Kokum Butter - is it Better?

This lovely looking collection of plant material is the fruit, seeds, pulp and rinds of the garcenia indica plant. It's edible and has a wide range of culinary uses (for example, a lovely red sherbet ice cream), but despite tempting yumminess, we're not going to talk about food today.

Instead, we're going to have a look at what comes from the seeds of this colorful and exotic plant, because we're going to be getting a little butter happy around here in the coming weeks.

The Tickling of The Fancy

Lotion bars have quite simply re-captured my interest this season. I plan to get a little explorative with a few butters and oils and maybe even introducing an active ingredient or 2.

But before we start concocting lotion-bar goodness, lets' have a look at one of the butters we're going to be working with in the near future: Kokum!

Mangos Cousin 

Kokum butter (INCI: Garcinia indica) is a member of the mango family. It grows in India, Africa, and Asia, and if it had a choice, would definitely choose evergreen forests as its ideal place to thrive. It will, however, do quite well in some areas with low rainfall.

Cultivating kokum is about as environmentally friendly as it can be. This sturdy plant does not require any spraying of pesticides or fertilisers in order to yield well.

It's the Seeds We Need

Kokum seeds are extremely rich in oil and the butter has a high essential fatty acid content that includes oleic (omega 9), palmitic, and stearic acid content. The butter even has a natural (although small) amount of vitamin F.

Because kokum kernels contain up to 45% – 50% fat, it is getting a bit of attention from the scientific community as a viable alternative to cocoa butter. This paper in Science Direct shows the yield could be vastly improved if production methods are updated.

Meantime, the semi-handmade current production process provides the lovely, rich kokum butter that is available from many cosmetics ingredients suppliers.

As I was researching kokum, I came across a short and informative film on YouTube documenting the many steps the kernels go through before the butter is ready for shipping. It was an impressive amount of work.

Kokum Characteristics

Kokum is a natural skin nurturer and helps soothe dry and damaged skin. The butter has a non-greasy feel that makes it an ideal choice for balms and bars that 'melt in quickly'. If you're making something for a fellow, that's a real plus. Most of the men I have made products for hate any kind of 'greasy feeling'.

Kokum butter's characteristics make it almost interchangeable with cocoa butter when it comes to cosmetics use. The melting point is similar, it is easy to work with and won't 'go grainy' as shea and coconut can tend to do. Kokum is even a great addition to emulsions where it functions quite nicely as a stabiliser and thickener.

Making Scents

When working with cosmetics ingredients, scent is always a factor. As much as I love working with cocoa butter (and as lovely as it smells), that chocolatey scent can become a tad overpowering in an unscented product (as most of my male clients will attest to). 'It's a bit heavy-smelling' and 'Can you do something about the way it smells?' are comments I've heard more than once about unscented products containing cocoa butter.

With its discreet, faintly nutty scent, kokum butter doesn't even come close to cocoa butters overpowering richness. I'm looking forward to adding it to lotion bars and maybe even being able to detect the warm, honey-rich scent of the beeswax.

Do Tell

Have you worked with kokum butter? What did you use it for? What were your experiences with it?

Photo of Kokum above courtesy of Wikipedia


Tina Rasmussen, CPH said…
Sorry If I repeat myself but I think my first comment was lost ;-P

I have been looking at Kokum butter and heard only good things about it so it will go in my shopping bag the next time I shop :-)
Thanks for a great post as always with so much useful info, loved the video and wonder what the fruit tastes like.

LisaLise said…
HI Tina - hope you are having a greta weekend. Only one comment got through, so you didn't repeat yourself as far as I can see.

As for Kokum butter - I am already quite pleased with how this works. As much as I love cocoa butter, having a more neutral scent is a nice change. So far, it's looking very good. I can recommend giving it a try.
ANQ said…
I have been using Kokum for many years in my body butter formulation at 16-18%. It is great for Unscented formulations and for my clients who like a less dense anhydrous product. Supplier of choice is mountainrose.com
Anonymous said…
I have never worked with it but I always look for it in lip balms. My lips are really sensitive and easily get chapped but when ever I use lip balms with Kokum they stay nice and soft for ages. Since moving to the UK though its been pretty tough to find it though.
LisaLise said…
HI Anon - I know what you mean about that luxurious staying power it seems to have. :)
Unknown said…
I absolutely love kokum for two reasons primarily one of course is sustainability as it's a local butter and two is the lovely scent and it's hardness it is a great addition to products which need higher temperatures besides I love it dry skin feel
LisaLise said…
Hi Anuradha — I’m a real fan of Kokum as well. It’s such a multifunctional ingredient! :D
resh said…
Hi wanted to try a deo stick and replace the cocoa butter with kokum butter. Maybe a combination of Shea and kokum will be ideal . Should I reduce the beeswax is what I was wondering? Thank you. Reshma
LisaLise said…
Hi Resh - You might do quite well with a combo of kokum and shea. As I don't know the percentages of the ingredients you are using, it's hard to answer, but depending on the amount of kokum to shea, you might not need to reduce the beeswax. If you do want to reduce, reduce in small increments (about 1-2% at a time) and make small test batches until you find the combination you like.
Unknown said…
Hello Lisa,

Thank you for your great advice. So the Kokum butter doesnt need to be tempered in order to formulate with ? Thank you !! Looking to not use Shea Butter anymore !
LisaLise said…
HI Unknown -- I've never had a need of tempering kokum butter, but that doesn't mean it is never necessary. You'll probably have to try it yourself and see how things turn out (make small batches to begin with until you are comfortable working with this ingredient)
TL said…
I made some kokum body butter with coconut oil, sweet almond oil and grapeseed oil with a little bit of arrowroot so it wasn’t too greasy-feeling. It whipped up nicely but, the following day, it was rock hard and crumbly. Any ideas on what I may have done wrong? Should I add a bit of a softer butter, like avocado butter?
Many thanks!
LisaLise said…
HI TL - without knowing the exact proportions and steps you took (including temperatures and heat & cool methods) it's really hard for me to answer this. Try and make another small batch using the same method but a different cooing (or heating) technique to see if the problem is in your method and not the ingredients. There is also always a possibility of ingredients that are not up to par, so your best way forward is to 'backtrack slowly' and methodically to see if you can pinpoint the issue. A lot of folks think butters and balms are easy because there is no water involved, but I find them a constantly evolving challenge as I work with all the new ingredients available today. Butters can be super tricky to work with. Hope this was of some help - it's probably not what you wanted to hear but with butters, I find there is rarely an easy fix.
TL said…
Thank you for your sharing your knowledge and wisdom...even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear!