Cocoa butter sounds like an ingredient for chocolate cake – but that’s not it at all. The butter is related to the chocolate that we all know and love, although they’re far from the same thing.
Instead, cocoa butter is a powerful natural product. Many people use cocoa butter for the skin, finding that it helps provide extra moisture.
It’s a much better alternative than the chemical-laden commercial products out there. Most of them don’t help all that much anyway.
What is Cocoa Butter?
Cocoa butter is a natural fat that comes from cocoa beans. These are the same beans use to create chocolate and cocoa.
Cacao trees grow large gourd-like pods, which contain between 30 and 40 individual seeds. These seeds are the cocoa beans. The beans go through drying, roasting and pressing. The pressing extracts the vegetable fat from the beans – this is the cocoa butter.
Some companies may use extra processes to refine the fat further or to make sure it is high-quality. But, if you choose a good brand, cocoa butter goes through little refinement – making it perfect for your skin.
The butter is sometimes called Theobroma oil, which is a reference to the tree. The product is the same either way.
Cocoa Butter Benefits for Your Skin
Cocoa butter has many topical benefits for the skin. It is a powerful moisturizer and helps to ensure your skin looks and feels better.
Some of the most powerful benefits are given below.
Powerful for Chapped Lips, Eczema and Dry Skin
Cocoa butter acts as an emollient. This means that it forms a protective film over your skin, which helps to prevent water loss. It is a powerful way to improve skin hydration.
The saturated fats also help in these areas, as they are easily absorbed. They also remain on your skin for a few hours, something that isn’t true for many other body products.
What’s more, cocoa butter doesn’t contain nasty chemicals or perfumes. This makes it suitable for sensitive skin and painful rashes.
These benefits apply to chapped lips too. The artificial ingredients in lip balms often make your lips feel worse, not better. Cocoa butter is a much better solution. You can also just rub it directly on your lips, no special recipe is needed.
Alternatively, there are products like the CocaCare Cocoa Butter Stick, which is literally just cocoa butter in a Chapstick-like container.
Makes Skin Soft and Supple
The emollient benefits also make cocoa butter perfect for improving skin softness.
Many people find that the butter makes their skin feel much softer and more supple. This is especially powerful in winter when skin can often dry out and become itchy.
Can Fight Signs of Aging
Cocoa butter is high in antioxidants, including some powerful polyphenols. Polyphenols offer a wide range of health benefits when consumed, but they’re also significant when used topically.
Benefits include improving the elasticity and tone of your skin (1), along with its overall appearance. The antioxidant function can also protect the skin from future damage.
The polyphenols in cocoa butter can also help protect against some chronic diseases (2). These effects are why high-flavanol dark chocolate can be so beneficial. These benefits mostly come from ingesting the compounds, so make sure you get dark chocolate in your diet too.
Cocoa butter helps to fight inflammation. This makes it perfect for any issue related to inflammation, including joint pain, rashes and eczema.
The anti-inflammatory action also makes cocoa butter incredibly soothing.
Reduces Scars and Stretch Marks
Many people use cocoa butter directly on scars and stretch marks. The butter can sometimes remove these altogether. Cocoa butter also helps prevent scars from drying out, which is extremely beneficial. Doing so may improve the appearance of scars over time as well.
Even if it doesn’t, the cocoa butter often helps make the scarring less significant and noticeable.
But, outcomes in this area are mixed.
- Many people are convinced that cocoa butter has incredible outcomes, while studies have failed to find that benefit (3).
- The studies were limited and most focused on preventing stretch marks and/or used lotions containing cocoa butter, rather than cocoa butter on its own.
- These limitations suggest the studies don’t tell the whole story.
Regardless, cocoa butter is safe, so you can simply try it out for yourself.
Perfect as a Shaving Cream
Cocoa butter is often used as a shaving cream, partly because it easily melts in warm water. This is a great way to moisturize your skin and get all of the benefits, while reducing the risk that you’ll cut yourself.
Can Help Prevent Mouth Sores
You can use cocoa butter on your lips or on the inside of your mouth to help prevent sores.
Using Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter melts on skin contact, so you can simply rub it on your skin. Alternatively, you can put a small piece in your hand and let it melt before trying to use it. These approaches are perfect for small areas of the skin, like your lips, scars or stretch marks.
But, cocoa butter is one of the firmer natural butters out there. Many people find it difficult to use directly, especially if they want to cover a large area.
The simple solution is to use cocoa butter to create skincare products.
Making your own skincare products sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Many recipes simply combine cocoa butter with one or two other ingredients.
For example, the site Little Green Dot offers a basic whipped body butter recipe using just two ingredients. The recipe relies on one solid butter and one liquid oil (like coconut oil or avocado oil). The end result is a product that’s much easier to use on its own – but still offers all the same benefits as cocoa butter.
The video below shows another recipe, this time using three ingredients.
The recipes below are other examples that you can try out. Some of them are more complicated. But, the finished product is always worth the effort.
- Chocolate Truffle Lip Balm – from Simple Life Mom
- Mint Chocolate Whipped Body Butter – from Living the Nourished Life
- Lemon Cream Body Butter – from Get Inspired Every Day
- Beeswax Lotion and Massage Bars – from Do It Better Yourself
- Honey Kissed Body Butter Massage Cream – from Easy Aromatherapy Recipes
Cooking with Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter is edible and it can be used in cooking as well. For example, keto fat bomb recipes will sometimes use cocoa butter as an ingredient.
- The site Grass Fed Girl is one example. She has a recipe that is simply called Cocoa Butter Fat Bombs.
- Savita from Chef de Home provides some advice about cooking with cocoa butter and how it can sometimes be a replacement to regular butter.
- There is a great recipe for Raw Cacao Butter Chocolate Bark on the site Eat Drink Paleo.
There are many other recipes out there too. Cocoa butter is also very versatile, and you can simply experiment with it in the kitchen.
Choosing the Best Cocoa Butter
If you’re going to rely on cocoa butter, choosing the right product is essential.
- Unrefined. This is simply cocoa butter with no alterations. Look for organic, raw and unrefined cocoa butter whenever possible.
- Refined. This version goes through extra processing to remove the aroma. The color is often a deeper yellow than unrefined versions. The refining process alters the chemical structure and may remove some of the healthy fats and beneficial compounds.
Unrefined cocoa butter has more potential benefits and should always be your first choice. But, it also has a fairly strong scent, which isn’t always appealing.
Chocolate is great and all, but most of us don’t want to walk around smelling like it. Some skincare recipes require refined cocoa butter for this reason.
Alternatively, the site Lisalise offers some details about how to combine cocoa butter to create good scents, ones that are perfect for skincare products.
Even if you’re choosing refined, focus on high-quality brands, ones that don’t use chemicals in their processing.
Avoid anything called cocoa butter that is white or in a lotion.
- Such products may contain some cocoa butter – but they’ll often include many other ingredients as well.
- Even if they’re just cocoa butter, a considerable amount of refinement is needed to get it to that point.
- If you want a lotion that uses cocoa butter, it’s best to make your own. There are many recipes to choose from.
There are many good options out there and we’ve included some of our favorites below.
Cocoa Butter vs Shea Butter and Mango Butter
- They’re all used to create homemade skincare products.
- Many recipes will require two or three of the butters.
- They exist in refined or unrefined versions.
- They help heal and moisturize the skin, while soothing and preventing dryness.
- You can get very natural and unprocessed versions by carefully choosing the right brand.
None of these butters are inherently better than one another. They all have different advantages and can be used in different ways.
Swipe left to view additional columns.
95°F to 98°F
Roughly 2 years
Roughly 2 years
Roughly 1 year
Main Fatty Acids
Oleic acid and Stearic acid
Oleic acid and Stearic acid
Oleic acid, Stearic acid and Palmitic acid
Very mild sweet scent
Significant nutty scent
Distinctive chocolate scent
The saturated fat distribution also varies across the three types of butter. This helps explain the differences in how they respond.
- Stearic Acid: 31-35%
- Oleic Acid: 34-36%
- Palmitic Acid: 25-30%
- Linoleic Acid: 3%
- Stearic Acid: 35-45%
- Oleic Acid: 40-55%
- Palmitic Acid: 3-7%
- Linoleic Acid: 3-8%
- Stearic Acid: 42%
- Oleic Acid: 46%
- Palmitic Acid: 6%
- Linoleic Acid: 3%
You can choose the best butter based on how you plan to use it, the recipe and what’s available. There are also less common options, such as kokum butter and cupuachu butter.
Blocking the Pores
Interestingly, the butters vary in their comedogenic ratings. This is a measure how likely the butter is to block your pores.
A comedogenic rating of 0 means the butter won’t block skin pores at all, while a rating of 5 means it almost certainly will. The site The Best Organic Skincare explains the system in more detail.
Shea butter is particularly powerful here, with a rating of 0. Mango butter is often considered non-comedogenic as well.
But, that’s not true for cocoa butter.
- Cocoa butter gets a rating of 4. This means it may block the pores and increase acne for many people. User experiences confirm this pattern.
- But, cocoa butter is still good for moisturizing if you’re not prone to acne.
- Some people also report that the butter improves acne. This may be because of the specific compounds present, or due to differences between individual people.
If you’re making your own skincare products, cocoa butter is a common choice. It is a natural choice that helps to moisturize your skin and leave it feeling smooth. It also has a lovely scent and many recipes take advantage of it.
For anyone with oily skin, shea butter may be the best place to start. Or, you can focus on recipes that still contain cocoa butter, just make sure the percentage is low.
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