Ever wondered if you can use food to make skincare in your kitchen at home?
The answer is yes of course you can! Food is often used in skincare and organic skincare is food for your skin. Many I Am Natural recipes started out in my kitchen at home, and one of them, the Organic Cacao & Orange Facial Sugar Scrub, contains ingredients that I always keep stocked in my kitchen cupboard.
I love skincare that is made from food. It can be so confusing knowing which commercial skincare ingredients are safe but my approach is to keep things simple…if it’s safe to put on your skin it should be safe enough to eat! It’s no surprise that superfoods, such as cacao, have an incredible effect on your skin and are beneficial both internally and externally.
Read on to find out how you can make it your own cacao facial scrub at home.
First, what is cacao? Is it the same as cocoa?
They are the same to begin with but everything changes in the processing! Named ‘food of the Gods’ by the Mayans, cacao is the seed of the cacao tree, Theobroma Cacao, which is native to rainforests in Central and South America. Cacao pods contain about 30-40 seeds and are harvested by hand from the tree. The pods are opened, the seeds removed and left in the sun to naturally ferment and dry for several days. Left raw, and with all their nutrients intact, they are cacao beans. If the seeds are heated, roasted and processed for chocolate, they are cocoa beans, but sadly a lot of the nutrients and antioxidants are lost. As with most things we consume, less processing is best!
I use cacao nibs to make the Organic Cacao & Orange Facial Sugar Scrub. Nibs are crushed raw cacao seeds that are smooth but pretty hard. Ok for eating, but not so good for skincare. Grinding the dried cacao seeds creates a fine cacao powder. If you’ve eaten either the nibs or powder you’ll know the unforgettable taste of unsweetened dark chocolate with a hint of bitterness.
Superfood for your skin.
Cacao and cocoa are not the same when it comes to nutrients! Raw cacao seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients, compared to heat processed cocoa prepared for confectionary. However, I don’t want to downplay cocoa butter in skincare, where its high vitamin E content and velvety smooth moisturising properties are invaluable in keeping your skin soft and healthy and why I use it in the recipe below.
Cacao is high in polyphenol antioxidants, which are also found in blueberries, green tea and red wine. These antioxidants protect our cells from premature ageing, helping us stay looking and feeling younger for longer. Cacao has over almost 4 times the antioxidant power as processed cocoa and 40 times the antioxidants as blueberries!
TIP: The antioxidants will also prevent your facial scrub from going rancid which is crucial when you’re making skincare without harmful preservatives.
Cacao contains high levels of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, sulphur and calcium. Phew! And there’s more…cacao also boasts protein, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, flavonoids and essential fatty acids, all in perfectly balanced quantities.
All these powerful nutrients help to protect against wrinkles caused by ageing and sun exposure. They boost your skin health by increasing blood flow and improving skin density and hydration. The flavonoids improve the circulation and delivery of oxygen to your skin which promotes efficient cell regeneration, giving you a healthy youthful glow. Sulphur helps us produce collagen and keratin, crucial for supple hair and skin. Pretty impressive!
Cacao makes you feel good.
Cacao contains natural feel-good chemicals, like anandamide which triggers all the pleasure regions of the brain. Whether you eat it or put it on your skin, just knowing you are using organic unprocessed raw cacao, which is healthy for you (and for the planet) will make you feel good.
Recipe for DIY Organic Cacao Facial Sugar Scrub.
40g Organic Coconut Butter
3g Organic Cocoa Butter
20g Organic Cacao Nibs
60g Organic Coconut Sugar
1-2ml Organic Essential oils, optional
Gather your ingredients and equipment e.g glass beaker or bain marie, scales, stirrer, thermometer.
TIP: You’ll need a powerful blender to grind the cacao and sugar. If you don’t have a blender, buy powdered cacao. You can also grind the sugar using a mortar and pestle.
1. First, measure out your organic coconut butter and organic cocoa butter. Place them together in your glass beaker or bain marie and melt over a low heat. While they are melting you can prepare your cacao nibs and coconut sugar.
I use a fairtrade organic coconut sugar in the Organic Cacao & Orange Sugar Scrub. It can be used as is for cooking & baking but to use as a facial exfoliant you're going to need it a bit finer.
3. Measure out your sugar into your blender.
4. Whizz the sugar on high speed for just a few seconds. I use a Vitamix and crank the dial up to 8. You want to grind it so that it’s gentle enough to use as a facial exfoliant but also ‘gritty’ enough that it won’t clump together or melt as soon as its added to warm ingredients later on.
This is what your organic coconut sugar should look like.
5. Now it’s the turn of your organic raw cacao nibs. Pulse them in your blender on high speed for 3-5 seconds. Check on them, and if they need a bit more grinding, go again.
Your ground cacao nibs should be a mixture of tiny broken nibs and fine powder. Spoon out a few of the larger nibs and set them aside separately. You can use these as decoration at the end.
6. By now your organic coconut butter and organic cocoa butter will have melted together to create a lovely butter blend. That's a lot of butter for one sentence!
Give the blend a thorough stir and transfer to a larger mixing bowl.
OPTIONAL: At this point you can add 1-2ml of essential oils. Make sure the butter blend is below 40oC to retain the therapeutic benefit of your oils. I use a mixture of orange, lemon and lime in the Organic Cacao & Orange Facial Scrub, but you can choose your own oils if you wish.
7. Add the organic cacao and organic coconut sugar to the butter & essential oil blend and stir gently. Be patient. At first it will appear that the mixture will be too dry but keep gently mixing. NB. If you mix or mash it too hard, the cacao and sugar will dissolve which will reduce the amount of exfoliating.
TIP: If you have a sweet tooth you’ll need to exert huge willpower at this point because your facial scrub will resemble cookie dough and is an edible sugary treat from heaven!
8. Spoon your cacao facial scrub in a container. You’ll have about 100-120g.
9. Sprinkle the top of your organic facial scrub with the ground cacao nibs that you set aside earlier. Pop your creation in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
Once your cacao facial scrub has set you can keep it in the bathroom ready for your beauty routine. It’s easy to use:
- Massage the scrub into your face in slow circular motions.
- The organic coconut oil will soften your skin quickly and you will feel the cacao and sugar grains exfoliating your face.
- Rinse your face and pat your skin dry and notice how rosy cheeked you look! Any excess oil will soak into your skin, continuing to moisturise.
TIP: Leave your facial scrub on your face for 5 minutes before removing to allow your skin to absorb all the cacao nutrients. You’ll look and taste delicious though so watch out for people in your house wanting to lick your face!
You might also like to read How to exfoliate your skin in the summer, which explains how to exfoliate safely and properly to give yourself a radiant glow and keep in touch with any changes in your skin.
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Read more about skincare in the I Am Natural Vegan Beauty Journal.