Chocolate Causes Acne: True or False?

The relationship between chocolate consumption and acne breakouts is controversial. While many believe that one does not necessarily cause the other, there are those who believe it does. We explain what is known so far.
Chocolate Causes Acne: True or False?

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 18 June, 2021

Last update: 18 June, 2021

We’ve all heard at some point in our lives that chocolate causes acne. Have you ever been about to eat a delicious chocolate bar and then someone told you to be careful because you might come out in spots?! In this article, we’ll be finding out whether chocolate causes acne or not!

There’s still a lot to investigate about acne. However, what we do know is that it’s a complex skin condition, which doesn’t occur due to any one particular cause, but to several at the same time. And this is precisely why it isn’t always easy to tackle it.

As for the relationship between diet and acne, although there appear to be new lines of research and new finding, questions still remain. Stay with us today as we talk about one of the most hotly debated topics in health areas: the relationship between acne and chocolate.

What does the scientific evidence say about chocolate and acne?

Chocolate causes acne in some people
So far there is no clear consensus about the link between the consumption of chocolate and the development of acne.

Numerous studies have been conducted to determine whether chocolate causes acne or not. Some of the most notable would be the following:

  • As indicated in a study conducted in patients with mild to moderate acne, the relationship between chocolate and acne is often something of an enigma. Although greater outbreaks were observed among participants who consumed white chocolate compared to those who only consumed dark chocolate, the main reason for the outbreak wasn’t certain.
  • There is a hypothesis that sugar, dairy products, and other additives in many bars, chocolates, and other chocolate formats would be – in part – responsible for the outbreaks, as reflected in a review of the scientific evidence available until 2009.
  • In subsequent reviews, dermatologists and nutritionists agree that each case is different and that, apparently, it isn’t the consumption of chocolate that can trigger an outbreak specifically, but, rather, a diet high in foods with a high glycemic load. However, this idea is still under discussion.
  • In a study published in 2015, it was observed that the continuous consumption of dark chocolate (with a high percentage of cocoa) exacerbated acne in men whose skin was prone to it.
  • Despite the findings of the previous study, it hasnt yet been proven that cocoa – which is the main component of chocolate – is the cause of acne.

What to do about it?

So, the good news is that, if you have acne and you love chocolate, you don’t have to deprive yourself of the joys of eating it every now and then. Eliminating chocolate from your diet won’t make acne go away. For the skin to improve and the outbreaks to subside, it’s necessary to apply a whole new therapeutic strategy. To do this, the best thing to do is go to a dermatologist.

What’s a coincidence and what isn’t?

Chocolate causes acne, although not in all cases
Each case is different, and so, in many cases, the consumption of chocolate alone isn’t responsible for the appearance of the outbreaks.

Many people wonder if their acne breakout after eating chocolate is a coincidence or not. The answer to that question is, yes, most of the time it is just a coincidence.

In the absence of scientific evidence to reach a clear conclusion and, therefore, a consensus, experts indicate that, as things stand, it isn’t possible to “blame” chocolate for the outbreaks, nor any other specific type of food either.

Experts point out that trying to pin things down to a single cause is difficult. Once again, we’re reminded that acne is, indeed, a multifactorial condition.

Other types of food may promote acne breakouts

In recent years, it has been suggested that sugar and dairy products appear to be more associated with acne breakouts than chocolate. And, in particular, food made with saturated fats and trans fats, such as ultra-processed food.

Regarding this, although a conclusion by the experts is still pending, it’s a good idea to highlight some key points.

It isn’t only the consumption of a certain food that seems to affect the appearance of pimples and spots, it’s the frequency with which you eat it, the type of diet and other factors related to lifestyle, including the level of physical activity.

This doesn’t exclude other factors such as genetics, hormonal changes, and the proliferation of the P. acnes bacteria, whose influence on the appearance of acne has been widely proven.

In a study published in 2019 titled The Importance of Diet in Acne, the following is discussed in relation to foods that may promote acne breakouts:

“In non-Westernized societies, the incidence rates of acne are considerably lower, probably due to genetic differences, environmental factors, a diet with a lower glycemic index, and a lower intake of dairy products, as well as greater physical activity. This is in contrast to Western nutrition, which is characterized by a high calorie intake, high glycemic load, and high consumption of dairy, meat and fatty foods, which all cause metabolic alterations”.

In general terms, we can say that a balanced diet, which doesn’t include extreme measures – such as eliminating certain food or depriving oneself of the things we really like – together with an adequate strategy to treat acne, could considerably favor the health of the skin.

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