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Plant-derived oils and butters are among the most popular ingredients for a variety of personal care products including lotions, lip balm, and hair treatments.
Although many people are familiar with cocoa, coconut, and shea butters, kokum butter is a less common alternative that comes with its own set of unique attributes and benefits.
This article explores several potential benefits and uses of kokum butter, including how it compares with other, more popular plant butters.
Kokum butter is an oil derived from the seeds of a fruit-bearing tree called the kokum tree.
Kokum trees — formally known as Garcinia indica — are primarily cultivated in tropical regions of India. The fruit and seeds of the kokum tree are used in a variety of culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal applications.
The chemical structure of the fat allows kokum butter to remain solid at room temperature — hence why it’s typically referred to as a butter instead of an oil.
Kokum butter is edible and occasionally used to make chocolates and other confections. However, it’s most popularly used as an ingredient in topical cosmetic and personal care products, including makeup, lotions, soaps, balms, and salves (1).
Unlike many other types of plant butter, kokum butter naturally has a very hard texture that melts easily when applied to the skin.
Although it can be used by itself, commercially prepared products often mix kokum butter with other kinds of plant oils or butters to create a more spreadable consistency.
Kokum butter is a type of tropical oil derived from the seeds of the kokum tree. Although technically edible, it’s most often used for making topical cosmetic and medicinal products.
Kokum butter has shown promise as a remarkably versatile and functional ingredient in a variety of cosmetic and pharmacological skin care products.
However, modern research specifically focusing on the pharmacological potential of kokum butter is sorely lacking.
Restores moisture to dry skin, scalp, and hair
Kokum butter is probably best known for its role as a potent emollient, or moisturizing agent (
It can be used to improve the moisture content of almost every part of the body, including your skin, lips, feet, scalp, and hair.
Unlike other similar types of plant-based butters, kokum butter is not very heavy. It’s absorbed into the skin easily, so you’re not left with a greasy feeling after application.
It’s often anecdotally reported that kokum butter is a good moisturizing option for people with sensitive skin. However, there’s not much reliable evidence to support such claims.
If you have dry, sensitive skin and want to try kokum butter, it may be a good idea to start with a small amount to test your tolerance before applying it liberally.
May soothe inflamed skin
One small study in 23 people with dry, cracked heels found that twice daily application of kokum butter for 15 days significantly improved symptoms (3).
Still, formal research on the efficacy of kokum butter for this purpose is virtually nonexistent.
Some experts theorize that the moisturizing nature of the butter — along with the antioxidant and antimicrobial capacity of the compounds found in kokum fruit — may be the reason behind its strong potential for soothing various inflammatory skin conditions (
However, more research in humans is needed to reach any definitive conclusions.
While kokum butter is likely fairly safe for most people to use on minor scrapes, burns, or rashes, it’s best to consult your medical provider before attempting to apply it to any significant wounds or irritations, as no studies on its safety have been conducted in humans (
May treat acne
While there’s no strong research to support its ability to treat acne, many people swear by using kokum butter as a topical treatment for the condition.
Kokum butter’s ability to treat your acne probably depends on what’s causing it, such as dry skin, excess oil production, hormone imbalances, or bacterial overgrowth (
Kokum butter has a strong moisturizing capacity and is considered non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores. Thus, it may be effective for restoring moisture to dry, irritated skin and is unlikely to make your breakouts worse in the process.
If your acne is related to dry skin or the overuse of heavier, pore-clogging lotions or makeup, kokum butter may improve your symptoms. However, at this point in time, no specific results can be guaranteed.
May reduce visible signs of aging
People often claim that kokum butter is an effective tool for treating and preventing visible signs of aging skin, such as wrinkles, diminished elasticity, increased fragility, and dryness.
As with many of the other purported benefits of kokum butter, there’s no research available to suggest it improves or prevents any of the aforementioned symptoms in the long term.
Given that kokum butter possesses potent emollient properties, it may help improve your skin’s moisture content, causing it to appear more youthful.
However, some research indicates that the benefits of topical moisturizers are transient and only effective for short periods. Thus, it’s unclear whether kokum butter’s moisture-enhancing benefits will stick around when use is discontinued (
Ultimately, more research is needed to better understand how kokum butter may be used to promote skin health and prevent visible signs of aging.
Kokum butter is frequently used to treat a variety of conditions, including acne, aging, inflammatory skin conditions, and dry skin and hair. Yet, there’s currently little to no human research available to support its many purported benefits.
Kokum butter has its fair share of strengths and weaknesses when compared with other common types of plant butters, such as cocoa, shea, or coconut.
The advantages of kokum butter include:
- No scent. Kokum butter naturally has no scent. Cocoa, coconut, and shea butters are well known for their distinctive fragrances. If you’re sensitive to fragrance, kokum butter may be a better option.
- Easily absorbed. Unlike most other plant butters, kokum butter is remarkably light, absorbed quickly and easily, and not greasy. The same cannot be said for coconut, shea, and cocoa butters.
- Doesn’t clog pores. Like shea butter, kokum butter won’t clog your pores or cause acne. Cocoa and coconut butters are much more likely to clog pores and shouldn’t be used on your face.
- Very structurally stable. Kokum butter is one of the most structurally and chemically stable plant butters available. It works great as a natural emulsifier or hardening agent for homemade cosmetics.
Some disadvantages of kokum butter include:
- Price point. Compared with other plant butters, kokum butter tends to be more expensive.
- Difficult to access. Kokum butter is not as widely available as many other, more popular plant butters.
- Doesn’t mix well. The hard, tough texture of kokum butter can make it difficult to work with.
Whether you should replace other plant butters with kokum largely depends on how you plan to use it.
If you’re making soap or lip balm or find the scent, texture, or pore-clogging tendencies of other plant butters to be problematic for you, it may be worth giving kokum butter a shot.
Kokum butter comes with several advantages, including a neutral scent, structural stability, and non-pore-clogging nature. However, it’s expensive, more difficult to obtain, and tougher to work with, compared with similar products.
Kokum butter is a type of plant-based oil that comes from the seeds of the kokum tree. It’s frequently used in the production of topical cosmetic and pharmaceutical products like lotions, salves, and balms.
Kokum butter has powerful moisturizing properties and won’t clog pores. It’s frequently used to treat a variety of skin issues, including acne, minor inflammatory conditions, and dry skin, hair, and scalp.
However, there’s very little research to support its ability to treat any particular condition.
Kokum butter differs from other plant butters like cocoa and shea because it doesn’t have a strong scent and isn’t heavy or greasy. Its main drawbacks are that it’s expensive, not readily available, and difficult to work with given its tough texture.
Kokum butter is likely safe for most people, but if you’re unsure, consult your healthcare provider before adding it to your beauty routine.