Is Cocoa Butter Good for Baby Skin?

When you are a parent for the firs time (and you’ve never done anything with babies before), everything is new. You have tons of questions! Is it safe? Or not? You’ll ask this 1,000 times, and then 1,000 times more.

In today’s safety discussion, we are talking about using cocoa butter on your baby’s skin.

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What is cocoa butter, and what do the cocoa butter products at the store contain?

Cocoa Butter (aka cocao butter, aka theobromoa oil) ) is a pale-yellow, edible vegebtable fat, derived from whole cocoa beans. It is commonly used in the manufacture of cosmetics and treats like chocolate.

It is edible and generally can be used topically on the skin without issue. Because it has a high level of fatty acid, the butter has a creamy texture. Since it melts at body temperature, the butter is easily applied to the skin, and the skin absorbs it well.

When you see “cocoa butter” products on the shelf at the grocery store, such as Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Daily Skin Therapy (sold by Walmart), you might see an ingredients list looking like this:

  • theobroma cocoa extract (the cocoa butter)
  • mineral oil
  • microcrystalline wax
  • dimethicone
  • fragrance
  • tocopheryl acetate
  • benzyl alcohol
  • carotene

In most cases, you won’t be seeing a product that 100% cocoa butter, as the product itself without any additives isn’t really that exciting (meaning good smelling), and often contains some additives to make the product more easily applied to the skin.

What about using cocoa butter on babies? Is it safe?

In general, there is no reason to fear using cocoa butter on baby skin. The product itself is full of antioxidants, protects the skin, and can even be used to help with dry hair. Many folks with sensitive skin swear by it. However, if you or your baby has oily skin, it may not be a good fit for your family, as the butter can be a bit much.

However, we don’t recommend every product containing cocoa butter for babies. As we recommend during pregnancy, before you use a product on a baby, it is important to understand what is in it. Simply because a product calls itself “nature” or “non-toxic” or “safe” doesn’t mean that it is. Companies frequently list chemicals on labels that doesn’t sound bad or dangerous for you or your baby that are actually not good at all.

I did see on a forum recently where a mother mentioned that her OB recommended against using cocoa butter on the skin of pregnant women. She said her doctor told her that the cocoa butter had a stimulant in it (cocoa beans do have a small amount of a natural stimulant) which could negatively impact the baby in some way.

That particular woman said that she was using the butter to help avoid stretch marks on her belly, but that she did notice that her baby was bouncing off her literal walls in her belly after she used it. I haven’t seen anything that said specifically that cocoa butter is dangerous (or toxic) for unborn children or young babies, but it is something to read up on if you are concerns about cocoa butter. (I’m personally not concerned at this time).

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When checking your labels, look out for

These are ingredients to watch for an avoid when choosing a product for your baby’s skin:

  • Parabens, including butlyparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben, which the FDA acknowledges is linked to breast cancer, and decreased sperm count
  • Propylene glycol, which is included in anti-freeze, brake fluid, and should not come in contact with your skin
  • Fragrance, synthetic chemicals added to improve the smell of a product, but can actually be harmful to you with repeated and long term use, the contain hormone disruptors and are often allergens
  • sodium lauryl sulfate
  • BHA
  • Triclosan
  • Aminophenol
  • retinyl acetate
  • Petroleum distillates
  • Oxybenzone
  • dibutyl phthalate
  • Hydroquinone

(heck, anything that looks like a chemical with way too many letters from the alphabet to be natural is something to be avoided when you are pregnant, nursing, or looking to use it on your child)

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Above, I listed the ingredients of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Daily Skin Therapy (sold by Walmart). Having reviewed the ingredients list, and compared it against the list of chemicals we wouldn’t want to use on baby skin, I doubt I would choose that product.

Instead, I would look for a cocoa butter product that had very few chemical additives. If I couldn’t find anything, then perhaps I might consider making my own cocoa butter body whip. Since I’m not a super crafty woman, I checked out the recipes for making a “body butter” that I could use on myself or my baby, and found that it was actually a lot easier than I would have expect.

So it is safe, right? Safe for babies?

Yes, cocoa butter is safe to use on baby skin, so long as the product you are using is not full of chemical additives. Here are the benefits of using cocoa butter on your baby’s skin:

  • fight dry, flaky skin
  • high antioxidant levels fight off free-radicals (which cause skin aging, dark patches, and dull skin)
  • anti-inflammatory properties help keep skin healthy
  • scar reducer
  • deep moisturizer
  • sensitive skin healer (helps with eczema and dermatitis)

Just keep an eye on how oily her skin becomes after you start using it. If you notice clogged pores or a rash developing, stop using it. If you are uber-cautious, test a small square of her skin with the cocoa butter to see if any reaction results.

Making Your Own Cocoa Butter body cream

The first thing you’ll need is cocoa butter. Unrefined cocoa butter is easy to find as raw and organic.

If you don’t want to smell slightly light chocolate there is a refined (deodorized) version, which works just as well. Some reject the use of the refined version because of worries that all the good stuff gets filtered out along with the chocolate smell.

You can find a few pounds of cocoa butter (raw, without additives) on Amazon for around $10.00-$20.00/pound.

Frankly, once you get the raw cocoa butter, you don’t have to do anything with it to make it useful. Since its melting point is the temp of your skin, you could just take it out of the bag and rub in on yourself.

But let’s say you want to make it into something more special. Some folks like to mix in shea butter along with the cocoa butter, because it is easy to whip up and makes the resulting product more creamy. You can also mix in almond oi, jojoba oil coconut oil, olive oil

Either way, you’ll warm up the cocoa butter on the stove with a double boiler or even in the microwave (short pulses) until the butter is mixable. Then you can add whatever extras you want, such as:

  • essential oils (lavender, rosemary, tea tree, fir, etc)
  • menthol crystals

Store in an airtight container. If the mixture separates or hardens over time, you can simple warm it up a bit, and then whip or stir it up until it is back to the consistency you prefer.

That’s it. It is absurdly simple. If you are spending tons of $$ on body butter at the store, you should really consider just making it at home. Having looked at how simple it is, I know I will.

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