Sweet Talking

23rd March 2018

Often demonised for its calorific content, chocolate – or more precisely cocoa – is, in fact, one of nature’s superfoods. As we come up to Easter, Lisa Botwright finds out more about this incredibly potent ingredient and the powerful role it can play in boosting our beauty favourites.

When I was young I used to give up chocolate for Lent – and when the self-imposed longing became too great, I would seek out my nearest newsagent or sweet shop and stand by the chocolate section, simply inhaling. I probably looked like a mad thing, but the scent alone would be enough for me to trick my brain into thinking I’d had my fix of my favourite sweet treat – it was my way of coping with the agony of abstaining.

I’m not alone in my love affair with chocolate. A survey has shown that the sweet-toothed British are the chocoholics of Europe, munching through nearly a third of the European market share. Last year, we each devoured the equivalent of 266 Mars Bars. Chocolate is comforting, indulgent and universally adored, yet it’s hard to argue that it’s healthy.

So it may surprise you to learn that by weight, cocoa has more antioxidants than blueberries, green tea, or red wine – and that’s on top of its proven positive-mood-boosting effects. In its raw state, cacao, it has even greater health properties. Both are packed full of vitamins A, C, E and D and a host of minerals, including magnesium, plus protein and omega 6 fatty acids, which all combine to promote blood flow and increase cellular healing. Cocoa is the original superfood… it’s only when mixed with lots of fat and sugar that its goodness dissipates.

It’s unsurprising, therefore, that all of this healthfulness makes cocoa a pretty powerful beauty ingredient – perfectly attuned to fighting free radicals, the pesky environmental pollutants that cause skin damage and accelerate ageing. Then take into account the headiness and enduring appeal of its scent, and it’s makes for the ultimate winning combination.

A thought that’s not lost on Hotel Chocolat, who’ve extended their range of confectionery to include a remarkably lovely beauty edit. I’ve been trying the Three Shell Scrub mixed with cacao, almond and coconut (the range is inspired by the wild tropical beauty of their St Lucian cacao plantation), followed by the Cacao and Babussu Oil Body Lotion – and my skin is now ridiculously smooth.

The Perricone MD Mask also harnesses the power of cocoa to boost hydration. Dr. Perricone is a huge fan of chocolate and considers it a ‘gift from God’. Her highly nourishing treatment includes little cocoa-enriched micro-capsules that burst on contact, turning the white cream to brown as you massage it onto your face. It’s gloriously effective, (although just watch out for your white towels when you wash it off!).

For maximum multi-sensory indulgence – can you ever have too much chocolate? – light a cashmere and cocoa candle, a speciality from the family-run, luxury online candle store Aflame Candles. Chocolate and vanilla, which might be sickly-sweet on their own, are tempered with spicy cinnamon and earthy sandalwood, making it very much a scent for grown-ups.

Even more grown-up and decadent is Jo Malone’s Rose & Oud Cologne, which spikes a richly textural (rather than floral) rose, with clove and praline. It’s such an elegant scent.

The Too Faced Chocolate Bar Eye Shadow Palette makes no such grandiose claims. An unapologetically rich Cadbury’s-style milk chocolate smell hits you as soon as you open the case – which makes me smile – and the eye shadows are made, of course, from cocoa powder. The founders of this high-end, cruelty-free cosmetics brand claim the beauty industry is ‘too-serious’ and certainly bring a sense of fun back with this beautiful collection of warming shades.

Jo Brand once said that ‘anything is good if it’s made of chocolate,’ and with these beauty staples combining all the delicious elements of cocoa with its holistic and therapeutic benefits, I can definitely see why.

Too Faced ‘Chocolate Bar’ Eye Shadow Palette £39 debenhams.com; Cacao & Babussu Body Lotion £16 and Three Shell Cacao Almond and Coconut Body Scrub £16 (buy together for £25) hotelchocolat.com; Cocoa Moisture Mask £52 perriconemd.co.uk; Velvet Rose & Oud Cologne, from £75 jomalone.co.uk; Cocoa and Cashmere Candle from £6.99 aflamecandles.co.uk

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