Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cocoa butter!

Cocoa butter is a staple in bath and body creations with 25 to 30% palmitic acid (C16), 31 to 35% stearic acid (C18), 34 to 36% oleic acid (C18:1), and 3% linoleic acid. It is filled with wonderful polyphenols and phytosterols that may benefit your skin! (And you can eat it in the event of a zombie apocalypse that sees you run out of food. Sorry, it's been a zombie filled week around our house!)

Cocoa butter contains tocopherols of between 100 to 300 mg per kilogram - the amount depends upon the region in which the cacao is grown - and phytosterols of about 0.3% to 0.4%. The Vitamin E is fantastic for softening skin. We find polyphenols in the form of catechins - a lot of tannins, which makes the cocoa butter a little astringent and dry (but only a little) - and procyandins - in lab studies, these have shown they might have offer some anti-inflammatory benefits to skin. Cocoa butter also has caffeine, which some lab studies have shown might have some effect on skin, but has not been shown in human studies yet.

This is a theobromide molecule. It won't do anything for your skin, but it looks very nice.

As an interesting aside, a lot of websites will state cocoa butter has something called cocoa mass polyphenol (CMP) - I have not found anything about this outside of health food or nutritional sites. It didn't show up in any of the textbooks I consult. If you want more information, google "cocoa mass polyphenol" and see what comes up!

Cocoa butter has a general melting point of about 38C (or 100F), which is almost our body temperature. If you've ever enjoyed chocolate making, you'll know that chocolates left to cool in the kitchen look dull, whereas chocolates put in the freezer have a nice shine to them. This is due to the various melting and crystallization points of the fats in the chocolate - the melting points are 17C, 23C, 26C, and 35 to 37C. Cooling it quickly means there's little chance for crystals to form as we pass through the different melting points. (Ironically, we don't tend to find our cocoa butter going grainy - that's usually a problem for shea butter!) And cooling quickly also avoids the problem of bloom, that dusty looking coating that shows up on chocolate bars and lotion bars. (You can also get bloom on chocolates from the introduction of water or sugar crystallization - neither of those are issues for us.)

Can cocoa butter reduce or eliminate stretch marks? No. In the largest study done in 2008, the researchers found no difference in women who used cocoa butter over a placebo (click here for the PubMed citation).

Cocoa butter is one of three ingredients approved by the FDA as a barrier ingredient that provides an occlusive layer on our skin (the other two are dimethicone and allantoin). This means it sets up a protective layer of cocoa butter on our skin better than shea or mango butter.

Cocoa butter will make anything in which you use it a little thicker or stiffer. If you use it in a whipped butter, it will be lovely and soft at first, but will eventually stiffen up quite a bit! This is good if you're making bars (conditioner bars with cocoa butter will be harder) or lotions you want to be a bit thicker without adding stearic acid (because you've got a ton of it in the cocoa butter!).

Cocoa butter is a hard butter at 20C (room temperature) with a melting point of 37C. It has a shelf life of 2 to 5 years, just about the longest lived butter we can use in our creations. You can use it up to 100% in any product, but that would probably be a bad idea as it is very hard! The Vitamin E found in the form of tocopherol and tocotrienol offers skin softening benefits. The oleic acid is easily absorbed by our skin, offering us great moisturizing and cell regenerating benefits, as well as anti-inflammatory effects. The stearic acid offers improved moisture retention, increased flexibility of our skin, and skin repair. And the occlusive nature of cocoa butter reduces the amount of water lost from our skin and protects it from the elements.

What's not to love about cocoa butter? Join me tomorrow for some formulating fun with this exciting butter!


Jodi said...

Susan, you say "... This is due to the various melting and crystallization points of the fats in the chocolate - the melting points are 17C, 23C, 26C, and 35 to 37C. "
Are those the melting points of the fatty acids (palmitic, stearic, oleic & linoleic)? I am confused because wikipedia shows different values for melting points (63C, 70C, 14C and -5C). I must be missing something! Thanks!

LORRAINE S. said...

Do you suggest raw unrefined cocoa butter?
Lorraine, Valley Springs CA