Cocoa butter is basically a type of natural fat that is obtained from high-quality cacao beans that the Cocoa Tree pods yield. The power of this elixir of nature in healing dry and sensitive hair and skin has been recognized around the globe.
Let’s begin with a glimpse into the important qualities of Cocoa butter first before we dive deeper.
Table of Contents
- Cocoa Butter in a Nutshell
- Tracing The Origins of Cocoa Butter: Where Did It Come From?
- The Mayan Delight
- The Food of The Gods
- Historical Uses of Cacao Beans
- The Royal Drink
- Cacao’s Medicinal Value
- Cacao and Its Popularity in Europe
- The Benefits of Cocoa Butter
- Oleic Acids
- Stearic Acid
- Palmitic Acid
- Linoleic Acid (Vitamin F/Omega 6)
- Arachidic Acid
- Palmitoleic Acid
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Alpha-Linolenic Acid (Omega-3)
- The Advantages of Using Cocoa Butter For The Skin
- The Advantages of Cocoa Butter For The Hair
- Therapeutic Effects of Cocoa Butter
- Cocoa Butter Harvesting Process
- Favorable Temperatures
- Soil Type
- The Leaves of The Cacao Tree
- The Cacao Tree Stem
- Cacao Flowers
- The Process of Cocoa Butter Extraction
- Different Qualities of Cocoa Butter
- Cocoa Butter Uses & Advantages
- Making Natural Homemade Lip Balm
- Cocoa Butter For The Skin
- Exfoliating Scrub Using Cocoa Butter
- Homemade Body Butter
- Cocoa Butter-based Hair Conditioner
- Immunity Enhancing Massage Cream
- Varieties of Cocoa Butter & Their Advantages
- Precautions When Using Cocoa Butter
Cocoa Butter in a Nutshell
- Cocoa butter is a natural fat that traces its origins to the Cocoa tree pods which contain cacao beans.
- Cocoa butter will quickly melt at skin temperature and will penetrate the tissues, healing and soothing dry and sensitive skin. It will also eliminate and prevent the occurrence of marks and scars and is believed to possess photo-protection properties which means it’ll shield your skin against UV radiation too.
- Cacao beans are the unprocessed and raw beans that are stationed inside the fruit pods. Cocoa, on the other hand, refers to the beans once they’ve been processed after harvesting.
- Cocoa butter is not just beneficial for the skin but the hair too. When applied to the hair, it will moisturize the hair strands and make them damage-free. Cocoa butter supplies hair with natural oils, imparts them with a natural shine and volume, and also makes them strong and luscious.
- Cocoa butter is also laden with anti-inflammatory compounds that will reduce any irritation, swelling, and redness in the skin tissues. What’s more, it is known to promote immunity and will relax the body. You can also use Cocoa butter for relief from infections and burns.
Tracing The Origins of Cocoa Butter: Where Did It Come From?
Cocoa butter shares many of its interesting dynamics with chocolate and its many joys. Cocoa butter is, in fact, a natural fat, rich in texture and constitution, that is obtained from cacao beans which are present in the Cacao tree pods.
The Mayan Delight
The tree is also referred to as the Chocolate tree, the term coming from the Mayan “Xocolatl”, which stands for Chocolate derived from the Cacao tree. As we saw a bit earlier, while the word Cacao is used for the beans that are yet raw and unprocessed, Cocoa is the term used for beans post the harvest and processing steps.
The Mayans believed that the Cacao tree was divine and that it spanned the distance from Heaven and Earth, connecting them both and preserving life while itself being the portal to death.
The Food of The Gods
Interestingly enough, Cocoa is known by several names, one of the most common ones being Theobroma or the Food of the Gods themselves. You see, ‘chocolate’ finds its origins in the Aztec word Cacahuatl, which is a term for the “cacao fruit”, “black nut” or “Gods’ food”.
Did you know that the same Aztec word was used for those human hearts that were meant as sacrifices to please the sun and the gods? Chocolate was also used to sanctify the initiation of such ceremonies.
Historical Uses of Cacao Beans
You might be surprised to know that Cacao beans have been used for centuries to extract Cocoa butter in regions where they are indigenous. This includes West Africa, home to more than 50% of the commercial cocoa produced in the world and regions of Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Cocoa butter has been revered as a natural emollient with its characteristic mild aroma. For centuries, it has been used as a moisturizer that has the potential to heal the hair and the skin that have been exposed to environmental stresses including the wind and the sun.
The vegetable fat, edible and pale-yellow in color has been an essential component of pharmaceuticals and toiletries. It also finds use in traditional cuisines and is used to produce chocolate where butter is a by-product.
However, that’s not all when it comes to cacao beans. Cacao beans also find numerous medicinal and culinary uses and have even been used as a form of currency. This still continues to date in some regions of South America.
The Royal Drink
The Olmecs community in 1500-400 BC found out that the fruits of the Cacao tree were not just edible but that the fruit could be further processed to form numerous flavors when developed.
It was discovered that when the crushed beans were mixed with water and chilies, spices, and herbs were introduced, the result was a delicious concoction that was called ‘Chocolate’. It was, however, bitter in taste and was often served to the priestly and royal classes.
The Mayans in 600 BC and the Aztecs in 400 AD perfected some powerful techniques for the cultivation of Cacao which was a symbol of abundance. Cacao beans were used as a monetary currency and a measuring unit too.
Cacao beans also had an immense religious significance in that Aztec rituals often saw Cacao beans being offered to Quetzalcoatl, the God who gifted humankind with the Cacao tree. It is said that the tree had earlier been only accessible to the gods themselves.
The Cacao beans were offered to the patron saint and were also a part of royal funerals.
Cacao’s Medicinal Value
In the due course of time, the Cacao fruit’s immense medicinal value was recognized. It was used to treat diarrhea and intestinal infections and to keep thyroid under control.
Cacao fruit was also being used as a mild stimulant. While the young leaves of the Cacao tree were used to disinfect wounds, the peels of the Cacao beans found uses in remedies that were found to be effective in diabetes and diseases of the bladder, kidneys, and liver.
Cacao leaves and beans were often brewed to make concoctions that were known to be effective against colic, asthma, cough, weakness, loss of appetite, malaria, fractures, poisoning, and pneumonia. The butter extracted from the beans was also helpful in relieving fatigue, burns, split lip, and skin ailments.
Cacao and Its Popularity in Europe
It is said that Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans to have witnessed the magic of Cacao beans in 1502. They first saw what was eventually called “Brown Gold” in the Bay of Honduras at the time of the fourth voyage at a canoe’s bottom. The canoe belonged to New Spain aboriginals who had been using the beans as currency.
While Columbus first saw these beans, Hernando Cortez, the Spanish Conquistador, is believed to have first introduced the Cacao tree to Europe. It is said that when he visited the Aztec community and enjoyed a chocolate drink with the emperor, he later introduced the equipment and the drink to the Spanish Court in the year 1528.
Until this time, the value of chocolate in trade hadn’t been realized but the war fought against the native tribes changed everything. The fall of the Aztec civilization saw efforts to cultivate in New Spain the Cacao tree to foster trade relations with Europe.
Cacao cultivation spread to the East from Europe and the tree came to be recognized around the world. Later, in 1828, Conrad Von Houten invented his Cocoa press which could be used to extract pure chocolate. As a result of the Cacao bean pressing phase, Cocoa Butter was also produced.
The Benefits of Cocoa Butter
The primary chemical compounds that are found in Cocoa butter include Stearic acid, Oleic acids, Linoleic acid, Palmitic acid, Arachidic acid, Vitamin E, Palmitoleic acid, Vitamin K, Phytosterols, and alpha-Linolenic acid.
Oleic acids are powerful agents that have been associated with several important abilities:
- They can help keep the skin soft, supple, and radiant
- They also possess anti-aging properties and will remove premature wrinkles as well as fine lines
- Stimulate longer, luscious, and thicker hair
- Remove dandruff and will promote hair growth
- Have antioxidant properties
- Promote immunity
- Affect the butter’s softness or hardness
- Known to be effective in preventing stiffness, joint inflammation, and pain
Another important constituent of Cocoa butter which helps:
- Cleanse the skin and the hair. It can help remove sweat and excessive sebum from the skin and the hair
- Stearic acid also has preservative properties and will keep formulations effective even when stored for prolonged durations of time
- Bind oil and water effectively being a powerful emulsifying agent
- Soften the texture of the skin
- Protect and condition the skin without causing a loss of luster
- Maintain solid consistency for Cocoa butter
- It is considered the most common saturated fatty acid and will soften hair
- It does not leave the hair sticky and greasy unlike some other chemicals that soften the hair
- Known to possess emollient characteristics
Linoleic Acid (Vitamin F/Omega 6)
- Helps in moisturizing the hair and will promote growth
- Powerful emulsifier that is used in soap and quick-drying oil formulations
- Helps wounds heal well
- Has anti-inflammatory properties
- Helps in the retention of moisture in the hair and the skin
- Relieves acne and prevents their outbreaks
- It is commonly used in oil blends as it makes them thinner in texture and thus ideal for acne-prone skin
- Delays premature aging
- Helps dermatitis and eczema heal faster
- Helps in weight loss
- Promotes immunity
- Promotes muscle mass, boosts inflammatory responses in the body
- Helps relieve depression and associated symptoms
- Known to be helpful in relieving arthritis pain
- Helps in moisturizing and tightening the skin
- Delays premature aging
- Makes the skin and complexion brighter
- Helps in maintaining shiny and luscious hair
- Helps maintain beautiful nails
- Makes the skin more elastic and prevents the occurrence of wrinkles and aging signs
- Known to have powerful antioxidant characteristics which will delay aging and help promote circulation
- Helps retain moisture in the hair and the skin
- Soothes blemished and scarred skin
- Provides relief to burned skin
- Cleans pores and regulates oil levels in the skin
- Helps blood clot, promoting faster recovery and wound healing
- Reduces the occurrence of acne and the appearance of the scars that are the result of acne
- Soothes bruising and swelling
- Helps hair regenerate and grow
- Delays signs of aging, prevents the occurrence of wrinkles
Alpha-Linolenic Acid (Omega-3)
- Controls blood clotting
- Reduces inflammation
- Lowers joint pain and stiffness, promoting flexibility
- Soften dry and brittle hair
- Known to lighten the skin
- Help in managing frizzy hair
- Possess anti-aging properties
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Promote blood circulation
The Advantages of Using Cocoa Butter For The Skin
Cocoa butter will melt at body temperature and will help to soothe sensitive and dry skin. All this is done while also reducing scars and other marks. It is rich in antioxidants and vitamins and will be a powerful moisturizer that helps maintain healthy skin.
It is also known to reduce chapping, itching, and peeling along with the burning sensation that is caused by dermatitis and eczema. What Cocoa butter does is that it forms a protective barrier over the skin which shields it from the environmental stresses.
Cocoa butter has lots of saturated fats that help the skin maintain the requisite moisture levels and restore health by keeping the barrier present for hours while it is itself readily absorbed into the skin. Cocoa butter also contains polyphenols which will reduce aging signs and promote skin hydration, elasticity, and boost collagen production.
Thanks to the presence of polyphenols, Cocoa butter will help reduce skin damage, sensitivities, and degeneration as well. The marvel of nature penetrates skin tissues at a deep level and thus hydrates them in a profound manner indeed.
It is thus known to promote dermal circulation, helping skin cells repair themselves, and boosting the generation of new skin that’s also softer, younger, and smoother.
What’s more, Cocoa butter also has photo-protection agents that shield the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. They also protect the skin against indoor heat and frostbite.
The Advantages of Cocoa Butter For The Hair
Cocoa butter is also helpful in keeping your hair healthy. It is known to keep the hair strands strong and prevents breakage and hair loss. As it repairs hair damage, Cocoa butter also protects against further damage. It will replenish and restore the levels of natural oils that are found in the scalp and the hair.
It extensively hydrates the scalp and the hair and helps treat flaky, itchy, and inflamed tissues which are associated with dandruff. Cocoa butter, in fact, acts as an excellent hot oil treatment method and can be used in styling hair. It will reduce the frizz, boost the shine and strength while adding volume.
Cocoa butter also helps rid the skin of all irritation, swelling, and redness that is associated with rashes, psoriasis, and eczema. It promotes immunity and will help in relieving stress.
Therapeutic Effects of Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter is known to have several therapeutic effects. Let us first see the cosmetic properties of Cocoa butter:
The following are the medicinal properties associated with Cocoa butter:
Cocoa Butter Harvesting Process
The Cacao tree is referred to as Theobroma cacao in botanical terms. It is native to the Amazon basin in South America where the tree grows in the damp tropical climate. The tree also grows along the rivers.
In the regions where the Cacao tree is manually cultivated, there needs to be a steady rainfall throughout the year. It may also be planted with Banana and Cassava trees along with other large leaf species. These trees serve to protect the plant much like the higher canopy layers do in the natural rainforests.
In stark contrast to these rainforest regions, Cacao trees are cultivated under the sun in Indonesia and Malaysia but they’re given adequate shade in the establishment process. The trees have a lifespan of about 100 years but the cultivated ones are economically useful for nearly 60 years.
Cacao trees need a temperature of at least 18-21 degrees Celsius while the temperature must also not exceed 30-32 degrees Celsius. In areas where the tree is commercially cultivated, the temperature should not usually go below 13 degrees. This is because continuous low temperatures can affect the yield of the plant.
Lower temperatures can also lead to defoliation which refers to the leaves being lost. The leaves can go inward and the plant might begin dying.
Cacao trees can grow in a variety of soil types. It usually grows well in moist soils which are also well-drained. The tree also grows nicely in soils with free-draining mixes and those with a pH value near 6.5.
As for its height, the Cacao tree is fairly mighty and can reach heights of up to 20 m. A mature tree has a system of surface lateral roots in the top layer of the soil. The roots form a mat-like structure as they grow horizontally. It is usually about 5-6 m wide and below this mat-like layer are the taproots which grow downward vertically, reaching lengths of about 2 m.
The Leaves of The Cacao Tree
The tree is deciduous in nature and will lose its glossy and bright leaves but has fresh new growth about 2-4 times every year. The young leaves will hang vertically down and have red hues that protect against the harsh sun.
The leaf bases have nodes that can vary their degree of stiffness depending on the temperature. As a result, the leaves of the Cacao tree can rotate to get more access to the sun.
The Cacao Tree Stem
Cacao saplings that are grown from seeds typically have. a single main stem that grows vertically and is called “Chupon”, growing to a height of nearly 1.5 m after which it spreads into layers that form 3-5 branches which form a “Jorquette”.
The branch groups grow at an angle outwards and will form a fan-like shape. Upright Chupons are called “Suckers” and will develop below “Jorquettes”. They make their way through the fan branches and form coiling structures of branches.
A number of Jorquette layers are developed and these individual layers weaken and fade sequentially.
The Cacao tree bears flowers when it is about 2-3 years old. Numerous white flowers arise from what are called “cushions”. These are swelling-like structures in wood that are located on the fan branches and the stem. Insects and occasionally bats pollinate the flowers.
The growth of the tree is rather unusual in that the flowers and the fruits appear at the same time. On the plantations, merely 3 of 1000 flowers undergo pollination and fertilization to bear fruits. Non-pollinated flowers will die within a day.
Pollinated flowers form Cacao pods. The tree produces pods in a very high volume. The number is so high that it becomes difficult for all fruits to be carried and a natural thinning mechanism kicks in at this point.
“Cherelles”, a term that refers to the young fruits, experience stopped growth and will blacken and then shrivel via a process that is referred to Cherelle Wilt. They will not, however, fall from the tree. As a result of this phenomenon, the tree appears diseased despite this not being the case really.
The rest of the pods will ripen after a period of 6 months post pollination but they do not fall down. The pods undergo a change in color as a part of this ripening process and turn orange/yellow from green or red. However, the mature pods in some species will remain green.
The Cacao pods are typically oblong or spherical in shape. Mammals help carry Cacao beans when they break the pods and relish the fruit pulp inside. The beans are scattered on the earth. Over several months, the Cacao pods are harvested. Many regions have pods ready for harvesting throughout the year.
Knives are commonly used to cut the pods from the trees as pulling them off can damage the bark or cushion. Each ripe pod has around 20-40 beans which are situated in an edible, slippery, and rather sweet pulp. A placenta holds them all together. The beans will be scooped out manually within a few days if not at once.
After harvesting, the wet beans are formed into a heap and put inside baskets within fermentation boxes or dry and flat surfaces. The beans will ferment for nearly 10 days and the pulp will then break down, removing the seed coat as well as the germ.
The process helps to enhance the flavor of the beans. Next, the beans will be stirred to result in air circulation to ferment the mass better.
The beans are then dried to reduce the moisture levels. This is done in sunlight or via artificial means. The beans, now dried, will be manually or mechanically sorted. This will eject all dirt and remove the beans which are damaged, moldy, germinated or flat.
The Process of Cocoa Butter Extraction
There are two ways Cocoa butter can be processed from the beans. You can either process before or after germination. If the seeds are processed before germination, the result is common Cocoa butter which is usually off-white to pale-yellow in color. Often, Cocoa butter retains the characteristic aroma of chocolate.
If the Cacao beans are subjected to processing after germination, the result is black Cocoa butter which has the characteristic brown color associated with chocolate and a fine aroma of roasted cacao.
The Cacao beans will be roasted after fermentation, cleaning, drying, and shelling processes are complete post-harvesting. They will then be ground into “nibs” which are small bits. It is also possible to powder it finely and add to boiling water along with stirring to lead to blending.
When the mass is boiled, the vegetable fat will separate and form a layer on the top of the water from where it is collected and cooled to form a solid mass. The beans may also be cold-pressed which involves placing the Cacao beans’ mass inside a hydraulic press machine where the liquid extract called Cacao Oil is collected. Cocoa butter is then collected from this oil.
What remains in the press machine is called Cocoa cake and it is then used to produce Cocoa powder. Now, at this stage, Cocoa butter which passes through phases including Degumming, Bleaching, as well as Deodorizing to render it odor-free is called refined Cocoa butter.
Different Qualities of Cocoa Butter
Quality of Cocoa Butter
Properties and Characteristics
Unrefined, Raw, Pure or Organic Cocoa Butter
Refined Cocoa butter
Ultra-refined Cocoa butter
Cocoa Butter Uses & Advantages
Cocoa butter has numerous uses indeed spanning both medicinal and cosmetic. It is an essential part of many natural formulations:
- Tanning oils
- Massage oils
- Lip balms
- Haircare products
Cocoa butter is used topically to maintain good moisture levels in the skin. It will ensure that the skin does not remain dry and brittle. If you would like to soften Cocoa butter a little, you can warm the container in a bowl filled with hot water. This will make the butter softer so you can easily spread it as needed.
If you need a more liquid-like texture and consistency, you could blend Cocoa butter with carrier oils including Castor, Coconut or Jojoba. The blends, particularly Cocoa butter blended with Jojoba oil are known to be beneficial in removing dead skin tissues. It’s a powerful way to treat sunburns, stretch marks, scars, and aging skin.
Making Natural Homemade Lip Balm
You can easily make a homemade lip balm that will protect the lips from UV radiation as well as intense cold. It will also pack in the additional advantages of essential oils.
- Melt about 1 tsp of grated Cocoa butter. Use a microwave oven set to low heat.
- Add ½ tsp grated Beeswax. Introduce about ½ tsp of sunflower carrier oil (unrefined). You could also use almond or walnut carrier oils instead.
- Allow the blend to melt and then add to lip balm tins after it has cooled.
Cocoa Butter For The Skin
You can use Cocoa butter to treat burned or infected skin. It can be used as a replacement for soap as well. You can also use it to soften the skin and prevent blemishes from occurring. Apply it after a shower to get healthy skin and promote elasticity. It will also soothe the patches of the skin that are rough.
It will also soften dry cuticles and moisturize the skin well when used as a part of a natural manicure. You could also add some melted Cocoa butter to hot bath water in order to leave the skin silky soft.
Exfoliating Scrub Using Cocoa Butter
Let’s now see how you can make a powerful exfoliating scrub using Cocoa butter.
- Blend about ⅛ cup of melted Cocoa butter with 3 tbsp Cocoa powder.
- Add ½ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup sweet Almond carrier oil.
- Use a gentle circular motion to rub it on the skin. The blend will remove all dead tissues and make your skin soft and radiant.
Homemade Body Butter
Cocoa butter can also be used to make body butter that soothes and softens itchy and dry skin.
- Blend, after melting, ½ cup of Cocoa butter with ½ cup of Shea butter.
- Add ½ cup of Almond carrier oil and ½ cup of organic Coconut carrier oil.
- Stir the blend continuously and allow it to cool. Finally, add 20 drops of Lavender essential oil and let the mixture develop a hard texture in a refrigerator over an hour.
- Whip the blend using a hand mixer until it turns fluffy. Place it back inside the refrigerator and allow it to remain for 15 minutes. Transfer to a glass container.
Cocoa Butter-based Hair Conditioner
Cocoa butter can make your hair smooth and help rid the frizziness. All you need to do is apply some butter directly to the hair strands before you style them. This is ideal if you plan to take a shower as it will condition your hair well before the shower.
Just ensure you melt the butter before applying it. This is a hot oil treatment that should be used for at least 20 minutes. This is because the oil will turn into a solid state at ambient temperature.
Once it hardens upon coming in contact with the air, it will turn hard and it will be difficult to get out of the hair. Melt cocoa butter and add some to your regular conditioner. You could also apply a nickel-size quantity to your hair directly and leave it for some 4 minutes before washing off.
Make sure you do not apply Cocoa butter directly to your scalp or it will make your hair heavy and greasy.
- If you would instead like to make a more liquid consistency conditioner, you should blend 2 tbsp of Cocoa butter with 1 tbsp Coconut carrier oil.
- Melt them well in a double-broiler. Introduce 1 tbsp Jojoba carrier oil and let the mixture cool down before it hardens.
- Whip the mixture before it turns solid using a hand blender for 5 minutes maximum.
- Apply the blend to your hair to make them manageable.
- You can also blend and melt 2 tbsp organic Coconut oil, ½ cup Cocoa butter, and 2 tsp Vitamin E. Keep stirring.
- Take the mixture away from the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. Now transfer it to an airtight jar.
- Add Vanilla essential oil (6 drops) to the jar and refrigerate it for 15 minutes. Take the mixture out and let it soften. Apply it to dry hair before sleeping. You can rinse it out in the morning. The mixture will help remove dandruff and add more shine to your hair.
Immunity Enhancing Massage Cream
Cocoa butter can be used to treat wounds and skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, and rashes. You can also use Cocoa butter to get rid of fatigue.
- Mix 60 g of Cocoa butter, 5 drops of Ylang Ylang essential oil, 5 drops of Geranium essential oil, 5 drops of Jojoba oil, and 5 drops of lemon essential oil.
- Blend the oils well and massage it on the preferred skin area.
- You can also improve collagen retention by mixing ½ cup of Shea butter, ½ cup of Cocoa butter, ½ cup Olive oil, and ½ cup Coconut oil. Introduce any essential oil for adding the desired scent. Massage on the skin and wash after 15 minutes.
Varieties of Cocoa Butter & Their Advantages
Cocoa Butter (Poya)
Ultra Refined & Deodorized Cocoa Butter
Pure Prime Pressed & Crude Cocoa Butter
Organic Cocoa Butter
Precautions When Using Cocoa Butter
Cosmetic butters such as Cocoa butter should only be used for external uses and never be ingested. Remember to store the product out of the reach of children.
You should also conduct a patch test on your inner arm or other relatively insensitive part of the skin using a small amount of Cocoa butter to test for sensitivities and allergies. Watch out for any allergic reactions in 48 hours.
If you notice none, the butter is safe to use. If you have an allergy to nuts, you are likely to be allergic to Cocoa butter too and should abstain from using it.
The side-effects usually associated with Cocoa butter include hives, irritation, skin rashes, peeling, swelling, adult acne, and blistering. If you notice any allergies, stop using Cocoa butter immediately and consult your doctor at once.
It is best to seek a medical opinion before you begin using Cocoa butter. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also consult with their healthcare practitioner before beginning to use Cocoa butter.
So, how do you feel about Cocoa butter and its magical properties? What are the various ways in which you commonly use Cocoa butter and have you noticed any changes and benefits?
Please reach out to us through the Comments section below and we’ll be delighted to hear your feedback!