I haven’t done an ingredient profile for a while, so I thought that would be a great idea for today’s article. Here we’re looking at one of my absolute favourite ingredients – cocoa butter. I love using cocoa butter because it smells just delicious, and because it has so many great benefits for the skin.
What is cocoa butter & how is it produced?
Cocoa butter comes from the cacao (pronounced “ka-cow”) bean which is found inside the cocoa pod which grows on from the cacao tree. Cocoa pods are large gourd-shaped fruit which hold around 30 to 40 cocoa seeds.
Cacao pods are also where we get cocoa from to make chocolate – that’s why good-quality cocoa butter has a wonderful chocolate-y scent.
To produce the cocoa butter, these seeds must be fermented in banana leaves, dried, roasted and pressed, releasing the vegetable fat we know as cocoa butter.
Alternatively, the beans can be cold-processed. Cold pressed cocoa butter is made by pressing the whole bean thus retaining vital antioxidants. This cold-pressing process uses only the heat from the friction caused when pressing the bean which helps protect the antioxidants.
How does it benefit the skin?
Because of its natural make-up, and its nutrient and fatty acid content, cocoa butter is amazing for dry skin and can actually penetrate further than the top layer of the skin, meaning it moisturises deep-down and really nourishes the skin.
Free-radicals are small molecules formed during the body’s metabolism when energy is generated from glucose in every cell in your body. They are also formed by exposure to pollutants such as car fumes, pesticides, and tobacco smoke.
These free-radicals destroy cells, and when these are skin cells you begin to age. Your skin wrinkles and dries up, and you begin to take on the look of somebody years older than you are. They do this through a process known as oxidation (a good way to think of it is to consider how iron rusts when it oxidises), and antioxidants can prevent it. They neutralize the free-radicals, and prevent your skin cells from being destroyed.
Cocoa butter contains a number of different antioxidants which can kill-off a wide range of different free-radicals. In fact, cocoa butter contains a much higher antioxidant concentration then even blueberries and other superfoods.
Stretch mark reduction
Cocoa butter is widely noted to help reduce stretch marks. This is most likely due to its nutrient and anti-oxidant content, as we’ve seen above.
There are no guarantees, but it seems like the secret tip is shared with every pregnant woman in the world. And many women claim that regular use of cocoa butter was what kept their stretch marks away.
Now, I can’t promise that cocoa butter, alone, will keep stretch marks away completely. As I always say, the health of your skin is dependant on more than just what you apply to it every day. For more information about preventing and healing stretch marks, read “natural healing for stretch marks“.
Refined or unrefined?
You can buy cocoa butter in two ways: refined or unrefined.
Unrefined cocoa butter is simply cocoa butter in its raw form – before it is refined and processed. It is creamy-yellowy-beige in colour and has that wonderful chocolate-y scent.
Refined cocoa butter is what’s left after the raw cocoa butter has been processed. The refining process strips the cocoa butter of its scent and colour (many cosmetics companies use this because it’s easier to work into recipes using fragrance and colour).
At Freyaluna, we use only unrefined cocoa butter which we source from fair trade community co-operative projects in Ghana where the cocoa butter is harvested in a sustainable way. We believe that due to the processing to eliminate colour and scent, the “good things” (all the antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients which we looked at earlier) are also lost.
How do I use cocoa butter?
You can use cocoa butter as-is (it comes in fairly hard, solid blocks) as a body moisturiser, or add it to a hot bath.
Alternatively, there are plenty of products on the market which contain cocoa butter.
I love using cocoa butter when designing products for Freyaluna, and it can be found in our Cocoa Body Butter - a rich buttery cream that’s wonderful for all-over your body, Cupcake Bath Melts – a little indulgence at bath time, Body Butter Bars - for use as a body moisturiser or as part of traditional massage, Patchouli & Orange Hand Cream - wonderful cream for everyday use, for dealing with dermatitis, as well as soothing dry irritated skin… and many others.
Cocoa butter can even be used in food and cooking! But that’s a topic for another day…
Until next time,