Cocoa and Acne

Mainstream medical professionals have long scoffed at the notion that diet affects acne. Regardless, acne sufferers have long blamed certain foods — including those containing cocoa, such as chocolate — for their blemishes. Food does not cause acne. But emerging research suggests that diet can play a role, and the findings may help you find alternative ways to manage acne and get clearer skin.

Diet and Acne

Health professionals began to change their view of the role of diet in acne when studies revealed that certain tribes in remote areas did not have acne. In one study published in the “Archives of Dermatology” in 2002, researchers did not find a single case of acne among Kitavan Islanders in Papua New Guinea or the Aché hunter-gatherers in Paraguay. By contrast, acne in the U.S. population tends to emerge in the teen years. The diet of the people in the study was typically high in low-glycemic-load foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Cereal, sugar, salt, dairy, alcohol, coffee, tea and oils were virtually nonexistent in their diet.

Cocoa and Fat

Cocoa beans are about 54 percent fat by weight, and 61 percent of that fat is saturated, according to the University of North Texas. In a review of acne and diet studies published in the “International Journal of Dermatology” in 2009, American researchers found that high intake of saturated fat can increase the risk of acne breakouts.

Cocoa and Carbohydrates

Cocoa beans also contain carbohydrates. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, some health professionals believe that excess carbohydrates can contribute to acne breakouts because they disrupt hormones that play a role in this skin condition. For instance, carbohydrates elevate levels of insulin, a hormone that increases inflammation and oil production in the skin.

Cocoa Allergy and Acne

Allergies may play a role in adult acne, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. True allergies to cocoa are rare, but it is still possible that you could have one. If you exhibit symptoms such as itching, nausea or stomach upset, a skin-prick test conducted by an allergist can help to determine if you are allergic to cocoa.


Keep in mind that research into diet and acne is in the early stages, and findings are conflicting. Also, as Mark Stengler and his co-authors point out in “Prescription for Drug Alternatives,” food triggers for acne may vary from person to person. If you suspect that cocoa is aggravating your acne, try eliminating foods containing cocoa — such as chocolate bars, drinks and cakes — from your diet for three or four months to see if your skin improves. These foods have little nutritive value, so you won’t be missing out on any essential nutrients.