Updated: May 12
Are you a chocolate lover? If so, you may be interested to know that this sweet treat may have some surprising effects on your skin. While chocolate has a long association with acne and other skin issues, recent research suggests that some types of chocolate may actually benefit the skin.
Chocolate and Skin
This blog post will explore how chocolate affects acne and eczema and overall skin health. We'll dive into why chocolate can be bad for the skin and why dark chocolate, in particular, can be good for the skin. We'll also discuss the impact of sugar on skin health and provide some healthy alternatives for treats.
So, whether you're a chocoholic or just interested in the latest teen and adult skincare trends, keep reading to learn everything you've ever wanted to know about chocolate and skin.
How Chocolate Affects Skin Health
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, which contain flavanols. Flavanols are an antioxidant known to have several health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving heart health, and protecting the skin from damage caused by UV rays. However, when chocolate is processed, it loses many of its flavonols and becomes high in sugar, milk, and other additives that are not so good for the skin.
One study conducted in 2014 found that people who consumed high amounts of chocolate were more likely to have acne than those who ate less chocolate. The study concluded that chocolate's high sugar and fat content and its milk and additive content could be responsible for the link between chocolate consumption and acne.
Another study conducted in 2016 found that consuming high amounts of chocolate could lead to premature skin ageing. The study suggested that this was due to the high sugar content in chocolate, which can cause glycation – a process that damages collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep the skin firm and elastic.
While the evidence linking chocolate consumption to acne and premature skin ageing is inconclusive, it is clear that consuming large amounts of chocolate, especially chocolate high in sugar and additives, is not good for the skin.
Why Dark Chocolate Can Be Good for Skin
Dark chocolate is made from minimally processed cocoa beans, with more cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Cocoa solids contain flavanols, antioxidants that protect the skin from free radical damage. This high flavonol content can also support blood flow to the skin. Increased blood flow helps skin hydration, elasticity, and thickness and helps carry beneficial nutrients and oxygen to the skin.
Dark chocolate also contains vitamins and minerals essential for skin health, including magnesium, zinc, and iron. Magnesium helps reduce inflammation, which can contribute to acne and other skin conditions. Zinc is essential for wound healing and can help balance sebum production. Iron is important for collagen, a protein that gives the skin structure and elasticity.
Another benefit of dark chocolate for the skin is its ability to protect against sun damage. Flavanols in dark chocolate can help to protect the skin from UV rays, which can cause premature ageing, hyperpigmentation, and other skin damage. However, it is essential to note that dark chocolate is not a replacement for sunscreen; it is still vital to wear sunscreen and practice sun safety.
In addition to its benefits for the skin, dark chocolate is also lower in sugar and additives than milk chocolate, making it a healthier choice overall. Consuming too much sugar and additives can lead to inflammation, contributing to various health problems, including skin issues.
Therefore, dark chocolate is an excellent choice for those looking to take care of their skin health. However, it is essential to choose dark chocolate that is high in cocoa solids and low in sugar and additives. Look for dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa solids, and limit your consumption to a few small pieces per day.
Why Sugar is Bad for Skin
As mentioned earlier, sugar can be bad for the skin. When we consume sugar, our bodies break it down into glucose, which causes a spike in insulin levels. This spike in insulin levels can cause an increase in sebum production. Sebum is an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin. Too much sebum can clog pores, leading to acne.
This spike in insulin can also lead to inflammation in the body. This inflammation can manifest in the skin as acne, redness, or other skin conditions. In addition to acne, high blood sugar levels can worsen skin conditions like eczema. Eczema is a condition that causes patches of dry, itchy skin, and high blood sugar levels can worsen this condition by causing inflammation and weakening the skin's barrier function.
Sugar also contributes to glycation, a process in which sugar molecules attach to collagen and elastin fibres in the skin, forming advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs can damage collagen and elastin, leading to premature ageing and other skin issues.
If you consume too much sugar, your body may produce too much insulin, which can lead to a sudden drop in blood sugar levels, also known as a sugar crash. You may then reach for more sugar to increase your energy levels. This cycle can disrupt your blood sugar balance and lead to energy fluctuations, fatigue, and irritability.
In addition to causing skin problems, sugar can lead to weight gain and other health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. Cutting back on sugar can benefit your skin and overall health.
Healthy Alternatives for Treats and Snacks
If you are a chocolate lover but want to protect your skin, there are plenty of healthy chocolate alternatives for treats that you can try. Here are some gluten and dairy-free options:
As mentioned earlier, dark chocolate is an excellent option for those looking for a healthier chocolate option. Dark chocolate is usually vegan, and there are many options available that are free from dairy. Dark chocolate is also higher in cocoa solids and lower in sugar. This means it contains more flavanols and fewer additives, making it a healthier choice for the skin. Look for dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa solids.
Fruits are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without consuming too much sugar. They are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants that are good for the skin. Try snacking on lower-sugar fruits like berries, apples, and pears when craving something sweet.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great alternative to chocolate as they are high in healthy fats, protein, and fibre. Almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds are great options, and you can add some dried fruit or dark chocolate chips to make a tasty trail mix (see recipe here).
Smoothies are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth and get a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. Blend your favourite fruits (frozen work well), dairy-free yoghurt, and a handful of spinach or kale for a healthy and delicious treat.
Rice Cakes with Nut Butter
Rice cakes can be topped with your favourite nut butter for a sweet and satisfying treat.
Energy balls are a great snack to have on hand for a quick and easy pick-me-up. They are usually made with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and customised to your liking. Look for recipes free from dairy and try adding some cocoa powder or dark chocolate chips for a chocolatey flavour.
Overall, many alternatives to snacking on chocolate are just as satisfying and delicious. Incorporating some of these options into your diet can support your skin health while still enjoying a sweet treat.
Here Are Some Other Tips for Healthy Skin
In addition to consuming dark chocolate in moderation and limiting your sugar intake, there are other steps you can take to improve your skin health. Here are a few tips:
Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help keep your skin hydrated and healthy. Aim for around 1.5-2 litres of hydrating fluids each day.
Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can increase stress levels and exacerbate skin issues. Read more about the connection between skin and sleep here.
Eat a balanced diet: Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to keep your skin healthy.
Protect your skin from the sun: UV radiation can cause premature ageing. Be sure to wear sunscreen and protective clothing when you are outside.
For more skincare tips for teenagers, see our article 10 Essential Skincare Tips for Teenagers here.
While chocolate can be bad for the skin when consumed excessively, we've seen there are some benefits of dark chocolate for skin. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants that protect the skin from free radical damage, improve blood flow, and provide essential vitamins and minerals. However, it is vital to consume chocolate in moderation and be mindful of its sugar content.
The good news is there are plenty of healthy alternatives for treats and snacks that you can try, such as dark chocolate, fruits, trail mix and smoothies. These alternatives are good for the skin and provide various other health benefits. So, the next time you crave something sweet, try one of these instead!
If you would like to learn more about Nutritional Therapy for Skin Health, check out our programme here.