Expert weighs in on how chocolate affects your skin

Chocolate has gotten a bad rap when it comes to breakouts. Supplied image.

Chocolate has gotten a bad rap when it comes to breakouts. Supplied image.

Published Jul 9, 2024


For generations, chocolate has been demonised as a trigger for acne breakouts.

But Jason Vishnefske, from the internationally renowned confectionery brand Barbara Chocolate, says that research suggests that there isn't a direct link between cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, and acne

“In fact, dark chocolate with a high cacao content might even benefit your skin thanks to its antioxidant properties,” he said.

Vishnefske added that the true culprits behind blemishes were likely a complex interplay of factors like genetics, hormones, age and stress.

Diet also plays a significant role when it comes to breakouts as sugary and fatty foods can trigger inflammation and increase sebum (oil) production in the body, both of which contribute to the formation of acne.

“So, while chocolate itself might not be the sole villain, the type of chocolate you consume can significantly impact your skin,” said Vishnefske.

The downside

Chocolate contains sugar, dairy and fats, which can negatively impact the skin when consumed in excess.

Processed sugar can lead to early ageing, inflammation and increased sebum production, which can contribute to acne, Vishnefske warned.

Meanwhile, dairy products often contain lactose and proteins that can trigger inflammation and hormonal imbalances which can potentially lead to breakouts.

In addition, saturated and trans-fats found in chocolate can increase inflammation in the body, worsening acne.

The upside

The good news is that not all chocolate is bad for your skin.

As Vishnefske stated, dark chocolate and cacao, which are rich in antioxidants, offer several benefits. These include providing antioxidants which can improve the skin’s appearance as well as promote overall skin health.

“Cocoa offers even more antioxidant activity compared to blueberries and acai berries,” Vishnefske said.

It also supplies nutrients as a 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70% to 85% cacao content contains fibre, iron, magnesium and other essential minerals, which support overall health when consumed in moderation.

Chocolate can also lower bad cholesterol as studies suggest that dark chocolate, when enjoyed as part of a low-fat diet, can help lower ‘bad’ Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health.

The takeaway

The chocolate expert noted that while there was limited evidence that pure chocolate can cause pimples or make a breakout more severe, the other ingredients in the bar or cake tell a different story.

“Moderation and mindful choices are key,” he stressed. “While indulging in dark chocolate in reasonable amounts can be part of a balanced diet for healthy skin, focus on limiting sugary and processed foods.”

He also suggested choosing dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao content to reap the most benefits. “Remember, a well-rounded diet filled with fruits and vegetables is the ultimate recipe for clear, radiant skin.”