Cocoa Butter: Should You Be Using It On Your Skin?



What Is Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa butter is an ingredient that you may already be familiar with, albeit from the kitchen. Outside of its many uses in cooking and dessert making, cocoa butter is also a popular ingredient that is often included in body and face creams and lotions.

Cocoa butter is a type of fat-rich substance that is derived from the beans of the cocoa, the same bean that is used to make chocolate. This is why cocoa butter is often loved for its rich chocolatey scent. Traditionally, cocoa butter has been used in medicine to treat minor skin ailments and can be traced back to the Aztecs and Mayans. We have continued to use cocoa butter for skincare purposes in the modern context to help maintain moisture in the skin and help improve the skin’s overall appearance.

More recently, studies have been undertaken to determine the specific benefits that cocoa butter may have on the skin. Through this research it has been identified that cocoa butter may help with improving moisture retention in the skin. However, one of the main benefits that is often attributed to cocoa butter, helping to reduce the appearance of scars, showed no supporting evidence during these studies.

Cocoa Butter

the good: Cocoa butter may help to improve the appearance of the skin, helping support visible hydrated and moisturization.

the not so good: Like many plant-derived ingredients, cocoa butter is not particularly well studied for its efficacy and safety. There are a few studies that suggest that it may be beneficial for acne, wound healing and wrinkles but there isn’t enough evidence to support these claims yet.

Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.

Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients.

Keep an eye on: Keep an eye out for more research into this ingredient.

What Are The Benefits of Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa butter is a fat rich ingredient that is mainly used to hydrate and moisturize the skin. This hydrating property comes from the protective barrier that cocoa butter forms on the surface of the skin. This protective barrier, similar to the skin’s natural barrier, helps to prevent water loss from the skin or transepidermal water loss. Cocoa butter also provides the skin with a source of phytochemical which are a naturally occurring plant compound. Phytochemicals help to protect the skin against UV damage.

One of the main benefits that cocoa butter is often touted as possessing is being able to reduce the appearance of scarring. However, the evidence on this potential benefit is fairly poor, with much of the research suggesting that it does little to change the appearance of scars. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the products that are formulated with cocoa butter won’t be beneficial to the appearance of scars but their benefit is unlikely to come from the cocoa butter.

Is Cocoa Butter Safe?

The complexity of any plant-derived ingredient can make it difficult to identify which components of the ingredient are safe and non-irritating. However, The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, a group that is responsible for evaluating the safety of skincare and cosmetic ingredients, has reviewed the safety of cocoa butter. This ingredient did not demonstrate any potential for skin/eye irritation or sensitization. Cocoa butter is known to be compatible with most skin types. However, if you have oily skin it may be more moisture than you require.

CIR, 2020. ‘Draft report on edible oils’, Cosmetic Ingredient Review.
Scapagnini G, Davinelli S, Di Renzo L, et al. Cocoa bioactive compounds: significance and potential for the maintenance of skin health. Nutrients. 2014;6(8):3202-3213. Published 2014 Aug 11.


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