Does chocolate give you acne?

Suendues Noori
28 June 2017

Above: Base image © CactuSoup, iStock, adapted by Mark Borden.

“Uhhhh, there’s a pimple on my cheek! What caused it? Was it something I ate? Did I have something sweet yesterday? Oh, wait - there was that chocolate bar...”

Does this sound like you? If so, don’t give up on chocolate just yet! It doesn’t necessarily cause acne—and it has some health benefits that might surprise you. It all comes down to understanding what’s in chocolate and how it affects your body.

What’s in chocolate?

The main ingredients in chocolate are:

Of course, there are many different types of chocolate. And the exact ingredients depend on the type. For example, dark chocolate has more cocoa beans and less sugar. Milk chocolate has more sugar, less cocoa and, of course, an extra ingredient: milk.

But the important thing to keep in mind is that chocolate is high in fat and sugar.

Did you know? Chocolate has been around for over 1500 years. It was first served as a drink. Later, it became popular as a solid dessert as well.

The link between chocolate and pimples

When you eat more foods that are high in fat and sugar, your body produces more sebum. That’s an oil that your skin cells secrete. The thick fluid can build up and clog your pores, resulting in a red spot on your skin. This is more likely to happen when you’re stressed or when your body is in the middle of a hormonal change, like puberty.

So if I eat less chocolate, will I get fewer pimples?

Not necessarily! Chocolate isn’t the only food that is high in sugar and fat. Chips, candy and pop can also cause you body to produce a lot of sebum.

Did you know? Chocolate can make cats and dogs very sick, because it contins a chemical called theobromine. Cats and dogs break down theobromine more slowly than humans do.

So should I just stop eating chocolate?!

There’s no need for that! Chocolate has benefits, too. For one, it lowers your chances of getting cardiovascular disease (diseases involving your heart or blood vessels).

Eating chocolate is also a way for your body to get antioxidants. Antioxidants are generally good for your body. For example, they protect you from free radicals, which are harmful molecules that your body produces when it generates energy or breaks down medicine.

Chocolate also contains important molecules called flavonols, which come from the cocoa bean. Scientists have found evidence that flavonols are antioxidants. They continue to research this possibility.

Did you know? Like chocolate, cranberries, apples and onions all contain flavanol!

Healthy ways to enjoy chocolate

If you want to keep getting your chocolate fix, try going for dark chocolate. Remember, it has less sugar and milk (some brands have no milk products at all). This means your body produces less acne-causing sebum.

But maybe you’re like me, and you want to eat the creamy, light, delicate, milk or white chocolate. Go for it! Just remember: too much of anything is bad for you, so count your portions and eat in moderation.

If you want to prevent acne, there are things you can try that don’t involve totally cutting out chocolate. Remember to wash your face every day, ideally once in the morning and once before you go to sleep. This will get rid of the oil that causes pimples. And while you may enjoy a sugary snack once in awhile, try to eat nutritious meals whenever possible. A healthy diet will benefit your skin in so many ways!

Learn more

About the health impacts of chocolate:

Is chocolate really a health food? (2015)
Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Chocolate (2013)
State Government of Victoria, Australia

Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-Food (2013)
D. Lippi, Nutrients 5

Suendues Noori


I am an undergraduate chemistry student from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I am a passionate Let's Talk Science Volunteer, and in my spare time I like to read, work at the farm, and organize just about everything.