Quite often people throw me a curve balls. Questions which require extensive skills beyond standard research tools. The problem is that unless it is published in a journal in the English language, I can't find it. Therefore some good research dies in a PhD thesis or foreign languages.
This research can only be found by the eminent power that is google!. One of these curve balls was a very intricate question about butters for hair from Lanolin Lover. I was about to throw in the towel and then I remembered that I am actually quite good at googling!!
Ok part 1 :Is Shea butter better than cocoa butter?
Shea butter and cocoa butter are actually quite similar. I have found though that the preference for shea butter may come from the fact that cocoa butter is comedogenic ( meaning it is likely to make your skin break out in spots - whiteheads/blackheads (comedones)) . (Journal of Dermatological Treatment, pg s15-s18, 1997).
With the skin on your face and head having the greatest number of sebaceous glands (oil producing glands), applying cocoa butter in that area may irritate the skin. There are quite a few good things to be said about both shea and cocoa butter. However, less is said about cocoa butter in hair.
So here are a few good things about shea butter (references are here and here)
1. A good emollient and moisturiser (Les Nouvelles Dermatologiques, p78-79,1988)
2. It can be added to lotions/shampoos etc to reduce irritation (for example due to SLS).
3. It contains fats known to absorb some UV light (sunscreen!!)
4. It contains chemicals known to be anti inflammatory
Ok - next question - Is there a superior hair butter?
Currently shea butter is being raved about which is good as more research will come up. I will however come up with a more conclusive answer after a cup of coffee, some sleep and a weekend of strawberry picking! Ok maybe skip the coffee :)
Cocoa butter does smell delicious though and I do like it for banishing those ashy legs. My mother has never liked it, she says people are not supposed to smell like food, I tend to disagree :)