What is Cupuaçu butter?
One of the gifts of the rainforest is Cupuaçu. It’s a nutrient-rich, life sustaining botanical that has made it’s way from the Amazon to our artisanal studios.
It’s a tree in the cocoa family and it’s delicious fruit is prized by birds, monkeys and humans. In Peru and Brazil the creamy pulp is used to make ice cream, juice and jam. Cupuaçu juice was even blessed by a shaman as part of the birth process. Like cocoa it contains ‘beans’. It is from these beans that a soft, creamy butter can be pressed. This is what we formulators use.
What does Cupuaçu butter smell like?
In one word, chocolate! Some say they detect the hint of pineapple. I’ve just gone to my stash and sniffed both cocoa butter and cupuacu. Cocoa in comparison has a vanilla scent, and yes, the Cupuaçu has a fruity note, strong, in a good way. I don’t find that the chocolate scent carries through in my Samba formulation though.
So what’s so great about Cupuaçu?
Let’s look at the fatty acid profile:
You’ll notice how much stearic acid it has. And all that palmitic acid, no wonder it’s used in mature skin.. but wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here…
What are the benefits of Cupuaçu butter?
It’s packed with nutrition: vitamins B1, B2, B3 (Niacin), calcium, selenium (needed to prevent cancer), fatty and amino acids, and at least nine antioxidants (including Vitamins A and C) as well as phytochemicals such as tannins, glycosides, theograndins, catechins, quercetin, kaempferol and isoscutellarein. And like chocolate, it contains theobromine, theophylline and small amount of caffeine. (Did you know that chocolate has powerful anti-cancer chemicals. Read a list of other herbs to consider)
So it gives formulators another nutrient dense ingredient to play with. I use it in Samba facial balm.
Cupuaçu Butter benefits
It’s texture is much softer and creamier than cocoa butter. It’s been labelled as the vegan alternative to lanolin because of its curious ability its able to retain water. So this makes it suitable for your clients with lanolin allergies. I love it for its effects on dry, menopausal skin. Within Samba I feel it soothes and supports dry skin. I was delighted to find a butter, other than Shea, to use in a balm that didn’t make my skin feel suffocated, or cause those horrible (and painful) whiteheads.
The remarkable hydration capabilities, consistency, texture and composition of Cupuaçu Butter make it well suited for use in a wide array of personal care applications that include formulations intended to soothe and support mature, severely dry and problem skin.
Cupuaçu Butter is also an effective ingredient for use in hair care products intended to add shine, nourish, hydrate and replenish the moisture in hair.
Cupuaçu butter for hair
Yes, you can use it for conditioning formulae. I don’t use anything heavy like Cupuaçu on my hair though, as it is very fine, but if you have thicker hair that is dry, consider including Cupuaçu in a blend as it is packed with botanical phytochemicals. It also acts like a vegan lanolin. (Did you know that lanolin is a source of immunity boosting Vitamin D?? Cool, huh)
Does Cupuaçu butter clog pores?
I have found that like cocoa butter, if you use too much on Celtic skin, it might be too much. I have a personal problem with cocoa butter on my face, so when I use Cupuaçu, I blend it with omega three rich oils. But if your ancestors lived in the Amazon rainforest, you’ll likely be better adjusted to it on your face. Again I suggest you test. Friends and family are excellent guinea pigs!
I’ve read that “water-retention capacity of 240 percent its own weight ” and that “Its hydrophilic properties make it up to four times more effective than Shea butter at sealing in moisture” – so what I did do was blend pure Cupuaçu with a water soluble marine ingredient. Surprise surprise it did blend without anything other than heat and gentle stirring. It was still a pretty ‘heavy’ result, too heavy for my type of skin and on cooling it separated out into water/disc of white fat, but it was impressive to see the water blending in with the butter. I’ve never had that with any of the other butters before. So if you’re looking to dabble with butters, pop Cupuaçu onto your list. And if you’re interested in a ready-made with product then I highly recommend Samba.
Cupuaçu butter vs Shea butter
Shea has been available to buy and fairly well known for at least two decades. Cupuaçu though is the new kid on the block. Shea comes from Africa, where I grew up, but Shea wasn’t used in the Nivea and other ordinary skincare creams my mom bought us.
I’ve been using Shea since 2004 ish, but only started playing with Cupuaçu around 2017. I use Shea butter in my face creams and Cupuaçu in the night balm. Why? I was experimenting with a solid serum type texture and Cupuaçu was recently available. There are so many fantastic raw ingredients -and it’s addictive to keep trying new ones.
Obviously the scent differs between Shea and Cupuaçu. Neither are detectable in the final blend as I use essential oils anyway. So if you’re wondering which to use… get some of both and experiment :-)
Shea provides some UV protection. Makes sense as there are not as many trees and deep shade as within the Amazon! More about shea.