Just because something is sweet and delicious doesn’t mean it won’t have a bigger story to tell. This is the case with the cacao plant, which is the tropical fruit tree responsible for all the world’s chocolate. While being the primary ingredient in the world’s favorite sweet, the cacao fruit is also the main ingredient in many skincare products. It also has many health benefits for the skin and body that most people don’t know about. Let’s clear some confusion first before we dive into cacao benefits and amazing cocoa body butter recipe.
What are Cacao and Cocoa?
Although we all are familiar with chocolate, we might not be familiar with the ingredients that go into it. Chocolate begins its life in rainforests, growing as a large papaya like-fruit from a small tropical fruit tree. The fruits can grow quite large, upward of a couple of kilograms (more than four and a half pounds), and are grown specifically for their seeds. There are usually dozens of seeds inside, each wrapped in a slightly slimy, but fragrantly sweet, gelatinous substance. These pods are where both the cacao powder and cocoa butter come from. The difference between the two is a simple matter of roasting. Once the pod is roasted and ground, it turns into cacao powder. If it remains raw, the cocoa butter can be extracted. A typical raw pod will contain contain upward of 50 percent cocoa butter.
Cultural History of Cacao
Traditionally grown in South America, the worship of cacao quickly spread around the Americas through overland trade routes. Cultures in places as far apart as Northern Mexico and the Peruvian rainforest enjoyed consuming chocolate products as savory drinks, typically during religious ceremonies. There is evidence it has been cultivated in the Americas for more than 4,000 years. It also has a particular place of reverence within the Aztec empire, where only nobility was allowed to consume it.
As Europeans were introduced to cacao, word quickly spread overseas and around the world about the plant’s powers. Soon, even European nobility was drinking it, and nowadays chocolate has become a multi-billion dollar business. However, many people who enjoy a chocolaty treat don’t fully appreciate the historical importance of cacao. They also don’t understand that behind their candy bar is an extremely beneficial ingredient that is so often ignored. This is what brings us back to using cacao, or rather cocoa butter, as a basis for nourishing, beautiful, and beneficial skincare products.
Chocolate as Skincare
Although using chocolate as a basis for skincare products likely would just end up in a delightfully delicious mess, using cocoa butter is a different story. Cocoa butter is extracted from the cacao seeds and, just like it sounds, typically is sold in a hard, buttery form. It quickly melts into an oil when brought to room temperature, and because of this quick reaction, absorbs quite quickly into the skin. It can be found unrefined and retains a mild chocolaty scent. When used in more common over-the-counter skincare products, it usually is refined and loses the smell. It is so popular in skin products these days, you likely already have something in your makeup bag that contains at least a bit of cocoa butter. People have discovered it makes an excellent base for developing healthy and nourishing skincare products.
Why use cocoa instead of other moisturizing options? Cocoa plays a bigger role in promoting healthy skin than just acting as a great moisturizer. Below are a few of the bonuses you get when using cocoa in skincare products.
Vitamin E: Cocoa butter is high in antioxidants, primarily because it contains vitamin E. Vitamin E is known to rejuvenate skin cells by reducing the effects of free radicals and, in essence, slowing down the cellular aging process. If you ever wondered why cocoa butter never seems to go bad, it’s because of the vitamin E protection it contains.
Reduces Skin Irritation: Cocoa butter long has been used in herbal medicine for treating minor scrapes and wounds. It traditionally has been applied to irritated skin and seems to help soothe and heal it. This may be because it offers protection, yet allows wounds to breathe.
Cacao Compounds: Cacao seeds have even more aspects that can help revitalize your skin. For example, cacao powder, which is extracted from the seeds, contains both caffeine and theobromine, which have been found in laboratory studies to flush excess fat from within cells, promoting firm, yet supple, skin tone. Because these compounds target unneeded fats, they have been found beneficial in reducing cellulite. In one recent study, women who consumed cacao in an unsweetened cacao drink were shown to have better tolerance of UV radiation. They also were found to have firmer skin tone and better hydrated skin cells.
Basic Hydrating Body Butter Recipe
Creating your own hydrating skincare product is as simple as using a hand mixer and a double boiler. Plus, by having complete control over all the ingredients that go into your body butter, you have complete control over what natural benefits your skin will receive. Below you’ll find the most basic body butter recipe around, which can serve as the building block for any additions you desire, including different oils, essential oils, and perhaps even some rejuvenating vitamin E.
- A few drops of your favorite essential oil (some excellent options are lavender, clary sage, and bergamot).
- An added boost of Vitamin E oil
Set up a double boiler and melt both main ingredients while stirring gently. Once fully liquid, cool down the mixture in the freezer until it is solidified, but not rock solid. Using a hand mixer, or even just a handheld whisk, whip the butter into a frothy body butter — just like whipping cream. Using an electric mixer, it will take about five minutes to fully froth. Place into an airtight container and the body butter will store for upward of three months.