Traditionally, major cosmetic manufacturers used mineral oils and petroleum jelly as key ingredients in cosmetic products for many reasons. 

They are cheap, can be produced on a mass scale, and have a long shelf life. However, in the past decade, consumers have become more aware of the products they are consuming, and as a result, manufacturers can not afford to make goods mindlessly. 

Thanks to this shift, natural and organic compounds like cocoa butter and raw shea butter are on the rise. Cocoa butter benefits the skin greatly, and scores of people have recently realized this fact. 

This is why we have this article here that will tell you more about cocoa butter and which is better when it comes to refined vs. unrefined cocoa butter. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

What Is Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa butter is a commonly used cosmetic product that has wide-arching benefits for the skin. Cocoa is popularly used to make cakes, ice creams, and other kinds of desserts. However, it is also a staple ingredient in beauty and health products. Essentially, cocoa butter is fat, which is extracted from cocoa beans.1

How Is Cocoa Butter Made?

The beans are first plucked from the cacao plant to get this fat. After that, they’re roasted and subsequently stripped and pressed. This entire process releases the fat, which is then turned into cocoa butter. The leftover residue is turned into cocoa powder, which is commonly used for baking.

Historically, the use of cocoa can be traced back to the time of the Mayans and the Aztecs. It has been used for medicinal purposes for almost 3,000 years, with the ancient rulers of Maya even using it as currency! 

Benefits Of Cocoa Butter

New advances are constantly being made in the skincare industry, and recently it has been discovered that phytochemicals in cocoa can keep the skin and body healthy. In addition to that, it’s useful for nails too, and you might have seen a lot of hand creams using cocoa butter.

Most new lotions and creams use cocoa butter as an ingredient due to its smoothening effects. In fact, if you’re interested in making butter or balm at home, you can even source some of it to use in the concoction. However, you’d have to pick between unrefined and refined cocoa butter, and this is where it gets tricky.

Now, let’s take a look at all the good it can do.

1. It has a host of other skin benefits, such as reducing scar, hydrating a dry and flaky scalp, and minimizing stretch marks. In addition to that, it also prevents the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging on the skin because it has a high content of Vitamin C and K. It even mitigates some of the symptoms of eczema.

2. It also has cocoa mass polyphenols (CMP), which could potentially restrict the growth of suspected cancerous cells. In addition to that, the polyphenol helps with dermatitis, and reduces rashes by preventing immunoglobulin production, which is what causes these conditions.

3. Cocoa butter is great at moisturizing. Irrespective of whether it has been whipped into something soft or whether it’s dense and inside a balm jar, it works wonders on the skin. What’s more, the fat seeps deep into the pores of the skin and forms a shield, which makes sure that moisture doesn’t leave the dermis.

4. Moreover, cocoa butter is non-comedogenic, which essentially means that it won’t lead to clogged pores and skin problems. Despite its rich and creamy texture, it is breathable and doesn’t envelop the skin in a way that makes it sticky and oily. In fact, using cocoa butter leaves the skin feeling supple and smelling fresh.

5. Moving on, it’s also pertinent to mention that apart from keeping the skin looking outwardly amazing, it makes it healthy on the inside too. Cocoa has antioxidants that enhance elasticity and boost the production of collagen.

6. It even improves the cellular turnover rate and makes the skin less prone to flaking and drying.

Now that we know how indispensable cocoa butter is to skincare, let’s take a look at what kinds of cocoa butter options are available and which one is the best pick. 

Refined Vs. Unrefined Cocoa Butter

Refined Cocoa Butter

This kind of cocoa butter is purified and extremely processed. In addition to that, the fat extracted from cocoa seeds to make it is highly chemically deodorized.

This process of deodorization takes quite a bit of time as it is done by injecting steam within some melted cocoa butter. Once this is done, the volatile components that are the reason for cocoa butter’s strong chocolatey odor are expelled. 

Moreover, there are certain other chemical changes as well. However, overheating the butter will lead to the complete elimination of the odor, so care must be taken not to inject too much steam

Now, let’s learn about some of the advantages of refined cocoa butter.

Advantages

1. Long Shelf Life

One of the major benefits of using refined cocoa butter is that it has an incredibly long shelf. So, this ensures that whatever cosmetic product it is mixed with won’t go bad anytime soon. In addition to that, it is a stable emollient and hence, can be mixed with a multitude of ingredients without its molecular structure changing.

2. No Scent

Furthermore, it is odorless, which means that you can use it with a cosmetic product that you intend to give a different scent too, for instance, lavender. Though it isn’t heaped with antioxidants, it is still a very good option compared to most conventional lotions and emollients.

3. Hair Benefits

Cocoa butter is great for using on the skin and the hair. Since unrefined cocoa butter is rich in nutrients, it is an excellent tool for moisturizing the scalp and eliminating dandruff. It is a boon for people plagued with an itchy, flaky scalp. Moreover, it even nourishes the hair and makes it look shinier.

Thus, if unrefined cocoa butter is employed to be used as a deep conditioning treatment, it will rejuvenate the hair and leave it noticeably softer. We suggest melting some cocoa butter down until it begins to resemble oil. After that, apply some of it on the ends of your hair as well as the middle parts.

Once that is done, massage some into the scalp, taking care to really rub it in. Thereafter, leave it for 15 minutes, and then follow the usual shampoo and conditioning routine. Voila!

Disadvantages

1. Heavily Processed

The first major downside of using refined cocoa butter is that it goes through some heavy-duty processing during the process of refining. This changes the molecular structure of its lipids, which is one of the major reasons why cocoa butter is considered a great skincare treatment option. 

2. Lack Of Phytochemicals 

In addition to that, certain other components that are helpful for the hair and the skin are also extracted from the butter during the process of refining. What’s more, cocoa butter loses a significant amount of phytochemicals, too, as a result of the refining process. 

These phytochemicals are what make cocoa butter so great and medicinal, and losing them means losing the essence of the butter.

Unrefined Cocoa Butter

This variant of cocoa butter undergoes minimal processing and retains its raw nature after being extracted from the cocoa seeds.

Due to its firm nature, unrefined cocoa butter must be melted down for using it in skincare products such as body butters, lip balms, and lotions. The ideal way to melt the butter is using indirect heat. This can be done by using a heat-proof jar that has been put in a pan with boiling water, or by using a double-boiler.

In case it’s required, unrefined cocoa butter can be heated in a  microwave. However, keep in mind that overheating it might damage its useful compounds. 

Advantages

1. Cold-pressing Extraction

Unrefined cocoa butter is not subjected to the rigors of processing and is instead extracted using a cold-pressing method2. It is barely exposed to any chemicals and thus, remains packed with nutrition. In addition to that, minimal heat is used while making it, which ensures that the butter retains all of its beneficial properties.

2. More Benefits And Uses

Moving on, unrefined cocoa butter also has more biological benefits and has wider application. It is versatile and can be used to make a wide range of products; for instance, one can whip it into fluff to make skin lotion or hair products.

Not only that, it can be employed in the process of soap-making as well, as well as be softened within a double-boiler for use in massage oil. You can additionally use it when you’re making DIY ointments and balms.

To put it succinctly, unrefined cocoa butter is a miraculous compound that is as close to the source of cocoa butter as it can get. It works wonders on hair and skin and is a winner in our book.

Disadvantages

1. Distinct Scent

Unrefined cocoa butter is characterized by a raw, chocolaty smell. Moreover, this smell is virtually impossible to mask unless a very small amount of unrefined cocoa butter is used when you’re DIYing a skincare product. Then too, you’ll have to mix essential oils with a strong scent to cut out the potent smell of the cocoa extract.

2. Quality And Extraction Process

Apart from this, one other major drawback of unrefined cocoa butter is its quality depends on where it came from and how it was extracted. Many places don’t adhere to the standards prescribed for the extraction of the butter, and as a result, the extract may be inundated with impurities.

3. Shelf-life

What’s more, the amino acids that comprise unrefined cocoa butter aren’t as stable as the ones making up refined cocoa butter. So, the shelf life of the former won’t be as long, and it will spoil eventually. In addition to that, the bioactive compounds present in the butter might also lose their potency over time, rendering it absolutely ineffective.

Which Is The Better Option?

After reading in-depth about what makes refined cocoa butter and unrefined cocoa butter different from each other, we came to pick the best option out of the two. Broadly, one can say that a major difference between the two is the process of extraction of fatty acids from the cocoa seed. The extraction could be manual, or it could be mechanical.

But when one talks about the better pick or use in DIY products, it gets difficult because both have their pros and cons. We believe that refined cocoa butter is a better option for balms, lotions, soaps, and deodorants. Using it guarantees a long shelf life for the product, as well as the possibility of assigning another scent to it.

However, if you aren’t looking to manufacture a skincare product and just want to use it for personal purposes, then unrefined cocoa butter is hands down the winner. It is natural and organic and produces better results. Plus, if you like the smell of chocolate, you should definitely give it a shot!

Final Thoughts

There is a recent trend of using natural products over artificial ones, which means that unrefined cocoa butter is big in the market right now. However, there are still those who believe in traditional cosmetic products, so preferences for refined and unrefined cocoa butter will depend greatly on factors like packaging, advertisements, celebrity endorsements, etc.

From a manufacturers’ perspective, the choice might water down to a price difference between refined oils and mineral oils for mass-market brands. For those looking to make natural products, the decision might hinge on the long-term viability of refined oil or the increased potency and effects of unrefined fats and oils.

With this, we’ve come to the end of this article, and we hope to see you again soon with a similar piece. Take care and stay healthy!

References

1.  https://naturallybalmy.co.uk/blogs/news/unrefined-cocoa-butter-what-are-the-benefits

2.  https://thebestorganicskincare.com/refined-vs-unrefined-cocoa-butter-whats-the-difference/

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