Cocoa Butter Is The Powerful Skin-Care Ingredient You’ve Been Underestimating

Fairytales got one thing right: Magical beans do exist. Just ask the academics who recognized the chocolate-producing potential of cocoa beans and gave the cacao tree a scientific name that means “food of the gods” in Greek. Or talk to dermatologists, who give the same divine bean props for its extractable cocoa butter, a naturally-stabilized fat that has long been used as a moisturizer for skin. But in an age wherein exotic plant-derived butters (moringa, marula, and murumuru, to name a few) are added to everything from lotions to bronzer, does good old-fashioned cocoa butter still make the grade?
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It does — and then some, according to Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and dermatopathologist. “Cocoa butter is one of the best emollients around, which makes a super moisturizer,” he says, noting the butter’s high fatty-acid content, which can heal and protect skin. Dr. Mudgil also likes the tried-and-true ingredient for its booming phytochemical count: The natural compounds improve blood flow, which in turn helps bring nutrients to the skin while ridding it of environmental pollutants.
“As an added bonus, it’s rich in antioxidants, which help protect the skin from damaging toxins, like pesticides, cigarette smoke, car exhaust, and UV rays,” Dr. Mudgil says. If that wasn't enough to make us rethink the old-school ingredient, the pro explains how cocoa butter can go beyond simple skin care to improve lip plumpness and hair health, ahead.
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We love a thick body cream as much as the next flaky-skin sufferer, but the usual screw-top jars don't do much good come time for TSA pre-check. This ultra-rich cream, from the O.G. of cocoa butter skin-care purveyors, offers the perfect solution for soothing your skin on the go. What’s more, the brand backs farmer-first and sustainability efforts as a member of the World Cocoa Foundation.
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We would never think to look for cocoa-seed butter in a cleansing bar geared toward acne-prone skin, but the hydrating ingredient helps balance out the potential drying effects that the bar’s other ingredients — like bentonite clay and tea tree — can have on sensitive skin.
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This sugar-based cleansing balm taps cocoa butter to help moisturize skin while it melts makeup in one fell swoop.
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We’re a sucker for champagne, and cute packaging, and metal applicators on lip balms — and this bad boy has all three. But beneath the bells and whistles is a hydrating formula that taps shea and cocoa butters to nourish, and perhaps even amplify, parched lips. “The caffeine content in cocoa butter can make your lips look plumper,” Dr. Mudgil says.
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These body butters are classics for a reason: They hydrate like crazy. This one in particular smells faintly of cocoa butter and makes our skin feel so smooth. But what makes us feel even better is that it’s packed with ethically-sourced cocoa from Ghana.
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”Cocoa-butter conditioners protect the hair from breaking, which can allow it to grow thicker and longer,” Dr. Mudgil says.” They're also great for moisturizing the scalp, which helps with dandruff.” Though we’d pick it up for its tropical scent alone, this conditioner does a killer job of defrizzing and detangling, thanks to a blend of cocoa-butter extract and coconut oil.
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It’s no secret that some of the most gentle skin care can be found in the baby aisle. This new launch from clean beauty brand Saje is made with cocoa butter, coconut oil, and calendula — a trifecta that works to alleviate redness while it hydrates, no matter the age of your skin.
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We’re not going to lie: With a wide range of gorgeous shades and a smooth, feel-good formula, the ingredients list is the last thing on our minds when we reach for this lipstick. The fact that it’s made with nourishing cocoa butter — which Mudgil says is just as good, if not better, a moisturizer than petroleum-based emollients — is a pretty sweet bonus.
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We may or may not have reached for this luxe body scrub during a weak moment mid-Whole 30. The creamy formula smells exactly like brownies and gently exfoliates... without messing up our meal plan.
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This cult-favorite cream uses a vegan recipe sourced from the Republic of Uzbekistan to soothe, hydrate, and brighten skin, thanks to ingredients like algae, aloe, cocoa butter, and antioxidant-rich sea buckthorn.
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Tinted lip balms are good, but tinted lip conditioners — with SPF 15! — are better, at least where this formula is concerned. With both cocoa and shea butters to condition, and a blend of antioxidant-rich oils to protect skin in the long-term, it'd be a winner even if it didn't come in the perfect range of flattering, buildable shades.
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Shea butter, cocoa butter, and avocado oils bring a bevy of B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids to this lightweight cream.
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