Ah, the humble cacao bean – a treasure trove of fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients, not to mention the giver of chocolate….
Whether it’s melting into your skin as pure cocoa butter, powdered in our pampering chocolate face mask, or swirled into a mug of warm milk, cacao is one of nature’s richest ingredients.
What’s the difference between cocoa and cacao I hear you ask? Usually cocoa powder is derived from roasted beans, before being processed and mixed with other ingredients. Cacao powder is raw, untreated and additive free so it remains full of nutrients and antioxidants. Cacao and cocoa can actually be used interchangeably (as I’ve done in this post!) but usually the cacao refers to a raw product with minimal processing.
Personally, I much prefer unrefined, or raw cacao, and believe it delivers greater skin benefits when you compare it to the processed product. Fairtrade organic raw cacao powder is the star ingredient in our Chocolate Marshmallow Face Mask, which also includes crushed rose petals, pink clay, marshmallow, cupuacu and crushed vanilla beans. It really leaves the skin feeling really soft and pampered and is perfect for any unexpected outbreaks. It smells so good. This mask is my Friday night treat!
Our organic cocoa/cacao butter is also unrefined. You’ll find cocoa butter listed as an ingredient in lots of moisturisers and body butters, but often it’ll have been bleached so that it doesn’t affect the colour of a white lotion. The natural fragrance is also often removed too, to make sure it doesn’t overpower synthetic perfumes. We think it’s natural chocolatey aroma is one of it’s finest attributes!
Our cocoa butter is as pure as you can get it. Cold-pressed from organic beans, it smells wonderfully rich and chocolatey. We buy our cocoa butter from producers in Peru and Uganda. Cocoa butter is always solid at room temperature, but it melts on contact with warm skin. Take a small chunk and glide it over your skin straight after a warm bath or shower. Your skin will literally drink it up, particularly if it’s dry or dehydrated. You should find that your skin feels softer, more hydrated and overall more nourished.
Alternatively, melt a small amount in a double boiler (a glass bowl over a pan of hot water). The liquid cocoa butter is a perfect body oil and super easy to apply – it is absolutely worth the effort.
(Our cocoa and almond body butter is a simple blend of cocoa butter and sweet almond oil. Firm in the tub, just warm up a small amount for easy, top-to-toe moisturising.)
Of course, I couldn’t write a whole post about the wonders of the cacao bean without talking about chocolate could I? There are few things in life more pleasurable than a bite of good, rich chocolate. And, if you choose wisely, there’s no guilt in the pleasure. Cacao itself is very good for you; it’s full of antioxidants that can help to prevent heart disease. It can also boost your serotonin levels, release endorphins and generally improve your mood. It’s only when it’s heavily processed, mixed with a tonne of sugar, refined vegetable fats and additives that the cons outweigh the pros!
My vote goes to the Equal Exchange chocolate range, which is fairly traded and organic. Equal Exchange is a workers’ co-operative, and the cacao is produced by small-scale farmers. All of which seems to improve the taste.
There is no excuse not to enjoy the wonders of cacao in all it’s forms, inside and out. Enjoy!