When I was 11 years old, I was away with my family for Easter.
And like any other young kid, I was eating a fair few Easter eggs… but then I started to get these bumps on my face.
My mum thought that I was starting to get pimples from all the chocolate I was eating… so she said I should stop eating them.
Then when I went to have a shower, and I asked mum if I could get pimples on my stomach…turns out that I had chicken pox 😂😂
So it’s not as simple as blaming ‘spots’ on easter chocolate!
But our mum’s get this idea from somewhere…
So is it an old wives tale? …or does chocolate actually have a role to play with breakouts?
The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
There are a lot of studies in both camps.
Some that show that chocolate does make breakouts worse.
and some that show that chocolate does not make breakouts worse.
And is it the chocolate’s fault or something else?
Let’s breakout it down into the ingredients that make up chocolate and they effect they may have on our body
There are 4 potential reasons for why we might get more breakouts when eating chocolate…
There’s little evidence that sugar or really any one food group will cause breakouts.
But what we do know… is a typical western diet, increases inflammation in the body and sebum (or oil) production in the skin.
(we’re talking a diet high in sugar and seed oils like sunflower and canola oil here)
Inflammation and excess oil production both increase the chance of skin breakouts.
But it may not be just the food themselves…
When we eat more sugary and fatty foods, these tend to push fruits and veggies off our plates.
…and we need all the lovely nutrients in those fruits and veggies to reduce inflammation and promote healthy skin.
But what about the ‘sugars’ in fruit and veggies?
The Kitavans are an island people in Papa New Guinea.
They have a high carbohydrate diet, but their skin is clear from acne breakouts.
Studies show they eat a lot of tubers, fruits, vegetables and proteins such as fish. With almost no alcohol, dairy, coffee, oils, cereals, sugar and salt.
But the carb dense tubers and other veggies they eat are mainly ‘low GI’.
This means these foods have a low glycemic index, so they’re less likely to spike blood sugar and insulin levels.
Many other factors could also contribute to their clear skin… less pollution, greater activity, less chemical exposure etc
…but it still points towards a western diet and lifestyle being a problem for acne breakouts.
For those who are dairy intolerant, eating dairy leads to inflammation in the body.
…and we know there’s good evidence to suggest that inflammation plays a role in acne breakouts.
But overall, there isn’t great evidence to suggest that dairy causes breakouts.
Having said that, anecdotally many people do report improvements in their skin after they reduce the amount of dairy they eat
It could be very similar to the reason above… when we take out sugary foods or dairy, we tend to replace them with more skin loving fruits and veggies.
There’s also a body of research that suggests that sugar and dairy have nothing to do with breakouts… but it’s actually the cocoa itself that influences skin breakouts.
In one study, a group of acne prone males consumed 25g of 99% dark chocolate each day for 4 weeks.
After only 2 weeks, there were noticeable changes in their skin.
They had more black heads and whiteheads and their ‘spots’ were more inflamed.
And this was only after 2 weeks of the study!
These changes carried through to the end of the study.
Which suggests, there are compounds in the cocoa itself that can effect breakouts… and influence inflammation on the skin
#4. Menstrual Cycle
One reason women may think there’s a link between eating chocolate and acne breakouts could be due to their menstrual cycle.
Right before women get their period:
- There’s a drop in estrogen levels
– this shifts the balance of hormones that stimulate the sebaceous glands, leading to more oil production in the skin.
- There’s also a drop in serotonin (the happy hormone)
– which is why we often crave more comfort food such as chocolate and we eat those comfort foods to ‘feel happier’
A greater indulgence in sweets (particularly chocolate)… combined with our normal hormonal shifts, double down on each other…
Leading to an increase in oil production in the skin just before our period.
Which leads to less happy skin.
I don’t think we can put all the blame for breakouts on just one food group (or chocolate).
It’s always a combination of different things and depends on us as individuals – our genetics and hormonal balance.
If you like chocolate, then eat it!
If you’re wanting to minimise your chance of breaking out when eating it…
- Make sure the rest of your diet contains lots of nutrients for happy, healthy skin
- Avoid chocolate that’s high in sugar and vegetable fats. Go for good quality chocolate with a few natural ingredients or make your own 🙂