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Cocoa Butter is universally one of the most beloved all-natural cosmetic ingredients. The use of all parts of the cocoa seed for its medicinal and restorative properties can be traced backed over 3,000 years. Today, its benefits are primarily harnessed and applied to skin, hair, and nails providing a healthy dose of treatment to:
- Hydrate chronically dry skin and scalp
- Minimize the appearance of stretch marks
- Reduce scarring
- Soothe rashes, even eczema
- Prevent early signs of aging
- Smooth wrinkles and fine lines
Cocoa butter is often a primary emollient ingredient in lotions and other products but it can be used alone or purchased for your own DIY balms, butter, and blends. When choosing what kind you want, you’ll need to choose between refined or unrefined cocoa butter.
In this article, we’ll go into the difference between the two, what you can expect from each, how to use refine and unrefined cocoa butter, and ultimately which is the right option for you.
The Benefits of Cocoa Butter
So how does this yummy ingredient work?
Cocoa butter is incredibly moisturizing. Whether it’s dense or whipped into a light fluff, the delicious fats melt into your skin creating a protective barrier that keeps water locked into the deep layers of the dermis.
This rich, intense, butter is also non-comedogenic. Cocoa butter does its job as a moisturizing agent without clogging pores and allowing the skin to remain breathable. Unlike lotions that weigh skin down or feel like a blanket. Cocoa butter is light and refreshing.
Just like the deep, dark chocolate that it’s processed into--cocoa butter is rich in heart-healthy antioxidants. Those power-house nutrients aren’t just healthy for your most important organ but for your biggest, too--your skin! Cocoa butter antioxidants can improve skin’s elasticity, collagen production, cellular turnover rate, and vibrancy.
[ Read: Cocoa Butter for Stretch Marks – Just an Old Wives Tale? - Are the rumors true!?]
Want to make the most of these cocoa butter benefits? Discover below the difference between refined and unrefined, the alternate processes and extraction methods, what impact it could make on the quality of this inherently perfect ingredient, and which is suitable for your desired outcome.
What is Refined Cocoa Butter?
Refined cocoa butter is highly processed, purified, and chemically deodorized vegetable fat extracted from cocoa seeds.
What makes cocoa butter a desirable skincare treatment are the lipids it contains. Cocoa butter is the extraction of these fatty acids found in cocoa seeds. When cocoa butter is refined it goes through additional processing which will change the molecular structure of these lipids and extracts other bioavailable compounds that could treat skin and hair.
Phytochemicals are the primary reason for using cocoa butter. They take this ingredient beyond an emollient and turn it into a medicine. Refined cocoa butter will lose many of its phytochemicals through its processing.
Refined Cocoa Butter is a very stable emollient. It has a long shelf life and can be mixed with a variety of other ingredients and its molecular structure will remain intact. And while it may not have quite as many densely-packed antioxidants as its unrefined counterpart, it’s still a safer option than conventional emollients and lotions. Also, it will be odorless.
What is Unrefined Cocoa Butter?
Unrefined cocoa butter is raw and minimally processed fat pressed from the cocoa seed.
The most distinct feature of unrefined cocoa butter is its raw, chocolate smell. It’s entirely natural and potent. It’s nearly impossible to cover this smell unless you are using only small amounts of unrefined cocoa butter in a DIY skincare product with many other highly-scented ingredients like essential oils.
Beyond the scent, the quality of unrefined cocoa butter can vary depending on the source and extraction process. Extraction standards aren’t always as regulated as they should be and impurities can find their way through the extraction process. Alternatively, the process to yield high-amounts of “clean” unrefined cocoa butter also rides a fine line between pure but lacking in the number of bioactive compounds that make unrefined cocoa butter so beneficial.
Stability is the final concern for unrefined cocoa butter. The Amino acid structures aren’t as stable as the ones in refined cocoa butter, therefore its shelf life may not last as long and it will spoil eventually or the living compounds that make it beneficial will become inactive over time.
The most nutritionally-dense unrefined cocoa butter comes from organic cocoa seeds and is extracted through a cold-pressing technique. It is not exposed to chemical purification and adheres to strict heat limitations so none of the beneficial properties are damaged.
Besides containing significantly more bioavailable benefits, unrefined cocoa butter is so versatile in its preparation, use, and application.
- It can be used in bar form and applied directly to the skin
- Pressed into small units for dippable lip balm, ointment, or deodorant
- Whipped into fluff for hair and skin lotion
- Softened in a double-boiler for massage oil
[ Read: Best Organic Luxury Lip Balms for Winter 2020 - Many brands rely on Cocoa Butter!]
Finally, unrefined cocoa butter is as close to the source itself and remains an actively healing and untouched miracle compound that works wonders on skin and hair.
Refined vs. Unrefined Cocoa Butter
The differences between Refined and Unrefined Cocoa Butter are created through the processing and extracting of the fatty acids from the Cocoa Seed. There are handcrafted as well as mechanical methods used for both. Refined cocoa butter is a stable emollient ingredient for your soaps, balms, lotions, conditioners, or deodorants cocoa butter is always a good option. If you need a product to last longer and not smell of chocolate, you may prefer refined cocoa butter.
If you just need a natural emollient ingredient to which you can blend other natural oils, vitamins, and botanicals--reach for refined cocoa butter. If you aren’t looking to add anything extra, unrefined cocoa butter is capable of addressing skin and hair needs all on its own.
Which Beauty Butter is Best?
There are so many naturally sourced beauty butter available to us:
I’d love to up my body butter game so let me know in the comments below which is your go-to!