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Does chocolate cause acne? Myth or Truth

by Christine GlasgowJune 2, 2017

When it comes to acne, there is a lot written and said about it, and what might cause it, that is often not very clear or even agreed upon by everyone. One thing that can be very confusing – because there are so many different opinions – is whether or not certain types of food can cause, or worsen, acne. And one of the oldest debates? Does eating chocolate lead to more zits?

The Big Chocolate Dilemma

There are very few sensible people in the world who would ever claim that chocolate could be considered a health food. But is it really that bad, especially since, well, it tastes so good? Surely it’s OK to indulge occasionally, especially if the situation you are in practically begs for the stuff (the aftermath of a bad breakup, the days before your period starts etc.) and it is, after all, truly delicious.

And it’s true. There are foods out there that most people agree are far worse for your overall health than chocolate. Fried foods, for example, are pretty bad, and some processed foods contain more sugar than the average bar of chocolate anyway. But for years we’ve been told to avoid chocolate because it can cause acne breakouts, especially if you already have acne prone skin. Or does it really? Let’s take a closer look at some of the current evidence, research and opinion to try and figure this chocolate and acne connection out.

What Does Science Have to Say? Where’s the link?

As of right now, there are no credible, peer reviewed scientific research studies published that prove a link between the consumption of chocolate and the occurrence of acne. There have been some, very small, very limited studies that suggest that there may be a link. There have also been some other, very small, very limited studies that seem to have found the exact opposite.

On the whole however, most scientists and medical professionals agree that chocolate is unlikely to be a cause of acne directly. However, some of its ingredients are certainly not very skin friendly, or health friendly in general, so no-one is suggesting that it’s OK to add a chocolate bar a day to your diet, whether you are prone to acne or not.


Why Do So Many People Believe There’s a Chocolate/Acne Link, if There Isn’t?

Good question. But then again, many people believe all kinds of strange things, even when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Did you know that NBA basketball stars Shaquille O’Neal, Kyrie Irving, Wilson Chandler and Draymond Green are ‘Flat Earthers’, and believe that the planet is not a round one at all? They’ve even argued in public with Neil deGrasse Tyson about it. And they are far from alone, many of their fans believe it too.

And that’s maybe the answer. When a popular person – or persons – publicizes a certain issue or theory many people often simply assume it must be true. For years magazines, newspapers and beauty experts have been finding those little tiny studies we discussed earlier and blowing them up into big, eye-catching stories. A headline like ‘Cut Out Chocolate and Banish Acne’ certainly sounds appealing, even if the evidence really isn’t there to back such claims up.


Chocolate, Acne and the Menstrual Cycle

Another reason that the chocolate/acne link is one that many take seriously is caused by some understandable confusion. As women of all ages approach their period their hormones are thrown way off balance. This hormonal imbalance causes certain food cravings, with one of the most common being the sweet, velvety taste of chocolate. Because hormonal imbalances can cause and aggravate acne – there is plenty of scientific evidence for that – some assume that it is indeed the truffles they consumed that were to blame instead.


The Fat and Sugar Issue

If chocolate itself can’t be blamed for breakouts, some of its ingredients probably can. Most chocolate has high fat and sugar content, things that are not good for your overall health let alone the health of your skin. But so, do many other foods, so chocolate is not the only thing to watch out for if you are trying to adopt a skin friendlier diet.

But Someone Said Chocolate Can be Good for You??

Indeed, they did. Numerous studies have found that dark chocolate actually offers several health benefits, including all of the following:


  • High levels of helpful antioxidants (good news for your skin!)
  • A significant amount of fiber (good for your digestion)
  • Bioactive compounds that can improve blood circulation
  • Bioactive compounds that may reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Bioactive compounds that can reduce skin damage from sun exposure
  • Bioactive compounds that may help improve cognitive function.


As mentioned, this is all fairly solid science at this point, but in no way is it suggested that dark chocolate become one of your three meals a day, or replace your healthy salad. A couple of squares a day is more than enough.


It should also be noted that the quality of the chocolate is important too. Ideally it should be ‘bitter dark’ with a more than 70% cocoa (also known as cacao) content and the lowest sugar content you can find. Usually the darker the chocolate looks, the lower in sugar it is, if that helps you when you’re shopping. To help you even more here’s a breakdown of the best dark chocolates that are fairly easy to find:


  • Lindt Intense – This black as night chocolate bar has a rather amazing 90% cacao content level and an almost nutty taste.


  • Ghirardelli Intense Dark – It has an 82% cacao content level and a bitter, but smooth taste. You can even buy it by the small square as well as by the bar, great for those with less willpower!


  • Cadbury Coco 86% Dark – Despite the high cacao content and the low levels of sugar this British import is actually surprisingly sweet, so it’s a great choice for those who have a hard time enjoying bitter dark chocolate.

So, Can I Eat Chocolate and Still Keep Acne Away?

The best answer to this question we can offer is maybe. Chocolate, on its own, doesn’t cause acne. And everyone’s skin is unique. Often those who do suffer from acne breakouts find that certain foods DO seem to trigger their acne and, by avoiding them, they can keep their skin clearer.  And those foods are often things that you would never think might be a problem.


There are certain foods that do tend to more commonly trigger acne, although it certainly won’t be the case for everyone. These foods include all the following:


  • Dairy
  • Gluten-containing grains
  • All grains
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Nightshades
  • Legumes
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts & seeds


If you suspect that a certain food – maybe even chocolate – is making your acne worse you can pinpoint it yourself with a little time and effort. Here’s a great way to do just that:


  • Step 1. Remove all the foods you think may be triggering or worsening acne from your diet for at least 2 weeks. from your diet that you would like to test for 3 weeks minimum.
  • Step 2. After the initial two-week period begin re-introducing the foods to your diet one by one, with a three to four-day gap between each re-introduction.
  • Step 3. Consume one serving of the food you are testing each day for three days in a row.
  • Step 4. Keep a detailed food diary of the type of food you are testing, serving size, number of days eating the food and your general skin health. By doing this patterns should emerge if indeed a certain food is causing problems.


In conclusion, the acne/chocolate link is, for the most part a myth. For many people the occasional indulgence will not wreak havoc with their skin, as they may have been warned in the past. But, even that small indulgence as should be a part of healthy, balanced diet, one that includes lots of skin friendly fruits and vegetables.


Now it’s your turn. Did you believe the chocolate myth? Do you still think there may be more to it anyway? Let us know, we’d love to hear your opinions!

Christine Glasgow
Canadian girl addicted to beauty and fashion. I'm a Blogger, Entrepreneur and web influencer 👑 I mostly talk about anything related to skin care and beauty. I created this site to share science-based information on skin conditions, treatments and skin care.

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