor, Bekele is not only shaping the way for other young scientists, but highlights the impact that one person can have, regardless of their age.

RELATED: Mom Of A 'Top Tier Kid' Shares The One Souvenir He Wanted From Disney World — 'It Made Him Feel So Good'

Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.