Cocoa Butter- the Beauty of Nature

With the onset of summer and beautiful weather, we tend to find ourselves out of doors a good deal more than in the winter months. For many of us, this spring in particular is a welcome end to what seemed like months of arctic cold. Thus, the sun is shining, and we look for reasons to be outside; gardening, swimming, trips to the zoo, stopping at a local vegetable market, outdoor flea markets, and the numerous summer festivals marked on our calendars with a star. None-the-less, we need to remember that moisturizing our skin is just as important during the summer as the winter.

My favorite summer moisturizer smells heavenly, hydrates and protects my skin, can easily be purchased locally or online, and best thing yet…… it is affordable. Cocoa butter not only softens the skin, it makes it glow. Regular use not only helps to keep the skin supple, it enhances the production of collagen as well.

Cocoa trees originated in South America and were first cultivated by the Mayans. Today, they are most often found in Africa, as well as tropical areas throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The hydraulic press, invented in 1828 by Coenraad van Houten, a well known chocolatier, simplified the extraction of cocoa butter from the bean (seed). Because of this, we can enjoy the benefits of its softening properties, not to mention what it did for the improvements made to fine chocolate making, but that is a story for another day.

The reason I prefer cocoa butter over all other oils and lotions during the warmer months is the way it feels. A natural product, cocoa butter, has the ability to melt in your hands, glide smoothly over your skin, and yet leave you feeling fresh. Its powdery texture is indescribable to those who have never tried it, and for those of us who have, it is irreplaceable.

Cocoa butter is used in a number of readily available beauty products; lotions, body butters, lip balms, and hair treatments. Cocoa butter is also an ingredient utilized in products which are targeted at the prevention of stretch marks, as it promotes elasticity of the skin and is rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant with the power to both protect and repair the skin. Lucky for us, antioxidants have the ability to neutralize free radicals which interfere with collagen production, and in turn, dry out the skin.

For all of the products in which cocoa butter is used as an ingredient, the one I prefer to all others is pure, natural, organic and unprocessed. This natural fat is light yellow in color, completely edible, boasts a long shelf life (two to five years) and a chocolaty aroma. Note, black cocoa butter, is the softest and processed in a slightly different way as the beans are roasted before being pressed. Roasting creates carbonation…… carbonation creates color.

Cocoa butter in its purest form is as easily used as anything you can purchase in a bottle, and better yet, it has no chemical additives. Available for purchase in everything from blocks to pellets (dime sized pieces) to sticks, there’s something for everyone.

At room temperature, your cocoa butter is a solid that will quickly melt in your hand. Throw some in a hot bath for an all-over silky smoothness or keep a jar of shavings to rub into warm damp skin after a shower (I use a vegetable peeler or hand held grater to shave peelings). For facial moisturizing, I recommend using cocoa butter in stick form, but remember to pull back your hair before application.

The topical application of cocoa butter is also known to benefit skin health. Rich in CMP (cocoa mass polyphemol), a substance that helps to limit the growth of IgE (immuno globulin), cocoa butter can be beneficial in the treatment of eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

Although I use cocoa butter in its natural state throughout the summer months, I also regularly incorporate it into my natural beauty recipes all year long. Luscious creams and body butters can be created by using cocoa butter as an all natural thickening agent. Whip up a luxurious butter with a few simple ingredients:

  • One cup of cocoa butter
  • One-half cup of almond oil
  • One-half cup of coconut oil

Place the oils and cocoa butter in a double boiler (saucepans will scorch contents); warm until cocoa butter has reached a consistency at which it can be whipped; place in a blender (I have a personal sized blender purchased specifically for blending creams and lotions) and pour into a container (I prefer glass). This recipe can be adjusted to create more or less product, and you may add essential oils at will.

One of my favorite aspects in the creation of homemade beauty products is an option to fashion a personalized, unique product. Butters and lotions can be thickened or thinned at will, and essential oils can be mingled or used alone to foster a unique and individualized fragrance.

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