Cupuacu (Theobroma grandiflorum) is a fruit from Central and South America and a close relative of cocoa. It is the source of the increasingly popular cupuacu butter, an edible butter made from the seeds of the fruit. Cupuacu butter is a vegetal fat with more than 50% saturated fat, a characteristic that doesn’t recommend it very much for regular consumption. Nevertheless, the particular fatty acid make-up of cupuacu butter recommends it for external use, for skin and hair in particular, providing benefits few other natural products do.
What does cupuacu butter look, smell and taste like?
The name ‘cupuacu butter’ (pronounced something like koo-poo-AH-soo) is inspired in the sense that the product looks just like butter: a light-colored solid fat. However, there are two types: unrefined and refined – and they don’t look exactly alike. Unrefined cupuacu butter is creamy white to lightly yellow-tinted and is light and soft. Similar to a freshly churned dairy butter. Given that it’s unrefined, it retains not only a slight color, but also a particular scent – sweet and faintly sour notes, reminiscent of cocoa, chocolate and maybe some yogurt or passion fruit-like odor. As for the taste, it’s like a scented, edible butter with little flavor overall. It is edible and can be used to make desserts.
The refined product however has a slightly different appearance, odor and taste. Now, all cupuacu butter is obtained from the seeds of the fruit through a process called cold pressing which best conserves the unique properties and benefits of cupuacu fat (basically the seeds are crushed to get the fat out). But in order to further conserve the fat and its properties and essentially prolong its shelf life, the product may be subjected to additional processing in the form of refining. The resulting product is a refined cupuacu butter.
Refined cupuacu butter is a solid vegetal fat, white-colored, unscented and lacking the particular flavor notes mix of the unrefined butter. Part of the refining process includes heating the butter until it becomes liquid and pouring it into its final container so that it will set in a more uniform manner when it resumes it solid state. For the most part, the refined product is meant for external use such as for skin and hair in which case it is likely mixed with other natural butters or oils or moisturizing products, some edible, some not. In part, this is done to improve the quality of the resulting product. It’s important to read the label on your product and use accordingly to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
How to use cupuacu butter
The natural, unrefined butter is edible and can be used as a source of dietary fat; but because it is high in saturated fat and a pure fat itself, it’s best used scarcely. Both the refined and unrefined butter can be used for skin and hair care as emollients, moisturizers, for makeup removal, hair treatments etc. The benefits for cupuacu butter for skin and hair care are owed to its natural emollient properties, intense hydrating action as well as water absorption capacity that helps lock in moisture. See more Properties and Benefits of Cupuacu Butter.
1) Intense hydrating action
What recommends cupuacu butter for skin care is its intense hydrating action which helps skin cells better retain moisture for a healthier appearance and softer feel. The butter can be applied after a shower to help lock in moisture. The unrefined butter is also a source of vitamin A for healthy skin cells and vitamin E with a powerful moisturizing action.
2) Natural emollient
Its particular fatty acid makeup and vitamin E content make cupuacu butter a good natural emollient, great for caring for dry, damaged skin. The butter has a softening and soothing action, moisturizing skin and restoring its natural elasticity. It can be used for management of various skin conditions that cause dry, scaly, thickened skin such as dermatitis (eczema), xerosis or psoriasis.
3) Good for dry, chapped lips
Cupuacu butter is a good, natural alternative for dry, chapped lips. The butter can be applied directly onto lips and help prevent and reverse dryness. For best results, it should be used regularly. Constituents such as oleic acid (an Omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid) and saturated fats such as palmitic acid or stearic acid as well as vitamins A and E contribute to the benefits cupuacu butter for skin and lips.
4) Anti-aging effects
Both the unrefined but especially the refined butter have anti-aging effects which further provide benefits for skin appearance. Vitamins A and E in cupuacu butter along with saturated and unsaturated fatty acids not only help keep skin moisturized and restore its elasticity, but also hold antioxidant effects for wrinkle prevention and attenuation. There are sources that particularly recommend cupuacu butter for mature skin.
5) Helps repair damaged hair, restores shine
Cupuacu butter can be applied directly on the hair as a natural hair mask, conditioner or leave-in treatment for damaged ends. The butter is rich in saturated and unsaturated fatty acids which nourish hair intensively, lock in moisture and combat dryness and brittleness and restore shine. It is particularly suitable for dry scalp, including scalp problems such as eczema, dandruff and scalp irritation, helping balance sebum, moisturizing the skin and reducing itchiness and redness. It can be used to give definition to curly hair or give sheen to hair ends after styling.
6) Absorbed fast, non-greasy finish
Cupuacu butter is a type of fat that is quite similar to human skin oils. This and the fact that it has a low melting point (estimated at 30 degrees Celsius) allows it to get absorbed rather quickly into the skin and not leave a greasy finish. The butter itself is quite lightweight and, combined, all of these factors contribute to a generally good skin response.
However, cupuacu butter may not necessarily be the absolute best choice for oily skin and can potentially exacerbate acne if used on this type of skin (it is likely moderately comedogenic). If you use it for skin care, it is important to apply it in scarce amounts on a clean face and allow it to get absorbed into the skin completely. The benefit of the butter is it improves the skin’s lipid profile and moisture barrier, improving appearance and feel.
How does cupuacu butter feel on skin? Greasy, but lightweight and overall pleasant. It is important to use very small amounts. Best for dry skin types. Not very suitable for oily skin. Unrefined cupuacu butter is better than the refined one, preferably from organic agriculture.