Cocoa butter is the super moisturizer you've been missing out on.
It may not be the buzziest ingredient in the beauty industry right now, but cocoa butter is a tried-and-true skincare ingredient that delivers serious moisture to dry skin, flaky lips, and parched strands. We've decided it's time to give cocoa butter the respect it deserves by highlighting the benefits of this major hydrator—and the many, many ways you can use it. This versatile skin superhero might just be your new coconut oil.
What is cocoa butter?
Cocoa butter is the highest fat content extract from cocoa beans. "It’s used in skincare, and is edible (as a form of chocolate), but is often used to hydrate various areas of the body due to its high lipid content," says New York-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD. If you've never thought to incorporate this super emollient into your beauty routine, it might come as a surprise to learn that some of your go-to skincare products at home probably already contain this unassuming ingredient. (The more technical term for cocoa butter is theobroma oil.)
Cocoa butter benefits for your whole body
Cocoa butter is used to enhance the fatty component of skin. "Healthy skin has a waxy, fatty oil that sits on the surface and keeps skin moisturized while minimizing water loss and evaporation," Dr. Nazarian explains. So, cocoa butter can be used to mimic that fatty layer and enhance barrier protection, she says.
Because it's loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, cocoa butter can help skin heal from irritations due to eczema and other conditions like dermatitis, says Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. An old-school remedy for healing scars, it's also a new mom's best-kept secret for preventing and diminishing stretch marks, she adds.
Cocoa butter's uses don't stop there, though. You can literally apply it everywhere: Smooth cocoa butter onto cuticles and any part of your body that might need a little extra love and hydration, such as the tops of knees, backs of elbows, and feet (don't forget those hard, calloused heels!).
You can even rub it into your hair. Seriously: applying cocoa butter to hair keeps it healthy, tames frizz, and adds shine. But because cocoa butter tends to be heavy, Dr. Nazarian cautions against using it on thinner hair. "People with thin hair should look elsewhere for conditioning to avoid loss-of-volume to their hair," she warns.
Who should use cocoa butter?
Cocoa butter has ultra-moisturizing properties that are ideal for dry skin, which can sometimes give products that have it a greasy consistency. As a result, Dr. Jaliman suggests anyone prone to acne to skip it, since it could clog pores. "Although it does have antibacterial properties and one might think it could help with acne, I would avoid cocoa butter [to be safe]," she continues.
Dr. Nazarian agrees. Thanks to a high comedogenic rating (read: not great if you're prone to breakouts), cocoa butter may not be the perfect hydrating solution for every skin type. "It is safe in most sensitive skin types (unless added perfumes or fragrances are noted), but I would recommend against applying it to areas of the body that are at risk for acne like the face," Dr. Nazarian tells us.
Even so, the benefits alone have us reconsidering this old-school ingredient. We asked experts to share their favorite beauty buys that are full of cocoa butter. Say hello to the moisturizing products you'll be kicking your coconut oil for.