Happy Easter! We ask an expert: Does chocolate REALLY cause breakouts?
And, just like that, the grocery shelves are awash with chocolate Easter eggs. Thank you, sweet baby Jesus.
Chocolate has been there for us through the good and the bad. While we’re much too greedy to throw it at the TV, Elle Woods style, chocolate has turned us into walking cliches on more than one occasion, lending a shoulder to cry on during our most dramatic breakups and comfort through the darkest of PMS days. Religious affiliations aside, chocolate has single handedly ensured that Easter is the most sacred holiday on the calendar.
Despite being irrefutably delicious, chocolate doesn’t have the greatest reputation among the skincare set, having long been blamed as a catalyst for breakouts (which is, of course, when KILLA comes in). But, does our inordinate fondness for the most moreish of treats really wreak havoc on our skin, as per the unofficial murmurings? We turned to the wise and reliable discipline of science to set the record straight…
Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban is here to deliver good news to gourmands the world over, assuring us that chocolate isn’t directly linked to breakouts. Though, it’s a little bit more complicated than that, as you will observe below...
"Chocolate per se will not make you break out," Dr. Shamban says. "In fact, there is little evidence that chocolate or any specific fatty foods will cause acne, but we do know that a high-sugar or high-fat diet can increase sebum production and promote inflammatory responses in the body—which can lead to acne. Again, although we can’t say that sugary and fatty food directly causes acne, it’s nevertheless true that overindulging in these kinds of food can increase your chances of developing the condition and may displace other nutrients that are critical to the skin’s health. (i.e. filling up on sugary foods may lead to less consumption of fruits and vegetables)."
Why does chocolate get such a bad rap, then?
"There are many reasons," Dr. Shamban says. "One reason is that some women like to indulge in sweets, particularly chocolate, during the premenstrual part of their cycle (PMS). Acne-prone women may notice breakouts coincide with this time in their cycle. Estrogen levels drop, triggering androgens (hormones produced by the ovaries) to stimulate the sebaceous glands; this pumps up oil production. Therefore it may be your menstrual cycle itself, not the chocolate you crave during it, which causes you to break out. In addition, when people fill up on chocolate and other high-caloric and fatty foods, they leave little room to eat a balanced and well rounded diet, which is needed for healthy skin. So it can be the lack of needed nutrients, rather than the chocolate itself, which supports the proliferation of acne."
Are certain types of chocolate better or worse than others?
"Milk and white chocolate overall have more dairy, sugar and other additives than dark chocolate," explains Dr. Shamban. "For some people, dairy and sugary substances can trigger hormonal changes, which in turn may cause inflammation, especially for acne-prone people. It is also well-documented that dark chocolate has many benefits to our health, not just for our cardiovascular system but for our skin as well. The high cocoa content of dark chocolate also means high amounts of two flavonoids, catechin and procyanidin, which are chemicals that act as antioxidants within the body. Antioxidants protect the body's cells against free radicals. Dark chocolate also contains higher concentrations of antioxidant flavonoids than milk chocolate and white chocolate."
The verdict!: While chocolate can’t be directly blamed for causing breakouts or exacerbating acne, high sugar and high-fat foods aren't the greatest for your skin. If you’ve got a sweetie treaty craving, opt for dark chocolate over your milk or white, and for the love of clear skin, don’t forget to eat your vegetables.
Speaking of inner health: Know about our breakout-specific supplement, SKIN DISCIPLINE?