It’s one of the world’s oldest foods, has inspired countless desserts and sweetened our holidays. It’s clear — we love chocolate. But, despite this universal obsession, chocolate also gets a bad rap for its association with acne. But does chocolate really cause acne? We went on a quest to unwrap the truth about this sweet and its effect on our skin.
Does Eating Chocolate Cause Acne?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, keep in mind that most research (even recent studies) focuses almost exclusively on male subjects. Many studies also concentrate on younger age groups, as opposed to middle or older age brackets, and primarily consider those with acne-prone skin.
We’ll start with the good news. Thankfully, much of the research around chocolate and acne agrees that chocolate on its own does not cause acne. Rather, it may be a high-glycemic diet that is the trigger (more on this topic below). If your dermatologist determines that your diet affects your acne, you may wish to discuss which foods to avoid, and chocolate could be on that list. However, the causes of acne need to be decided on a case-by-case basis. There are many reasons why you may suffer from acne (for example, the cause could be hormonal rather than diet related), so consult your dermatologist before making any changes to your diet or skin care.
The Relationship Between Chocolate And Acne
Now for the bad news. Although chocolate may not cause acne, at least one study shows a correlation between chocolate and the "exacerbation of acne." This study confirms a “dose-dependent” relationship between chocolate and acne. In other words, researchers found that the more chocolate consumed, the more acne worsened. Although we need more research on the topic, the data suggest a potential link between chocolate and acne.
What Type of Diet Causes Acne?
So if chocolate aggravates acne but doesn't necessarily cause it, what triggers initial breakouts? As mentioned, when it comes to diet, breakouts are more likely due to the consumption of sugar found in chocolate rather than the cocoa itself. When chocolate is combined with other high-glycemic foods filled with sugar and simple carbohydrates, this overall diet may potentially provoke acne breakouts. Similarly, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that, rather than pointing to chocolate as the culprit, trying a low-glycemic diet might help. Healthline also suggests that, to avoid breakouts, you should " ... keep an eye on added sugars and simple carbohydrates throughout the rest of the day."
What Is A High Glycemic Diet?
For most people, overall nutrition plays a huge role in breakouts and chocolate consumption is just a small part of a “big puzzle.” High glycemic diets that are full of sugar, carbohydrates and fat — including sugary drinks, sweet treats and processed bread, cereals and pasta — can trigger increased sebum production and raise your blood sugar quickly. These reactions lead to oily skin and inflammatory responses in the body. Low-glycemic foods, on the other hand, include vegetables, steel-cut oats, some fresh fruits and beans. Findings suggest that following a low-glycemic diet may reduce the amount of acne you have.
If your dermatologist believes your acne is diet-related, they may suggest a low glycemic diet where you monitor your sugar intake and simple carbohydrate consumption. Keeping a food diary to track how food choices affect your skin can also make it easy to discover insights into your skin’s unique triggers. Everyone’s skin is different though, and before making any major dietary changes, always consult a dermatologist for their insights.
How To Choose Chocolate that's Best For Your Skin
Despite the link between acne and chocolate, what if you can't resist the occasional nibble? We recommend reaching for chocolate with less refined sugar and a very short ingredient list. The best choice is an antioxidant-rich dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa, instead of milk or white chocolate which contains more sugar and additives.
Healthline includes the following tips when choosing quality dark chocolate:
- High-quality dark chocolate lists chocolate liquor or cocoa as the first ingredient.
- Refrain from dark chocolate with sugar first on the ingredient list
- Avoid dark chocolate with milk, artificial flavorings or transfats (these can appear as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil) on the ingredient list
- Selecting a chocolate product marked as fair trade and organic ensures that the farmers who worked to secure the cocoa beans are being paid correctly. Plus, your beans are less likely to have been exposed to pesticides or nasty chemicals.
Have you noticed any difference in your skin after eating chocolate? Let us know in the comments below. You can also view our best sellers to see which products are right for your skin type.