Cocoa was originally a rainforest plant that is now widely cultivated. Cocoa is originated in South America but is currently farmed mostly in Africa. Cocoa only thrives in the tropical areas as it needs plenty of warmth and moisture. For sure anyone who has made homemade cosmetics is familiar with cocoa butter. The smell of cocoa butter is wonderful, like chocolate and it has many good skin care properties. I wanted to write my own article about cocoa butter and also raise ethical and ecological concerns related to cocoa.
A brief history of cocoa
Cocoa was probably used originally by the Aztecs. It was especially the delicacy of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma (1466-1520). Emperor Moctezuma drank as many as 60 golden cups of cocoa daily. From the Aztecs, cocoa ended up in Europe with the Spanish conquerors. During the colonial period, cocoa ended up in European-hosted colonies such as the West Indies archipelago, the Philippines, and Africa. Currently, the largest cocoa plantations in the world are in Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast, together with Ghana, produces more than 70% of the world’s cocoa.
Cocoa trees produce elongated, yellow fruit that contains very fatty seeds. The fat content varies between 37-54%. The seeds are used in the production of both cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The cultivation and processing of cocoa is mainly done by hands. Yellow legumes are cut open with a jungle knife. The seeds, or cocoa beans, are separated from the opened pieces. Cocoa beans are fermented, dried and roasted. In the roasting process, the cocoa fat is separated from the cocoa beans by heat. Roasting takes place usually in buyers location, closer to consumers like in Europe.
What is raw cocoa butter?
Raw cocoa butter is not heated as hot as regular cocoa butter. Therefore, it has more nutrients stored. Raw cocoa butter is also more expensive because at lower temperatures, very little cocoa butter is produced. In Finland, the term raw cocoa is not used, as it may mislead the consumer. Raw cocoa means different things in different countries.
Ethical problems of cocoa
Cocoa is grown where it is warm and moist enough. Ivory Coast is one of the most popular cocoa growing areas. Cocoa plantations and monopoly buying organizations are almost always owned by a large, multinational company. They want to maximize their profits and relocate cocoa production to the world’s poorest countries. Where labour is cheap, it is worth cultivating cocoa. The price of cocoa is very low at the origin because big business wants their profits.
The fact is that cocoa plantations employ a very large number of children. Children are either forced to work at the request of adults or they are sold into slavery. The work is very dangerous. The heat makes the job extremely heavy. Cocoa cultivation also uses very potent pesticides to which children and all other workers are exposed.
Children do not receive education and do not have health care. The situation of children with cocoa plantations is very difficult.
International organizations have paid attention to the ethical problems of cocoa plantations. Cocoa production has started to be certified but the certification bodies have encountered overwhelming problems.
Local authorities have blocked free access to cocoa plantations. The visits of the inspectors of the certification bodies are known in advance and the children are removed away the plantation.
Certification bodies are also lowering standards to get more customers. Not all certificates are reliable.
The cocoa crop is collected from different farms and sold to wholesalers. The certified and non-certified crop is intentionally mixed so that the wholesaler can sell everything at a certified price. This is, of course, a criminal activity but very common.
Certification does not improve the situation of farmers. Cocoa is still too cheap to workers earn a decent wage. Certified farms live in poverty. Even if big cocoa buyers pay compensation to farmers, the money doesn’t end up in their pockets. The money is used in municipal administration, for example, to train farmers.
Cocoa butter protects and moisturizes the skin
Despite the ethical problems of cocoa production, it is a very versatile plant. Cocoa butter has its place as an ingredient in cosmetics. Next, I’ll give some facts about the properties of cocoa in skin care.
Cocoa butter is high in hard fatty acids such as palmitic acid and stearic acid. Therefore, it is quite hard fat. The good side of cocoa butter is that its melting point is almost the same as the skin temperature, 34-35 degrees Celsius. Therefore, even full-bodied cocoa butter products spread well on the skin.
- Cocoa butter is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the skin from premature aging.
- Cocoa butter moisturizes the skin. It is rich in oleic acid, which supports the skin’s moisture balance.
- Cocoa butter protects the skin from drying out. It is rich in palmitic acid, which is a protective fatty acid.
- Cocoa butter clearly smells like chocolate. Many consider it a good thing but very often this is not the case. Not everyone wants the smell of a chocolate bar.
- One disadvantage of cocoa butter is its blocking effect on the skin. It will not absorb easily to the skin. Therefore, it is recommended to keep the cocoa butter content low in creams.
For which products is cocoa butter suitable?
Cocoa butter is suitable for normal and dry skin. For oily and easily clogged skin, you should choose another vegetable butter. Cocoa butter is too heavy on the skin of the face. So, use cocoa butter for body products. Especially whipped body butters and other creams applied to the body are easy to make using cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter is much harder than shea butter. It is good to know when making cosmetics.
Cocoa butter is well suited for preventing pigmentation disorders on the skin. As the sun shines in the spring, more and more dark spots begin to form on the skin of the arms and chest. The effective antioxidants in cocoa butter brighten the skin and fade darkening of the skin.
Choose cocoa butter as one of the ingredients in the foot cream. Cocoa butter is also very useful in lip creams and lip balms.
With the help of cocoa butter, many women have avoided pregnancy scars. Cocoa butter can be applied as such to the skin or used as one of the ingredients in the cream. It is best to use cocoa butter on the body regularly throughout pregnancy as well as after pregnancy.
Get organic, ethically produced cocoa butter
Cocoa butter is a great product for skin care. It should not be left unused. When you buy cocoa butter, buy organic quality. Toxic pesticides have not been used in organic cocoa butter. However, organic does not necessarily guarantee that the product is ethical.
Check the ethics of the product with the seller. For example, Foodin’s organic raw cocoa butter is ethically produced. Foodini’s cocoa butter producers are SPP (Símbolo de Pequeños Productores) certified. SPP is an international network of small organic producers. The organization operates in South America, Asia and Africa. Foodin’s cocoa butter comes from farms in South America that are part of the SPP network. SPP certified farms are also always organic farms and farms have an organic certificate.
SPP certified producers operate ethically. The use of child labour is closely monitored by the SPP organization. The SPP organization also makes sure that producers and employees receive reasonable compensation for their work. Community children are provided with access to schools and health care.
Do you use sustainably produced cocoa butter in the making of your cosmetics?