Can Cocoa Powder Work As Bronzer?

Either way, your face is going to taste AWESOME.
Publish date:
May 16, 2013
makeup, DIY, makeup brushes, Too Faced, cocoa, bronzers, organic, food, cinnamon, ecotools, cornstarch, nutmeg

I’m easily freaked out by the weird chemicals in most beauty products, and as the “Zero Waste Girl” I’m doing my best to eliminate wasteful packaging. However, I love makeup. What’s a girl to do?

The large natural-beauty community on the internet would have me believe that the answer to my question lies mere steps away, inside my kitchen cabinet. I’ve always been curious about the results of using coconut oil for hair, baking soda for teeth, and beets for lips and cheeks. But, ever since my mom told me not to play with my food as a kid, I’ve been skeptical about putting any of it on my face.

If I’m going to start wearing makeup I can eat, I choose the one food I love above all others: chocolate.

A couple of different sites have recommended cocoa powder as bronzer, and Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil bronzer actually uses cocoa powder as an ingredient. Plus, cocoa powder has a long list of health benefits: The raw powder is full of antioxidants and essential minerals like zinc, calcium, iron, copper and potassium; it also contains the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, both noted for their antidepressant effects.

So, does cocoa powder live up to the hype?


To try this yourself, you’ll need a glass jar, cocoa powder (duh), and a makeup brush.

My cocoa powder is from Giant, but you can splurge on the organic kind if you’d like. I chose a concealer brush to have more control over the application. (EcoTools is my go-to brand).

First, pour a small amount of cocoa powder into the glass jar. (You don’t want to dip your makeup brush into your baking supplies. Gross, right?)

Next, test it on your arm to see how best to apply. I have light skin and warm coloring, and the warm brown color of the cocoa powder provides a sheer, natural-looking tan.

If you’d like to get a more custom color, you can mix in cinnamon, nutmeg, and cornstarch. Both the cinnamon and nutmeg will turn it more orangey; cornstarch will dilute the pigment, but it’ll also absorb excess oils, so be careful if you have dry skin.

On my first try, the cocoa powder sticks well to the brush. The excess comes off easily with a couple of taps, and when I accidentally smear some down the side of my face, a wet washcloth does the trick.

The Giant brand has an unfortunate tendency to clump, but it’s not a huge problem: moving my head a little shakes the excess powder loose. Streaks are remedied by blending the powder on my face with my fingertips.

Getting a darker look is a little more complicated, as only the first layer of powder really sticks.

I’m a little worried about how... chocolatey the cocoa powder smells, but once it’s on my face I get only the slightest whiff. After a few minutes, I can’t smell it at all.

The cocoa powder works better than my usual bronzer, and I don’t have any nagging feelings about suspicious ingredients!

As a final test, I wore it to work. I was afraid of smelling like a candy bar to those around me, but no one commented on a suspicious chocolatey scent. Plus, no one asked me if I had dirt on my face! One coworker told me I “looked fancy,” as I walked in the door, which I think was meant as a compliment.

Bonus points: I accidentally fell asleep with a face full of cocoa powder and woke up with no new breakouts or irritation. The powder was easy to wash off and had good staying power, although next time I’ll try putting it on right after my moisturizer to see if that’ll help it stick.

It’s also incredibly cheap: eight ounces of organic, fair-trade cocoa powder can cost as little as $14. The non-organic, non-fair-trade stuff costs about $4.

It’s too early to decide whether or not I’m a convert, but I’ll definitely be trying this technique again. I like loose powders, but if you prefer your bronzer in a compact, try mixing in a drop or two of almond oil and pressing the mixture into an empty container with your thumb.

Have any of you tried this? What other products have you found substitutes for by raiding your kitchen?