Does Chocolate Cause Acne Or Not?

does chocolate cause acne

Last week I published a guest post on my site. It was about “6 Foods For Clear Skin”. One of the foods was dark chocolate. Now I know that dark chocolate is full of antioxidants. These antioxidants come from the higher amount of cocoa in dark chocolate than milk chocolate. That mildly bitter taste you get from dark chocolate is because of the 70% ( or higher ) percent cocoa in it. Antioxidants are great for you and even better for your skin.

Dark chocolate contains cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar. Adding milk to it turns it into milk chocolate. White chocolate consists of cocoa butter, sugar and milk.

It was a long held belief that  chocolate and acne were not connected in any way. We shall look into how this belief came about real soon.

The real answer to the question of whether chocolate causes acne is that it depends whether you are acne prone or not. If you are not acne prone no amount of chocolate will cause acne. Don’t you know someone like that who eats loads of chocolate and has clear skin? I certainly do. Annoying isn’t it? If chocolate on its own could cause acne, then almost everyone in the world would have acne.

Now if you are acne prone does chocolate make your acne worse?

First let’s figure out why for years there was thought to be no link between eating chocolate and acne

In 1969 a study was conducted by Fulton to study the link between chocolate and acne. 65 subjects with moderate acne were assigned to consume a either a chocolate bar that contained 10 times the amount of bittersweet chocolate of a normal 45 gm bar or a chocolates less placebo bar. The lesions on the faces on the subjects were counted before and after ingestion of the chocolate bars. The results showed no significant increase in acne amount the 2 group that consumed the 2 bars. From this study it was concluded that there was no connection between chocolate and acne.

This study however had a lot of flaws. The main flaw being that the study was made possible by the Chocolate Manufacturers’ Association of the USA. Source.

Let’s have a look at normal milk chocolate.

Another study was conducted in which 54 college students both male and female between the ages of 18 and 24 were invited to participate in this study. They were divided into 2 groups. One group was given milk chocolate and the other group was given jelly beans. The acne lesions were counted at the beginning of the study. After 48 hours the acne lesions were counted again.

Then for 4 weeks both the groups were given nothing.

At the end of the 4 week period, the groups were switched. So the group that got jelly beans in the previous round now got the chocolate. After 48 hours the acne lesions were counted in both groups.

It was found that the acne lesions in the group that ate the milk chocolate was significantly high. There was no change in the group that consumed the jelly beans. Look at the graph below and you can see that acne did not change with the jelly beans.

does chocolate cause acne








So why does this happen?

Chocolate flavonoid consumption modulates cytokine production, which may account for these observations. Netea et al demonstrated that chocolate consumption primed human blood mononuclear cells to release more proinflammatory cytokines, interleukin-1β, and TNFα, upon stimulation with Propionibacterium acnes. Because over-inflammation is an important contributor to acne pathogenesis and the anti-inflammatory dose effect of antibiotics has been demonstrated to be most effective in treating acne, it is plausible that altered cytokine profiles can contribute to worsening acne. Source

So yes milk chocolate will make your acne worse

How about dark chocolate?

This study was done to study the effect of 99% dark chocolate on acne prone skin. For this study 25 male subjects were asked to consume 25 grams of 99% dark chocolate daily for 4 weeks. Acne lesions were counted weekly. A record was kept of the food and daily activities of the subjects. The acne lesions significantly increased as early as 2 weeks into the study. At 4 weeks the lesions were much more than at the beginning of the study. This study proved that even dark chocolate can increase your acne if you have acne prone skin. Source

How about cocoa powder?

In 2014 yet another study was conducted testing the link between cocoa powder and acne. 14 men between the ages of 18 and 35 with a history of acne were selected to participate in this study. They were assigned to swallow capsules with unsweetened 100% cocoa, gelatin powder or a combination of the 2.

It was found that the subjects who took the pure cocoa capsules saw a significant increase in their acne. The conclusion of this study was that in acne prone individuals consumption of chocolate makes acne worse. Source

So does chocolate cause acne?

As you can see from the studies conducted above, the answer is if you are acne prone, yes.

So what does mean for you if you can’t give up chocolate? Well, you can try your own experiment. If there is one thing I have seen, is that we react differently to foods.

So keep a journal and note down the condition of your skin. Eat a piece of chocolate of your choice and observe what happens. Document everything you eat as well. It won’t be perfect but at least you’ll figure out if chocolate affects your skin or not.


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