It is popularly thought that chocolate consumption can produce blemishes and acne. However, after 40 years of studies, research still doesn’t have an absolute answer for us. Some studies argue that it does, while others say that it doesn’t. In other words, the jury is definitely still out.
One explanation for the scientific uncertainty is that acne may be correlated to the consumption of some kinds of chocolate, but not caused by it. For example, evidence suggests that dairy may contribute to facial blemishes, so the research that concludes that there is a positive association between acne and chocolate may actually be result from the dairy in the lighter milk chocolates.
By contrast, other results support the conclusion that chocolate may actually be healthy for your skin and even protect it from UV damage from the sun. This means that it can decrease the probability that you will get a sunburn.
In a study in London, researchers gave two groups chocolate to eat for 12 weeks. However, one group received a “high-flavanol” chocolate, such as you might get with a high-cocoa chocolate. The second received a “low-flavanol” chocolate, such as you might get with lighter milk chocolate. After 12 weeks, they tested the skin of these participants with a challenge of UV light to see whether cocoa provided any added protection to the skin from erythema (sunburn). Over the 12 week span, the skin of those who ate low-flavanol chocolate was no more or less protected from UV radiation. However, those who ate the high-flavanols chocolate doubled their protection compared to the baseline.1 In other words, after less than 2 weeks of eating high-flavanol chocolate, subjects’ skin was protected from burning even at twice the UV level.
Why would this be? What explanation can make that make sense?
One plausible explanation may be the fact that high-cocoa chocolate can increase circulation into the skin itself. Increased blood flow to the topmost layers of the skin (those within only 1 millimeter of the surface) has been shown in women who consume high-flavanol chocolate drinks. This in turn can provide the healthy oxygenation your skin needs to help protect itself.2
Regardless of the biomolecular reasons why, it is clear that consistent consumption of high cocoa chocolate provides benefits that you never saw coming, like acting as the most delicious sunscreen you have ever had!
 S Williams et al., “Eating Chocolate Can Significantly Protect the Skin from UV Light,” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 8, no. 3 (September 2009): 169-73.
 K Neukam et al., “Consumption of Flavanol-Rich Cocoa Acutely Increases Microcirculation in Human Skin,” European Journal of Nutrition 46, no. 1 (February 2007): 53–56.
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