Stinky Skincare Ingredients: How to Work With Cocoa Butter

Welcome to part 4 in this mini-series of working with stinky ingredients!

Now that you've been exercising your nose and making all kinds of amazing discoveries at how clever your nostrils are at picking out subtle details and undertones (if not, check the links below to previous posts), let's get busy with today's project.

We're going to 'bend' the scent of a very popular ingredient for skincare and haircare: cocoa butter.

It almost seems unfair to call this a stinky ingredient. Most people love the smell and taste of a chocolate bar. I know I do. I actually also love the scent of cocoa butter if I am thinking of food.

But we're putting it on our skin.

Not Everyone Wants to Smell like Food all Day

As delicious and chocolatey as cocoa butter might smell in the container, it can become dominant and downright overpowering when it is applied to the skin in a leave-on product.

In a body butter, non-chocolate-tasting lip balm, or any other water-free product, cocoa butter has an uncanny ability to take over and become downright cloying.

Never fear!

No need to work against it when we can work with it. We shall include cocoa butter as a component of our fragrance.

Here's a little exercise on how to do just that.

The Base Note – Cocoa Butter

Melt 5 grams (a teaspoon) of cocoa butter in a small glass container (5 grams for each scent you want to create).

Have your essential oils ready.

Sniff the cocoa butter. Note the heavy, creamy, and chocolate-like properties. This is the base note of your scent.

Next step is to decide which direction to go, then choose middle and top notes.

Here are a couple of examples to get you started.


For a woodsy scent, add a component such as cedarwood, rosewood, petitigrain, or sandalwood. A combination of these could even be used. Round out the blend by introducing an element of citrus freshness – bergamot, mandarin, blood orange, grapefruit, or lemon could all be considered.


To bend your cocoa butter in a more exotic direction, add myhrr or frankincense. Introduce a floral element with rose or geranium, then consider a titch of vanilla to round out the scent and make it deliciously exotic.


For a floral scent, start with a woodsy component to anchor the chocolate-ness of the cocoa butter. Add florals on top, but choose rich florals such as geranium, or rose. The lighter florals risk being 'buried'. Chamomile – with its inherent earthy note – is another useful option. Lavender and/or an element of citrus can be added to round out the scent.

More? You Decide!

Want to try something else? Go for it! Now that your nose is 'tuned in', go forth and create fabulous scents with cocoa butter as the base note!

Note: this series of 'stinky ingredient' exercises is all about combining the natural scent of the ingredient with essential oils. Because fragrance oils and I have never been good friends, I am unfortunately unable to offer any input if you have questions regarding the use of synthetic fragrances.

Do Tell

Which scent combos did you add to cocoa butter to bend the scent in the direction you wanted? Were you happy with them?

Previous Posts about Stinky Ingredients

Part 1
Part 2


María said…
I mostly use it for lip balms or whipped butter, taking advantage of its scent. It works beautifully with coconut and vanilla, also with almond essence, and oddly enough, with roses: you can smell like a Turkish delight XDDD
LisaLise said…
Hi María - as always, great input from you! The rose combo sounds intriguing! I must give this one a try. :)
Rebecca said…
I agree rose and chamomile do tend to compliment the foodieness of cocoa butter. I use quite a lot of cocoa butter in my Beauty Balm but has to swap over to deodorised as I found it too overpowering in the end.
LisaLise said…
Rebecca - your beauty balm has a lovely scent, so I understand switching to deodorised cocoa butter. :)
Unknown said…
Hi there! I justade some body butter and unfortunately found this info afterwards. Is it possible to add the essential oils after it's been set and whipped? Will it still work? I wanted Jasmine and lilac and they were nno match for cocoa butter. Added some orange and lavender but the woodsy smell.may help balance. Thank you!
LisaLise said…
Hi Rosalie — Without knowing the whole formula, my best advice is to take part of your product and try to add the essential oils and whip again. If it works, you should be good to add to the whole formula. You might want to let it sit for a day to see how it behaves before adding to the rest. Best of luck!
Unknown said…
We use a mixture of shea butter, mango butter and cocoa butter (all in one brick of butter) in our beard balm. We have yet to find an essential oil to hide the aroma of the cocoa smell. We are only using 10 drops of oil, so maybe we need to use more essential oil.
LisaLise said…
Hey there Unknown- it might be the oils you are using in combination with amount. Some EO’s are more likely to work with the scent of the cocoa butter than others. I find many of the woodsy oils work well. Best of luck!
Thaleia Beauty said…
Hi Lisa, thank you for the helpful article. I have incorporated your advice and used organic Rosemary and topped it with citruses. The gourmet effect is still there but it has acquired a very interesting fresh, sparkly nuance. Now I can keep using my beloved raw cocoa butter.
LisaLise said…
Hey there Thaleia Beauty - Your combo sounds quite lovely and I am now curious to give it a try too! Thanks for sharing :D
ABOUT ME said…
Pair up with strawberry milk, vanilla, spice, peppermint, orange and cherries. Delicious and not overpowering because it smells natural. They might be common smells but at least they are palatable. Don't use floral. Yuk. Smells off. Use foodie smells for cocoa butter.
LisaLise said…
ABOUT ME ; Thanks for sharing! :D