Why do we love to use cocoa butter? Because it’s a wonderful multi-tasking material. Not only does it soften, condition and moisturise the skin, it also helps bind ingredients in a formula and allows us to create allows us to create self-preserving and naked products.
The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) grows in warm, humid forests near the equator. It yields large dark red or yellow pods containing up to 50 seeds each, coated by soft, edible flesh. The seeds also called cocoa beans, are covered to ferment and then dried. During this process, they lose their acidic taste and develop their familiar chocolate scent.
To obtain cocoa butter and powder, the prepared beans are cleaned, dried and roasted and then ground into a thick, oily paste called chocolate liquor. The liquor can be used as such for chocolate-making or subjected to high pressure to separate the cocoa powder from the butter. An additional step can be carried out to deodorise the butter to remove any trace of the chocolate smell. This often happens for its use in cosmetics as the smell could interfere with other scents.
Cocoa butter contains oleic acid, a saturated fatty acid that is highly compatible with our body's natural sebum and allows the butter to be more easily absorbed into the skin.
It also contains stearic acid, a skin-softening fatty acid that acts as an emulsifier. This means that the butter helps bind oil and water together, preventing products from separating. Combined with the solid nature of the butter, this emulsifying property creates tight emulsions that leave no room for microbes to move and grow, helping products to remain fresher for longer.
Lush has been buying cocoa beans from the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó (in northwestern Colombia) since 2010 and supports the community’s application for Fair Trade and organic producers certification every year.
The Peace Community consists of farmers who are all committed to non-violence in a region ravaged by armed conflicts. They have incorporated permaculture techniques in their growing practices, such as mixed planting and composting, so they don’t need to buy pesticides and fertilisers. Once collected, cocoa beans are shipped to Europe for processing into butter and powder.