What exactly is cocoa butter?
Cocoa butter may bring to mind decadent desserts like chocolate bars, fudgy layer cakes, and chocolate ice cream. However, this delicious ingredient is also a key ingredient in skin creams and other health and beauty products. Unlike cocoa butter in desserts, cocoa butter in your skin care regimen won't make you fat. But can it improve your appearance?
Cocoa butter is a fat from the cocoa bean. To utilize cocoa butter, cocoa beans are removed from larger cocoa plants. They are then roasted, peeled and pressed to separate out the fat - cocoa butter. The residue is then processed into cocoa powder.
Cocoa has been used in medicine for about 3,000 years. It was a favorite ingredient of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, who even used cacao as currency. Recently, researchers have discovered that compounds in cocoa called phytochemicals may help keep your body and skin healthy.
Can cocoa butter really improve the appearance of your skin? Let's take a look at the science behind this sweet beauty claim.
Cocoa beans are fermented on a farm east of Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.
The melting point of cocoa butter is typically around 34–38 °C (93–101 °F), so chocolate is solid at room temperature but melts easily once in your mouth. Cocoa butter exhibits polymorphism, with different crystalline forms and different melting points. Typically, the crystalline forms of cocoa butter are assigned using the nomenclature of Wille and Lutton, where the melting points of I, II, III, IV, V, and VI are 17.3, 23.3, 25.5, 27.5, 33.8, and 36.3 °C, respectively. The production of chocolate is designed to crystallize the chocolate so that the cocoa butter is predominantly V-shaped, which is the most stable form obtainable from melted cocoa butter. (Form VI is either formed in solid cocoa butter after long-term storage or is obtained by crystallization from a solvent). The uniform V-shaped crystal structure will produce smooth texture, shine and elasticity. This structure is obtained by tempering the chocolate. Melting cocoa butter in chocolate and then allowing it to solidify without tempering results in the formation of unstable polymorphs of cocoa butter. This can easily happen when a chocolate bar melts in a hot room and causes white patches to form on the surface of the chocolate, called fat frost or chocolate frost.
What are the benefits of cocoa butter?
Cocoa butter is rich in fatty acids, which is why it is often touted for its ability to moisturize and nourish skin and improve its elasticity. The fats in cocoa butter form a protective barrier on the skin to retain moisture.
Cocoa butter is also rich in natural plant compounds called phytochemicals. These substances can improve blood flow to the skin and slow down skin aging by protecting against the sun's harmful UV rays.
A common use for cocoa butter is to smooth scars, wrinkles, and other marks on the skin. Many women believe that cocoa butter creams and lotions can be used during and after pregnancy to prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Cocoa butter has also been promoted to treat rashes caused by conditions such as eczema and dermatitis.
How to say research
Cocoa butter may smell nice and feel luxurious when you rub it on your body, but there's not much evidence that it improves the appearance of your skin. When it comes to treating scars and stretch marks, the research so far isn't very convincing. Recent researchTrusted Source using cocoa butter to treat stretch marks shows that it is no better than inactive or placebo creams.
Some studies do suggest that cocoa butter has the potential to prevent and treat skin conditions. It also protects the skin from damage that can lead to premature aging. These effects still need to be confirmed through future studies.
How does cocoa butter stack up against other moisturizers?
Due to its high fat content, cocoa butter has a richer, denser feel than many other moisturizers. It is often compared to shea butter, which comes from the seeds of the shea tree in West and Central Africa.
Shea butter is also high in fatty acids, although it does not smell as sweet as cocoa butter. Unlike cocoa butter, shea butter contains vitamins thought to help repair skin damage and speed healing.
How to use cocoa butter
You'll often see cocoa butter as an ingredient in body lotions and facial creams. Because it is edible, it is also an additive in some lip balms. Many cocoa butter products have added sunscreen or vitamins. You can apply one of these cocoa butter products to your skin or lips every day as part of your skin care regimen.
Many cocoa butter lotions and other products contain only small amounts of cocoa butter along with other ingredients and additives. If you're looking for purity, buy it in stick form, which contains 100% cocoa butter. Or, if you're worried about additives, take a stick of whole, unrefined cocoa butter and melt it in hot water to make your own product.
Some do-it-yourselfers have gone beyond basic creams and lotions. They created their own line of cocoa butter skin care products. Some people combine cocoa butter with various oils, such as coconut oil or vitamin E oil, and use the mixture as a moisturizing shampoo. Others use it to make their own shaving lotion.
Risks and Warnings
Cocoa butter is considered safe to use on the skin. The makers of cocoa butter cream say it's safe to use during pregnancy. It may cause rashes or other allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to cocoa butter or other ingredients in cocoa butter products.
Some people question the impact of ingredients added to cocoa butter products. A 2015 studyTrusted Source found that a cocoa butter product has anti-estrogenic effects. This means it reduces or blocks the effects of the female hormone estrogen on the body. Exposure to products with anti-estrogenic effects may affect the development of adolescents during puberty. However, this evidence is still new, and cocoa butter has not been shown to affect children's development.