Cocoa butter is a by-product of the cacao production and the major ingredient in chocolate. For skin care it offers some fantastic properties.
Cocoa butter is a luxury product. It creates a very smooth cream and it is very nourishing. It can also add a nice hint of chocolate to any cream.
The butter is solid at room temperature. It’s melting point is at 37°C.
Cocoa butter is very moisturising, making it great to treat dry and itchy skin, stretch marks, chapped lips, and burned skin. It can help to improve skin elasticity, ease wrinkles, and fade scars.
Aside from the awesome healing properties, cocoa butter is also a very stable fat. This means that is does not go rancid quickly and can have a shelf life of up to five years.
Cocoa butter contains natural antioxidants to protect the skin’s cells from damaging effects of the sun. It is not classified as a sun blocker but rather contributes to the cells’ protection against damage.
There are generally two grades of cocoa butter for skin care: raw or unrefined and refined.
Raw cocoa butter has not been heated to a high temperature in the production process. Therefore it is believed to retain all of the beneficial fats. It will have a stronger chocolate smell than its refined version. When working with unrefined or raw butter it is important to heat the butter thoroughly to eliminate any potential bacteria. The recommendation is to heat the butter slowly to 80°C and to keep it at this temperature for about 20 min.
Refined cocoa butter is often deodorised which means it will smell less (or not at all) of chocolate. Working with the refined version is slightly easier because a thorough heating is not crucial. However, as with any refined product, some properties of the butter can be lost.
Due to its richness cocoa butter can be used in creams, body butters, and moisturising soaps. The general rule of ‘a little goes a long way’ applies however. I would advise against more than 20 percent of cocoa butter in a cream or body butter (no more than 10 percent for soaps).
I also like using cocoa butter to thicken my creams. Blended with oils it creates a pleasant and easy to apply cream. In general it does not clog pores and penetrates the skin rather quickly.
Cocoa butter can be expensive to buy. It is often sold in organic and health stores or online.
As with any skin care ingredient, quality is important. Cocoa butter needs to be free of any other oils and/or scent (other than its natural scent).
Cocoa butter is sold either in lumps or as pellets. The latter is convenient to work with because it allows easier measurements.
A simple recipe
A simple recipe for a light cream using cocoa butter:
15g sweet almond oil
10g shea butter
5g cocoa butter
If working with refined cocoa butter, mix all ingredients in a bowl and gently heat over a double boiler until just melted and combined.
If working with unrefined cocoa butter, heat the butter first as described above (to 80°C for 20 min). Once heated through, remove from heat and let it cool to around 40°C to add shea butter and sweet almond oil. Stir well to combine.