Why do we love to use cocoa butter? Because it’s a wonderful multi-tasking material. Not only does it soften, condition and moisturise the skin, it also helps bind ingredients in a formula and allows us to create self-preserving and naked products.
The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) grows in warm, humid forests near the equator. It yields large dark red or yellow pods containing up to 50 seeds each, coated by soft, edible flesh. The seeds, also called cocoa beans, are covered to ferment and then dried. During this process, they lose their acidic taste and develop their familiar chocolate scent.
To obtain cocoa butter and powder, the prepared beans are cleaned, dried and roasted and then ground into a thick, oily paste called chocolate liquor. The liquor can be used as such for chocolate-making or subjected to high pressure to separate the cocoa powder from the butter. An additional step can be carried out to deodorise the butter to remove any trace of the chocolate smell. This often happens for its use in cosmetics as the smell could interfere with other scents.
Cocoa butter contains oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid that is highly compatible with our body's natural sebum and allows the butter to be more easily absorbed into the skin.
It also contains stearic acid, a skin-softening fatty acid that acts as an emulsifier. This means that the butter helps bind oil and water together, preventing products from separating. Combined with the solid nature of the butter, this emulsifying property creates tight emulsions that leave no room for microbes to move and grow, helping products to remain fresher for longer.
Lush sources Fair Trade and organic cocoa butter from Dominican Republic and Peru.
Three sources make up the 200,000 kilos we use every year in the UK. Two of these are sourced from The Organic Growers Dominican Foundation (FUNDOPO) in the Dominican Republic. This umbrella organisation works with approximately 1,500 farmers, each growing cocoa on land averaging in size from 1.5-2 hectares, to ensure they get a fair price for the cocoa the top-quality cocoa they produce.
The Communidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó in north-west Colombia is our third supplier. The group of roughly 2,100 farmers pledge themselves to non-violence in an area ravaged by the army, leftist guerrilla fighters and right-wing paramilitary groups. When we heard their story we knew we had to help, but our cocoa supply from the Peace Community arose through serendipity. It was by chance that we found they could help us too.
Working with these dedicated communities has been a fantastic learning curve for Lush. We’ve visited the farmers and learnt more about international relationships, accommodating the flexibility required by small-scale suppliers and the challenges they face.
Together, we’ve got big plans for the future. Our inventing team have reformulated all our cocoa butter products with the new beautifully unfragranced supply. This huge, effects-led innovation means our products, including our new fully-traceable massage bar range, are even more beneficial to the skin.
We’re also rebuilding communities using techniques honed by our permaculture specialist and ethical buyer, Simon Constantine. Concepts such as using mycelium – a fungal species – to regenerate the soil can have a dramatic effect on the livelihood of cocoa communities and in turn nurture their long-term wellbeing.
Thank you for joining us on the journey so far. Reaching 100% traceable status for cocoa is a major milestone, but we're not done yet...