Cocoa butter, a solid fat derived from the cocoa bean, is a highly effective natural moisturizer and emollient. In spite of its natural roots, some people are allergic or sensitive to cocoa butter -- and if you're allergic to chocolate, cocoa butter is off the menu, too. Cocoa butter can also be pricey, but if you're brewing up a homemade beauty solution, you can use one of several similar natural oils instead.
Like cocoa butter, coconut oil is solid at room temperature. It's also widely available and relatively inexpensive -- and, also like cocoa butter, has a pleasing scent. Coconut oil has been used for skin and hair care for centuries and has excellent emollient properties. It's also packed with a hefty dose of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps with skin repair.
Shea butter is derived from the kernel of the karite tree, which is native to Africa. Solid at room temperature, it is renowned as an excellent skin moisturizer and is rich in protective antioxidants as well, including vitamins A and E. Shea butter has a higher melting point than coconut oil or cocoa butter and tends to be a little stiffer; it has a pleasant nutty scent. Look for unrefined shea butter, which is less processed than other forms.
Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate, Decider.com, The SF Weekly, EthicalFoods.com and GoMag.com.