By Johanna Ferreira
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the ancestral healing benefits of cacao. Aside from being delicious, this ingredient that’s found in a number of countries in Latin America, can lower inflammation, improve gut health, control blood sugar and more. But there’s a reason why so many of your favorite beauty products have been featuring this superfood. That’s because it can do wonders for both your skin and hair.
“Cacao is a superfood with a myriad of healing benefits. It has a deep mystical history with Central and South American culture, used as the ultimate ofrenda (divine offering) to the gods,” says herbalist, medicine maker, educator and founder of Anima Mundi Herbals, Adriana Ayales “Along with being a nutritional powerhouse, studies show that applying the raw cacao offers a lot of the same benefits as eating it. The high levels of antioxidants protect and repair the skin from oxidative damage and premature aging. Being a potent anti-inflammatory, it soothes redness, inflammatory skin imbalances, and also improves the complexion.”
Cacao is grown in various parts of Latin America and the Caribbean including Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Puerto Rican, and the Dominican Republic. Ayales especially loves working with this ingredient as it keeps her connected to her ancestors.
“It’s historical uses and ancestry are really powerful and impressive. It’s incredible to think that our ancestors knew the depth and power of this sacred tree, and therefore worked with it and it’s energies in profound and detailed ways,” she adds.
“They knew more than what modern scientific studies have uncovered. As the consciousness of the planet awakens, I do believe that we will come closer to its spirit, and many other spirits that are yet to be revealed to us within nature.”
Founder of Gloryscent Beauty, Rafaela Gonzalez was so inspired by this ingredient, she decided to feature it in her newest products: the Total Body Serum and the Urban Detox. “Cacao has a very long history. The ancient Mayans of Honduras used it in sacred rituals, as an aphrodisiac and as a beverage for the elites,” Gonzalez says. “As far as I know, this is not the case for my ancestors in the Dominican Republic. This is why I find it so surprising that 70% of organic and high quality cacao is produced in the Dominican Republic. Our people seem to have caught up with the amazing cosmetic value of cacao.”
The cacao in the Gloryscent Urban Detox Mask ($66) works to improve blood circulation in the face, which results in a brighter and plumper complexion. It’s also loaded with antioxidants along with vitamin C that aid to even skin. In the Nourishing Total Body Serum ($63), cacao works more as a therapeutic ingredient — everything from the scent to its warmth. A few other skincare products that feature cacao and work to repair skin cells and provide a healthy complexion are the Skot Beaute Supple Glow Moisture Creme ($65), the Buttah Cocoshea Revitalizing Cream ($19) that also features a blend of rich African butters to improve skin tone and texture, the Leland Francis Black Rose Cleansing Gel ($29) and the Leland Francis Black Rose Bar ($22), the Macrene Actives High Performance Face Cream ($225) and the Macrene Actives High Performance Face Serum ($195). Mora Cosmetics also features cacao in their Satin Sheen Multisticks ($25) that work to enhance lips and cheeks with a shimmery but natural-looking glow. The Plenaire Skin Frosting Hydrating Mask ($50) features cacao, squalane, shea butter, and natural oils to deeply moisturize and soothe skin, especially during the drier months.
As far as hair goes, Ayales explains that the protein and sulfur found in cacao, helps to strengthen and repair hair follicles. “It can also help in aiding hair growth and preventing breakage,” she says. “Keep in mind that RAW cacao is what creates this effect. Overly processed cacao doesn’t have nearly as much nutritional impact as raw.”
To get your hair to reap the strengthening benefits of this ancient ingredient, try Bomba Curls Forbidden Hair Mask ($28) for a deep conditioning treatment that will nourish damaged and dull hair back to life. For a styling product that provides just as much hold as repair, try the Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Hair Pomade ($60). This multipurpose styling cream works wonders on all curl types.
Formulated with cacao, African shea butter, and a nourishing blend of oils, the Beija Flor Naturals Body + Hair Honey ($20) helps to promote both healthy hair and skin.
“I believe society at large is looking to tune into source and origins and cacao is one of those powerful euphoric and nutrient dense powerhouses that most of us feel and love,” Ayala concludes. “This tree is very symbolic and its deep history is what I feel calls people to it. It was one of the main forms of trade within Central-South America for hundreds of years. In Aztec culture, cacao beans for example, were considered more valuable than gold. One way or another, we all feel through the chemistry held within this sacred tree, something that speaks deeply to our source.”