Last Updated: 12th October 2016
Does chocolate cause acne? It’s a question that many people ask because there are so many stories around it. There are theories that the sugar in milk or white chocolate is the problem, and some parents use the idea of fat in the ingredient causing acne to prevent children and teens eating so much.
Now it’s time to look into the details to determine whether it is the case that chocolate causes acne. Here’s your ultimate guide to giving you an idea of how this idea started and all the reasons for acne forming.
Why We Believe Chocolate Causes Acne
Where did this myth or thought process even start? As mentioned, it comes from parents telling children that the fat and sugars in the ingredient cause acne. According to Dr. Ava Shamban, the fat and sugars don’t quite cause it, but there are some links. The truth is there’s no connection to fatty foods and acne, whether that includes burgers, fries or chocolate.
However, there is a connection in the sugar and fats and the body’s responses afterwards. It wouldn’t matter what type of food you ate. The body has an inflammatory response after eating high fat and high sugar foods. This inflammatory response can lead to acne being produced.
There isn’t a way to say whether chocolate specifically causes acne. We just know that eating too much can lead to a problem. Having it in moderation should cause the acne response parents tells stories about.
It’s also worth pointing out that sugar and fat also cause other problems in the body. Sugar is especially the problem, and can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
But why is it that chocolate has gained the bad reputation? This explains all about sugar and the effect on the body, but not about why chocolate is the item that so bad for us.
Some of this will depend on the type of chocolate that you eat. Dark chocolate comes in almost its original form. There are very few additives and a little sugar added to the mix. The dairy content is also minimal. This helps by keeping the sugar reaction down within the body, so there is not the same inflammatory response.
Dark chocolate is also beneficial to the health in some instances. It has been linked to reducing heart disease and helping to eliminate cravings. It can help improve the look of the skin. There are also high antioxidant contents in dark chocolate, helping to boost the immune system and fight off cancer.
Of course, this is all in moderation! Eating a bar of chocolate a day isn’t going to do the body much good. Two small squares are just enough. The good thing about dark chocolate is that the cocoa amount will be high enough to prevent many people from overeating it.
The issue comes with milk and white chocolate, as we’ve already mentioned. There are more sugar and milk added to the cocoa, leading to more hormonal changes. Some people will see these hormonal changes, which is very common in people who are already prone to acne.
Some people also have intolerances to dairy and sugar, especially the former. If you’re one of those, you’ll find that milk and white chocolate can also cause stomach cramps and other digestive problems. It’s worth sticking with the darker varieties.
Still, Why Does Chocolate Get a Bad Reputation?
This doesn’t explain why chocolate has gained such a bad reputation. Why do we believe the myth that chocolate causes acne?
The truth is that stories get passed down from generation to generation. Younger children will believe everything their parents say, and some won’t question the myths later in life.
There’s also a connection between chocolate and obesity. If overeating chocolate can contribute to obesity, why can’t it contribute to acne, too? It makes sense, right?
It does, and it doesn’t help that as children start to eat more chocolate, they start to break out. This is often because they’re getting to the age where their hormones are changing dramatically, and they end up suffering from acne anyway. We just have the misconception that the extra chocolate, sweets, and fatty foods have caused it.
But didn’t a study by Henri Mondor Hospital find a link between chocolate and acne in teenagers? Surely that is conclusive enough to show that there is a connection.
While it did, there were many limitations to this study. The biggest limitation was the lack of information about the diets of the individuals used in the study. Anything high in fat or sugar can lead to the same hormonal responses that cause inflammation. It is likely that the teenagers’ diets were full of all, and not just chocolate. Without knowing, how do we know it was the chocolate that caused the acne?
There was also little information on the natural hormonal responses without taking sugar and fat into account. Some people are naturally more likely to suffer from acne than others.
How Exactly Is Acne Formed?
With all this about chocolate, hormones, and acne, it’s worth looking into the truth about how acne is formed. Just what exactly causes it? Why do some people suffer from it more than others?
Acne is linked to hormones. It’s why most people start to get it when they hit their teenage years and why it evens out in early adulthood. Women who are pregnant are also more prone to suffering from it, due to other hormonal changes.
The body doesn’t know how to deal with the hormonal changes, and it will start to produce the inflammatory responses we’ve already mentioned. This leads to more sebum being produced, and the pores will become blocked. When they do become blocked, the bacteria forms and the acne is produced.
If it’s that time of the month for you, you’ll also find you’re more prone to breakouts. At the same time, you’ll find that craving chocolate is more common, and there’s the myth that your chocolate cravings are causing the acne. The truth is the hormonal changes at this time of the month–your estrogen levels dip–lead to both the chocolate cravings and the acne.
Unfortunately, there’s little you can do about the natural hormonal responses. All you can do is work on protecting your skin from blocked pores and acne production. How do you do that? Here are a few tips to help you manage it all.
Keep your face washed and clean
It’s the blocked pores that cause the acne. They can be blocked by absolutely anything, including dirt, natural oils, and dead skin cells. Keeping your skin protected from these is a definite must.
You don’t need to go through a big cleansing routine. Start with exfoliating to open up all the pores, so you get all the bacteria out. How often you need to do this will depend on your skin type and time of the month. Younger teens with more excessive hormonal responses may find that exfoliating more commonly will help to limit the acne response.
After exfoliating, you’ll need to cleanse and then moisturise. Protect your pores from blocking with oil and dirt by using a face friendly moisturising cream. Remember, you’ll need to wash this off at the end of the day to help cleanse your pores again and prevent the bacteria build up.
Washing your face night and the day will help to keep your pores clean. If you have excessively oily skin, you sweat excessively, or you’ve been working out, you’ll find that washing more regularly will help. You don’t want to keep exfoliating, though! This just irritates the skin and can lead to other problems.
Don’t use as much makeup
Limit the amount of makeup you use, as this will just block the pores, too. When you do wear makeup, remove it before you go to sleep. The last thing you want is for it to get deep into your pores.
If you wear makeup on a regular basis, make sure you get some that will protect your skin. You can find primers and protective foundations that will help to keep the pores free from oils and dirt. Tinted moisturisers could be the perfect option for your needs, and come in a variety of shades to suit your needs.
It’s also important to look out for makeup that is oil free, whether you’re using primers, foundations or concealers. They will prevent the excess blocking of the pores, limiting the number of bacteria that is allowed to form within the pores. You’ll find less acne on a daily basis, whether your body naturally produces it or not.
Follow a healthily and balanced diet
While chocolate doesn’t cause acne, it can contribute to the hormonal response. This is the same with anything that is high in fat or sugar. This is why following a healthy and balanced diet is good for your skin.
Focus more on fruits and vegetables, as they are full of healing nutrients that will help to keep the skin clear and moisturised. They also have higher water contents to keep the hydration.
When you do want chocolate–or anything that may cause the hormonal responses–you’ll want to keep them in moderation. Don’t ban yourself from eating anything, because you’ll just end up binging! If you want chocolate, try to stick to the darker options, as they have less sugar and dairy contents to help prevent the hormonal responses and the other digestive problems associated with them.
Know your body
Over time, you’ll get to understand your body more. We’re all different, and some foods will create more of a problem than others.
You’ll find the foods that cause more of a hormonal response than others. You’ll get a better idea of the time of the month that you see breakouts occurring, and things you can do to limit making the breakouts worse. You’ll find a cleansing routine that works best for you.
Watch out for hydrogenated oils, white flour and anything else that is linked to inflammatory responses. They are more likely to make your breakouts worse, but they don’t exactly cause them.
Think about what you’re putting in your hair
It may surprise you to hear that what you put in your hair can also cause acne. Products can dry out the scalp, so it will try to get oils from elsewhere in the body. This can lead to dryness elsewhere in the skin.
Some products can also create inflammation and cause hormonal changes. Watch out for any hair products that contain soap, and make sure it is right for your hair and scalp type. There are products for dry, damaged, oily, coloured, and normal hair.
Stop touching your face
This is one of the most common reasons for acne, more than what you eat. When you touch your face, you put more oils and dirt from your hands across the top of your pores. These then get into the pores, and you’re left with blockages for bacteria to grow.
It’s time to keep your hands away from your face. Use a tissue for wiping your nose, and look out for serviettes when you need to wipe up any food that has spilt, even if it is a little bit.
Stay away from the sun
It’s not just what you eat or your body’s natural cycles that will cause sebum level increases. The sun will also cause it, so you’ll want to avoid the UV rays as much as possible. Depending on where you live, this isn’t going to be that easy.
The UV rays cause extra inflammation and redness. Your pores will become blocked much quicker. It also doesn’t help that the heat leads to extra sweating, which will also block your pores. The rays are also linked to skin cancer and other skin conditions.
If you really can’t avoid the sun, look out for sun cream that is at least SPF 50. This will help to protect the skin from as much damage as possible. You can also buy tinted sun creams to help limit the amount of makeup that you use on your face. Look out for oil free sun creams. It doesn’t matter which brand you use, as long as you follow the rules already mentioned.
Apply your sun cream at least 30 minutes before you leave. This gives it a chance to work through into your skin to offer the protection. Reapply it throughout the day. Even those 12-24 hour options and waterproof types will wear off over time. Reapply every few hours to keep your protection up.
When you are out, think about the time of the day. The hours between 11 am, and 2 pm tend to be the worst. This is the highest part of the day, and will include more harmful UV rays. If you can, avoid being out. Of course, if this is the only time you’re going to get the sun, being out for 15 minutes or so is good for you for your vitamin D allowance. That being said, only 15 minutes is needed to get your daily vitamin D intake from the sun; it is that easy!
Watch the stress
There are some studies that show stress leads to pimples. Some extra research into this is still needed, but the belief by researchers is that the stress leads to hormonal changes. These work in similar ways to how sugar and fat can cause extra sebum to be created.
Reducing your stress levels is good for you anyway. You’ll not only find that you could have less acne, but that you get fewer headaches and find it much easier to sleep. Less stress will also help to limit the risk of various health complications.
You can limit stress in a variety of ways. Meditation is one of the most popular, along with breathing techniques and having a positive mental attitude. Try not to worry about things that you can’t change, and take action when you can change things promptly.
Conclusion: Does Chocolate Cause Acne?
In short, eating chocolate isn’t going to cause acne. It’s the common myth that parents tell children to prevent them from overindulging.
There are some studies that link the two, but there are limitations to them. The truth is that it’s the sugar and fat content that lead to hormonal responses. It’s these responses that lead to inflammation, blocked pores, and acne.
Unfortunately, everyone can suffer from acne over time. We all have different hormonal responses, and we can suffer from them at different ages, depending on our bodies and our genetic makeups. Some people will be more prone because of their genes, while some teenagers and adults can avoid it all completely.
You can limit your chances of acne by eating less chocolate and sticking to a healthy diet, but you’re not going to stop acne forming completely.
While chocolate doesn’t cause acne, it can still lead to obesity, and there are other health problems linked to it. Dark chocolate is certainly the best out of the three types and looks for those with a higher cocoa content. You’ll soon find your skin and overall health thanks you for the choice, especially when you join that with eating in moderation.
Now that we have established the fact that chocolates don’t cause acne, it doesn’t mean that you can splurge into a chocolate binge right now. Keep in mind that while it’s not the main cause of acne, it can still contribute just by affecting the balance of your diet. It is best to keep chocolates as treats once in a while and not part of your everyday diet.