As far as beauty myths go, the one about chocolate making you break out is one of the more depressing ones, but we've got good news. The whole ‘chocolate causes acne’ thing your friends go on about is just that - a myth. “People generally think that eating chocolate is unhealthy because it’s full of sugar and fats. But if you really look at the genesis of acne, it’s not so much the milk chocolate you just ate that's causing it, it's the other stuff in it - the high sugar content, for one, or fatty foods in your diet in general," says Dr. Malavika Kohli, aesthetic dermatologist and director of Skin Secrets in Mumbai.
And then there’s the other issue of genes. “Genetically speaking, Indian women are prone to metabolic issues like diabetes, insulin resistance and polycystic ovaries. A bad diet kicks off insulin levels, which kicks off testosterone, which stimulates the oil glands which leads to acne. This is why when women who deal with these issues change their diet, they feel like their acne got better because they stopped eating chocolate when really, it's more the other things they cut out that really made the difference," she says.
“There are also people who are genuinely allergic to the milk in chocolate”— those who are lactose intolerant or generally allergic to cocoa — “and this may cause them to break out. This isn't acne in the true sense, but what we call acne formed eruptions.”
So does chocolate have anything at all to do with acne? “Let me explain this with the classic example of a cupcake," says Kohli. "When you eat a double chocolate cupcake, you’re not just eating the chocolate; you’re consuming the sugar and the fats that go along with it. So you don’t realize that you had the cupcake as a whole and not just the chocolate. Chocolate, per se, doesn’t necessarily create or worsen acne; it depends on how much and in what form you’re eating it, what time of the day you’re eating it, and what else you're including in your diet."
So is it more about quality over quantity? Pretty much, says Dr. Kohli. "If you eat one or two bars late at night after a meal, it's only adding sugar to your carbohydrate load. But if you eat a piece or two at five in the evening as a quick pick-me-up, it’s perfectly okay.”
Then there’s the virtue of dark chocolate. "If you're craving some, I often advise a piece or two of dark chocolate as a healthy substitute to, say, a doughnut or a cupcake. Dark chocolate is packed with beneficial antioxidants like flavanoids and polyphenols, which are great for anti-aging.” A quick Google search backs this up, along with a long list of other benefits (lowering blood pressure, cholestrol levels).
So there you go. Chocolate: not so bad for you after all. Don't forget to tell your friends!