Cocoa butter is a natural product with some pretty awesome and diverse uses. It's a key ingredient in all types of chocolate bars and desserts, yet also packs some serious health benefits for skin.
In fact, cocoa butter is a favorite ingredient for many who opt for a natural skincare routine. The chocolate-y smell of this rich fat would appeal to any chocolate lover, and dry skin loves its hydrating properties.
Here's more about what exactly cocoa butter is, its benefits for skin, and how to use it in your skincare routine.
What Is Cocoa Butter?
Cocoa butter (also known as theobroma oil) comes from the beans of the cacao tree. The trees are native to Central and South America where cocoa has been harvested and used for thousands of years. It's thought that cocoa was used as medicine by the Aztecs and other early civilizations.
Cacao trees produce large, ridged pods (also known as fruit) that each contain about 30-40 cocoa seeds or beans. To get cocoa butter, the beans are roasted and pressed to extract the fat. The fat retains its strong cocoa smell and becomes what we call cocoa butter.
After the fat is extracted, the leftover solids are ground up to make cocoa powder. The cocoa butter can be pressed again to make chocolate liquor, which is used to make all kinds of chocolates that you would buy in the store.
Cocoa butter contains fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin K. It also retains other beneficial plant compounds, specifically antioxidants, although in a lower amount than what's found in cocoa powder. (1)
Many of the benefits of cocoa butter for skin come from the fatty acids and antioxidants, which both support healthy skin. Cocoa butter is also popular for skincare because of its long shelf life: 2-5 years.
Top Benefits of Cocoa Butter for Skin
Hydrates Dry Skin
One of the top benefits of cocoa butter is its ability to moisturize and nourish skin. The fatty acids are easily absorbed into skin and provide a protective barrier against water loss.
If you struggle with dry skin, cocoa butter is one of the richest moisturizers you can use. It nourishes skin and works wonders on chapped lips as well. Cocoa butter is usually suitable even for sensitive skin, but you can do a patch test first to make sure you don't react at all.
To deal with dry skin in the winter (or any time), rub a little bit of cocoa butter into chapped or irritated spots and follow these other natural skincare tips.
Calms Irritated Skin
Cocoa butter has shown anti-inflammatory potential that can be helpful for soothing irritated and inflamed skin. This likely comes from the antioxidants and other plant compounds found in the butter. (2)
The fatty acids in cocoa butter also help to form a protective barrier that can prevent skin from becoming more irritated. Using pure cocoa butter (no additives) may soothe skin issues like eczema, dermatitis, and mild rashes.
There's also good news for chocolate lovers: Cocoa butter and powder can have an anti-inflammatory effect internally as well. Just consume in moderation and go for dark chocolate.
May Reduce Signs of Aging
Lab studies have found that cocoa butter can be as effective as other commercial products at promoting healthy skin. However, cocoa butter has the advantage of not containing any synthetic or potentially irritating chemicals or fragrances. (4)
It may even help fight and protect against harmful UV damage from too much time in the sun.
May Help Scars and Stretch Marks
The benefits of cocoa butter for reducing scars and stretch marks have not been proven. Many anecdotal stories from women confirm that it visibly improves stretch marks. However, some research studies claim that a lotion with cocoa butter did not work any better than a placebo for stretch marks. (5)
If you want to try it for stretch marks and/or scars, massage into your skin 2-3 times a day. Cocoa butter still has many benefits for your skin, and you may notice a reduction in marks and scars with consistent use.
Ways to Use Cocoa Butter
One of the easiest ways to use cocoa butter is to apply pure or raw cocoa butter to skin as a moisturizer.
Cocoa butter is harder than other skin oils (like coconut). It has a melting point between about 93-101 degrees F. Most types of pure cocoa butter will start to melt slightly on contact with your skin.
Try buying it in stick form and rubbing a little on your skin after a shower or bath- or anytime you need it. Or place it in a warmer until it starts to melt and use a small amount on dry areas of skin.
Base for Skincare Products
Because of its stability and solid nature, cocoa butter makes a great base ingredient for DIY products like lotions, body butters, and lip balms. You can mix it with other nourishing oils like coconut or almond and other butters like shea.
For an all-natural shaving lotion/cream, melt and mix equal parts of cocoa butter and coconut oil. Add in essential oils like Lavender or Sweet Orange if you'd like and let it cool. Once cool, mix or beat until fluffy and store in a container.
Hair and Scalp Conditioner
For those with dry hair and scalp, cocoa butter can be a great conditioner. Remember, it is a heavy oil, so a little bit will go a long way.
You can also combine cocoa butter with lighter oils like sweet almond oil, vitamin E oil, and even coconut oil. Massage into clean and dry hair for a leave-in conditioner. Or apply it as a hair mask to be washed out in the shower with a gentle, natural shampoo.
For a relaxing and moisturizing bath, add a small amount of cocoa butter to bath water. The heat of the water will melt the butter, and it will float on top to be picked up by your skin.
If you like, add some rose petals or essential oils to the water. Your skin will leave the bath moisturized, good-smelling, and protected! (Just be careful when you get out, since cocoa butter can make your tub slippery.)
There are very few precautions when it comes to cocoa butter.
You should avoid it if you have a known allergy to cocoa products. Cocoa butter is typically suitable for all skin types, but do a patch test before using if you are concerned about an allergic reaction. It can clog pores and may not be a good choice for those with acne.
To get the most benefits for skincare, buy pure or raw cocoa butter because the unrefined version keeps much more of its beneficial compounds intact.
Have You Tried Cocoa Butter?
If you've eaten any type of chocolate if your lifetime, you've already consumed cocoa butter. But have you discovered all of its natural skin benefits yet?
Cocoa butter is a rich, hydrating product that makes a great natural body care ingredient. Try it out as a completely natural and nontoxic moisturizer or to soothe annoying skin irritations.