Benefits of Cocoa Butter
The benefits of cocoa butter come from the edible vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean, or also known as theobroma cacao. Although most of us are familiar with cocoa's use for delicious chocolate goodies, the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries also value cocoa butter's qualities. It melts at body temperature and its vitamins A, C and E make it a wonderful natural moisturizer, especially since it can absorb slightly deeper into the dermal layer. A benefit of cocoa butter is that it acts as a defensive barrier (occlusive emollient) that slows the natural loss of moisture from the skin.
Many of us have already heard that the benefits of cocoa butter are to moisturize the skin and to even out skin tone. There are also many claims of preventing stretch marks and diminishing scars. So what's the science behind cocoa butter and stretch marks?
The August 2008 article "Cocoa butter lotion for prevention of striae gravidarum: a double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial" enrolled 210 pregnant women to test if cocoa butter reduced the development of stretch marks (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.pubmed/18715434?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_Default). The women started applying cocoa butter in the first trimester daily until their delivery. Unfortunately, no difference was noted in the development of stretch marks. Other studies, however, do seem to indicate that applying a Vitamin E cream/lotion to be effective!
Ok, so the research doesn't support stretch mark prevention, but what about other benefits of cocoa butter? The good news is that cocoa butter contains a lot of cocoa mass polyphenols (CMP). Cocoa mass polyphenols can inhibit the production of the immuno globulin IgE. Why is this important? Well, IgE is a trigger known to aggravate symptoms of both eczema and dermatitis. These same CMPs also suppress T-cell activity which can be useful when treating psoriasis and other nondermal conditions (chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia).
The pleasant aroma of chocolate and its ability to help improve skin elasticity and promote healthy collagen production continue to make the benefits of cocoa butter a valued cosmetic ingredient. A healthy, soft, moisturized dermis/epidermis is your best defense to keep your largest organ (your skin!) in top form.
If you seem to notice any type of allergy to cocoa butter, especially if you have known tree nut allergies, please discontinue use. Often times, the allergic reaction is not due to the cocoa butter, but rather some other protein derived ingredient such as collagen or elastin. Please always read you ingredient labels to note any allergy triggers.