Home Guides & Quizzes True or False Does Chocolate Cause Breakouts?

Does Chocolate Cause Breakouts?

Well...it's complicated. We'll explain.

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Who doesn’t love biting into a delicious piece of milk chocolate or including a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day? But is it possible that that delicious bite or sip of cocoa-filled treat can lead to an unwelcome visit on your face? That’s the old-wives tale that many of us heard from our mothers and grandmothers growing up. While there are some great skincare tips that can be taken from previous generations, dipping your face in ice water to reduce puffiness, other tips are not as reliable.

Read on to learn more about this long-held rumor and about what foods may actually trigger a breakout.

The Correlation Between Chocolate Acne

The question we’ve all been afraid to ask, does chocolate actually lead to breakouts? And the answer is… it’s complicated.There is no conclusive study that proves that chocolate is a direct trigger for acne and it would be extremely difficult to do so in the first place.

In one study conducted with 14 self-described acne-prone men, there was shown to be a small correlation between the consumption of cocoa tablets and slightly worse acne. However, this study and other similar trials have been deemed inconclusive due to an unreliable independent variable.

As we may know from first-hand consumption, there are a variety of chocolate in the world from milk to dark to vegan, with varying percentages of ingredients like dairy, nuts, and so on in each product. So while chocolate in itself may not lead to pimples popping up, certain ingredients in chocolate can lead to acne flare-ups.

Foods That May Trigger Acne Flare-Ups

  • Dairy Products: Cows, like every other mammal, produce milk to feed their babies and help them grow. Cow’s milk contains the proteins whey and casein to simulate growth and hormones in calves, but which often have a different effect when humans drink cow’s milk. When we digest these proteins, they release a hormone similar to insulin called IGF-1, which can trigger acne breakouts.
  • Foods With High Levels of Omega-6 Fats: The typical American diet is not the most conducive diet for great skin. One reason for this is that the standard American diet, filled with meats, non-pasture-raised eggs, and vegetable oils, has a disproportionate and backward ratio of omega-6 fatty acids, which can have inflammatory properties, in comparison to more anti-inflammatory omega-3 rich foods, such as walnuts, chia seeds, salmon, and so on. This isn’t to demonize all omega-6s and completely rid them from your diet, but to be aware there needs to be a more even ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 rich foods.

Diet and Acne

Beautify reached out to skincare expert Dr. Yelena Yeretsky on the correlation between chocolate and acne.

Dr. Yeretsky commented, “Most of the time acne is caused by the stimulation of sebaceous glands via hormones.” Sebaceous glands are microscopic glands found in the hair follicles that secrete sebum, an oily stance that protects the skin from drying out. However, when these glands get clogged it can lead to pimples and cysts. 

“Many hormones can stimulate this process for acne-prone individuals. Foods that contain sugar, dairy, highly-processed foods [such as from fast-food chains], and even protein shakes can induce acne. It’s important to note that people understand that food doesn’t have the same effect on everyone. The body loves homeostasis so an excess of unhealthy foods can stimulate hormones that induce acne. The best diet is one that is well-balanced and allows for the occasional bit of fun,” Dr. Yeretsky explained.

What Is The Best Diet For Your Skin?

While certain foods may trigger acne, it doesn’t mean that everybody needs to immediately cut them entirely out of their diet. As Dr. Yeretsky explained, everyones’ body operates differently. An “excess” in certain foods has a different meaning for every individual. For example, if you are someone who has a completely sugar-free diet and may indulge in a piece of cake or a different sugary treat, that may cause a breakout. In the same breath, switching over from a diet that includes meat products to an entirely vegetarian or vegan one can also lead to acne, because it’s a major change in your routine. At the end of the day, the ideal diet for a healthy life and good skin is best to be determined between you and your doctor.


Dr. Yelena Yeretsky is a world-renowned physician specializing in anti-aging and aesthetic medicine. She is the founder of the NYC West Village-based medical aesthetic practice Clinique YFT and creator of the premiere skincare line Dr. Y secrets.

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Nicole Kirichanskaya
Nicole Kirichanskaya is a born-and-raised Brooklynite with a passion for fashion, feminism, and the fanciful. Her love of beauty stems from when she was taught the importance of a good manicure at an early age from her Ukrainian babushka. She has written for a number of publications including Global Glam Magazine, CEW, Footwear News, and more.