Now that I’ve worked with three different waxes for these quick guides, I thought I’d try cocoa butter (USA / Canada). Cocoa butter is a wonderful ingredient—brittle, cocoa scented, and velvety soft on the skin. It melts at about 34°C, which is just a few degrees below body temperature, and it doesn’t really have a soft stage, making it rather unique in skin care formulations.

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Because cocoa butter (USA / Canada) melts about 30°C cooler than beeswax, I decided to run this experiment a bit differently than my wax experiments. Instead of doing 1:1 through 1:8, I did 4:1 though 1:5. That is, I did four parts cocoa butter (USA / Canada) to one part liquid oil all the way up to one part cocoa butter (USA / Canada) and five parts liquid oil. As usual, I worked in 1 gram increments (so 1:5 is 1 gram cocoa butter (USA / Canada), 5 grams liquid oil), and my liquid oil was plain olive oil (pomace). The first number is always the cocoa butter (USA / Canada), and the second number is always the olive oil (pomace).

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I labelled each little tin, melted them one by one in a water bath, and then let them set up on my kitchen counter for a week since cocoa butter (USA / Canada) takes a really long time to solidify at room temperature. It was about a full day before I saw any solids forming in my wee tins.

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As the days passed, the mixtures didn’t so much solidify as precipitate. The more cocoa butter (USA / Canada) that was in the mixture, the larger the blobs would be. The 1:5 ended up with tiny little specks of cocoa butter (USA / Canada) floating in a small puddle of olive oil (pomace).

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Because the mixtures solidified so strangely at room temperature, I melted them down a second time after making my initial observations. This time I did them all at once in the oven until just melted, and then I popped them all in the fridge so they could set up faster. I removed the tins from the fridge after about 5 hours, at which point all of them had solidified to some degree. I then let them return to room temperature before doing a second set of observations. In general, though, the quick-cool versions came out much smoother—no mottling this time. They did, however, have an almost sandy/sugary texture. There were small, visible particles in the mixtures that you couldn’t feel as they’d melt straight away. Interesting.

The second melting.

The second melting.

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Let the observations begin!

After sitting out at room temperature to solidify the mixture has gone lumpy/mottled.

After sitting out at room temperature to solidify the mixture has gone lumpy/mottled.

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4:1—After coming to room temperature for a week there are distinct rounds of cocoa butter (USA / Canada) in a rather mottled looking solid. Firm, melts like cocoa butter (USA / Canada) does when handled (just a little bit and it slowly brings up a bit of oil). I can scrape up small bits with my finger nail, and those small shavings melt into the skin quickly and smoothly. Cannot press through it with a fingertip. After a second melt and quick chill the mixture is smoother, but still the same firmness.

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3:1—Still mottled looking and solid. Massaging the surface lightly coats the fingers with oil. Scratching at the surface with a fingernail brings up shavings that melt into the skin quickly, going from a semi-soft texture to liquid very quickly. Cannot press through with a fingertip. After a second melt and quick chill the mixture is smooth, but the same otherwise.

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2:1—Still a mottled looking solid. Massaging the surface lightly coats the fingers, but it cannot be pressed through with a fingertip. Quite easy to scrape through with a fingernail. Shavings melt quickly and are smooth. After a second melt and quick chill the set mixture is much smoother but seems to be a touch “sandy” in appearance (no change to texture though). It can be pressed through easily with a fingertip. Melts quickly and smoothly.

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1:1—A mottled semi-solid. I can press through this one with my fingertip easily. Melts fairly quickly on contact with the skin. Smooth and soft, would make a nice soft body butter. After a second melt and quick chill the final mixture is smooth and very soft. Pressing with the tip of the thumb brings up a good amount of product, which melts quickly. The mixture looks almost as if it has some fine particles of sugar in it, but you cannot feel them.

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1:2—This is the first one that has more liquid oil than cocoa butter (USA / Canada), and it didn’t really set up. There’s cocoa butter (USA / Canada) on one side of the tin, and oil with little dots of cocoa butter (USA / Canada) on the other side. The cocoa butter (USA / Canada) is too soft to be pure cocoa butter (USA / Canada), so it’s obviously incorporated some of the liquid oil. After a second melt and quick chill the final mixture is very soft, and has a very distinct grainy appearance, but you cannot feel the grains.

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1:3—The cocoa butter (USA / Canada) really isn’t doing anything here—there are just little dots of cocoa butter (USA / Canada) floating in a pool of oil. The oil is not noticeably more viscous. After a second melt and quick chill the mixture sets up more evenly and now looks like a semi-thickened oil. Not solid at all to the touch, seems like the fine sand/sugar like particles I’ve noticed in previous batches are now floating in a pool of oil.

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1:4—This one is also basically just liquid oil with dots of cocoa butter (USA / Canada) floating in it. The oil is not noticeably more viscous. After a second melt and quick chill the mixture sets up more evenly and appears to be a soft solid, though it is much softer than that to the touch. After poking it with my finger it mostly liquifies and the sandy-like cocoa butter (USA / Canada) is obviously not well incorporated.

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1:5—More oil, fewer cocoa dots. The oil is not noticeably more viscous. After a second melt and quick chill the small dots are finer and more dispersed. The final result is definitely still a liquid.

Some lessons learned:

  • Cocoa butter is not a very good thickener
  • All mixtures thickened with cocoa butter (USA / Canada) are nice and smooth—there’s no stickiness, which also means you don’t get the kind of staying power you get from balms thickened with beeswax
  • When allowed to cool at room temperature you get a rather odd mottled texture or wee dots of cocoa butter (USA / Canada) floating in oil
  • When chilled quickly lower concentrations have a rather sandy appearance
Hard? Solid? Melt speed Sticky? Slip
4:1 Yes Yes Fast No Great
3:1 Yes Yes Fast No Great
2:1 No Soft Fast No Great
1:1 No Soft Fast No Great
1:2 No No Fast No Great
1:3 No No Instant No Great
1:4 No No Instant No Great
1:5 No No Instant No Great

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