This Skin “Butter” Doesn’t Just Moisturize – It Also Repairs and Protects

Dr. Janet Zand

April 10, 2020

With all the handwashing we’re all doing right now, many readers have written asking about dry skin.  Some people turn to products with “butter” in the name for a rich coating of moisture to relieve this condition.

Common butters like shea and cocoa do feel luxurious going on. These are great for your skin. But many people quickly wonder if they’ve gotten too much of a good thing as they wait for their skin to absorb these dense products.

If only there was a product that quenched skin’s thirst without leaving a greasy trail in its wake.

Good news – there is! And this moisturizer doesn’t just moisten your skin. It also repairs and protects it.

This product also comes in “butter” form. But it may not be an ingredient you’re familiar with. That’s because there’s a new superfruit in town. And we don’t usually think of fruit and butter in the same product. But this is one fruit you want to use.

Like some of the other superfruits that have had their time in the spotlight, this one, called cupuaçu, hails from the Amazon rainforest.

Rainforests are where dry skin goes to disappear.

And cupuaçu (pronounce it “ku-pu-ah-SU”) can help your skin capture that sense of being enveloped in water no matter which side of the equator you live on.

Cupuaçu first came into favor as an alternative to lanolin. Many people experience allergic reactions and other side effects from lanolin, so it was high time to find another option. Cupuaçu is a relative of cacao – the source of cocoa butter.

And it contains large, sweet-smelling seeds full of the fatty acids that make a great basis for a moisturizer. Pressing these seeds and combining their oils with the surrounding pulp produces a product commonly known as cupuaçu butter.

The people who needed an alternative to lanolin were thrilled with it. But you don’t have to have sensitive skin or allergic reactions to appreciate cupuaçu. That’s because cupuaçu butter is more than a “good-enough” alternative to lanolin. This is not the gluten-free cupcake of the skincare world!

Why Cupuacu Is a Superstar Moisturizer

Moisturizing ingredients work by trapping water in the skin. In order to do this, the ingredients have to be able to absorb and then retain water. The more water a substance can hold before it begins to break down, the more moisturizing it has the potential to be.

As people began to notice what an effective moisturizer cupuaçu butter is, researchers decided to test just how much water it could hold. They found that 1 kg of cupuaçu butter could absorb 4.4 kg of water before it started to break down. This means that cupuaçu butter can hold 440% of its weight in water.

How does this compare to lanolin or that old standby shea butter? Studies have found that cupuaçu butter can provide 200% more moisture than these ingredients.

Clearly, cupuaçu butter loves water, earning it the designation hydrophilic. That’s a great first step for moisturizing ingredients. But there are a few more boxes to check for something to be good for the skin. Let’s see how cupuaçu butter stacks up.

Why There’s No Greasy Feeling

One of the biggest complaints with heavy moisturizers like shea butter is that they seem to sit on top of the skin, leaving it feeling sticky and greasy. But lighter moisturizers absorb so quickly that they seem to disappear. You may spend ten minutes trying to rub in a thick moisturizer. With a thin one, you might go on your way but be back at the bottle ten minutes later for another round.

Not with cupuaçu butter. When you apply it, it sinks into the skin – and stays there. Cupuaçu butter’s low melting point of around 86 degrees means that it will melt easily into warm skin. It settles in and begins putting that water-absorption ability to work. Apply it after a shower, and cupuaçu butter will begin to draw all that humidity from the air right into your skin and keep it there.

In fact, research has found that cupuaçu butter can keep your skin moisturized for eight hours after you apply it. It works four times better than shea to lock in moisture. No more digging through your purse for a lightweight lotion that seems to suck moisture away as it absorbs, forcing you to reapply over and over to get rid of that dry sensation!

Does More Than Just Moisturize Your Skin

Unlike many other moisturizers, cupuaçu butter does more than just relieve dry skin. It actually promotes skin health in a variety of ways – all while being extremely pleasant to use. Here’s why.

Once you’ve applied cupuaçu butter to your skin, it does more than just attract water. It actually heals and strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier. That will help you hold on to moisture in your skin longer. And this also helps protect your health. Our skin is the first line of defense against many pathogens. When the moisture barrier isn’t functioning properly, you’re a lot more vulnerable to toxins slipping in through the (literal) cracks. Having robust, healthy skin doesn’t just look and feel nice. It actually helps keep you well.

Of course, having skin that looks good is a nice bonus. And cupuaçu butter helps with this too. Of course, increasing the skin’s moisture content and decreasing that dry, flaky appearance provides a great foundation. But cupuaçu also increases the skin’s elasticity.

First, the water it brings to the skin helps restore elasticity by supporting collagen and elastin. Then it helps protect that elasticity by warding off free radical damage.

As you can imagine, the Brazilians who discovered cupuaçu butter don’t tend to suffer from dry skin. But they do need protection from UV rays. UV radiation does more than burn your skin. It also increases the activity of enzymes that break down collagen, a key factor in skin’s elasticity.

You will still need to wear sunscreen outdoors. But cupuaçu butter can provide an extra layer of protection. It soaks up UVA and UVB rays, keeping them from harming your skin. This is great news for your collagen.

Works on the Inside as Well

Cupuaçu butter also helps protect the skin from internal assaults thanks to its antioxidant content. A primary reason experts are constantly recommending that you eat more fruits and vegetables is their antioxidant content. Well, despite its name, cupuaçu butter comes from a fruit!

Admittedly, it’s not the most appetizing-looking fruit. That might be the reason it isn’t popping up in smoothie bowls and yogurt flavors like its vivid neighbor the acai berry did. But your skin won’t mind that. It will be too busy putting all the free radical-fighting plant sterols cupuaçu butter contains to work.

Cupuaçu butter’s antioxidants include beta-sitosterol, which can promote wound healing. Doctors are beginning to use cupuaçu butter to combat a variety of itchy skin diseases. Its rich, moisturizing qualities offer both relief and healing to help keep these conditions from recurring.

How to Stop Dry, Itchy, Damaged Skin

For good reason, cupuaçu butter is becoming increasingly popular among healthcare workers. In fact, one study conducted at a long-term care facility serving 127 patients demonstrated its remarkable effects.

Some people don’t just have dry skin – they have itchy skin as well. This can be especially true at facilities where patients need help with their skincare routines. Well, for this study, the researchers decided to see if cupuaçu butter could help. They put the patients on a regimen of a cleanser, moisturizer, and protectant—all containing cupuaçu butter.

The results were dramatic. Dry skin went down by 86%. Skin tears decreased by 55%. And doctors had to treat 45% less denuded skin, a painful condition where the top layers of skin are removed. Imagine the improvements this simple change made to these patients’ quality of life as their skin went from itchy and painful to soft and soothed.  

Of course, cupuaçu butter isn’t just for the elderly. In fact, if you’re young enough (or lucky enough) to still be enjoying a thick, full head of hair, you may be able to benefit from another use of cupuaçu butter.

It Even Helps Repair Your Hair

Yes, cupuaçu butter can extend moisture without grease even to your hair. It works particularly well if you have thick, dry hair or if you regularly dye your hair. One study investigated how much protein hair strands lose after dyeing, a process that’s notoriously rough on hair. The researchers found that using a product containing just 1% cupuaçu butter after dyeing could reduce protein loss by 35%. More protein means that you’ll have stronger, healthier strands able to show that new color off for longer.

Whether you color your hair, use heat to style it, or just have dry strands, cupuaçu butter can help restore moisture and shine. It will lock moisture in to the strand just like it does on the skin.

If you’ve been frustrated by moisturizing products that either linger on top of the skin for too long or disappear altogether, cupuaçu butter is the “just right” moisturizer you’ve been looking for. These days, people are more concerned than ever about washing their hands. But if you don’t follow all that washing with a good moisturizer, your hands can get dry and cracked. That can leave you more vulnerable than before.

Products that contain cupuaçu butter can help you avoid this danger. You’ll not only stay healthier; you’ll have skin that looks and feels great doing it. Keep a bottle next to your hand sanitizer and see for yourself. 


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