Chocolate tends to be viewed as a sweet treat but it is also growing in popularity as a superfood.
For that matter, people associate chocolate with a wide range of benefits, especially when it comes to dark chocolate.
So, what about this idea, is chocolate good for your skin?
I’ve certainly seen that claim on enough sites – with some people saying that dark chocolate can promote ‘healthy, glowing and flawless’ skin. But, how much of that is hype?
After all, there is also the counter-claim that chocolate can be bad for the skin, especially for people who are susceptible to acne. So, in this post, we’re going to get to the truth about chocolate and your skin – and how it can actually help.
As part of this, we're going to look at some key studies. By reading the post, you'll learn about the type of chocolate used and the amount that may offer benefits.
The Outcomes of Research
There hasn’t been a large amount of research into chocolate and your skin but there has been some.
In particular, there has been interest in the potential of compounds in chocolate to improve skin condition. Such an effect is thought to be related to antioxidants, including flavanols, which are one specific class of antioxidants.
Cocoa Flavanols and the Skin
One study looked at this in a group of Korean women above 40 years of age across a 24-week period. In that study, the participants were given supplements that contained cocoa flavanols (320 mg).
The authors found that the supplementation was able to improve skin elasticity and reduce facial wrinkles over the control group (1). The supplementation also helped increase the amount of UV radiation that the women could be exposed to before becoming sunburnt.
This outcome provides some support to the idea that consuming chocolate flavanols regularly could help to reduce wrinkles and improve the visual appearance of skin. The study's conclusions also support findings from previous research, including the idea that it takes more than 12 weeks to see many statistically significant results.
Even so, there are limitations to the study.
- While the outcomes were statistically significant, the actual differences in skin elasticity and roughness were relatively small. This means that there may be few visible differences. It also suggests that such treatment would be better for wrinkle prevention rather than treatment.
- The outcomes may be associated with weight-related pathways, but there wasn't enough data to be certain.
- The study considered a limited population of Korean women. There isn't enough data to know whether similar effects would occur for men or for people in other parts of the world.
Doses in this study were around 320 milligrams of cocoa flavanols per day. That's anywhere from 8 to 25 grams of dark chocolate, depending on the product and flavanol content.
Chocolate as a Sunscreen
Not surprisingly, there aren't many studies focusing on chocolate and wrinkles. Instead, research on chocolate and skin health often considers the topic in relation to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
For example, one study was interested in the impact of UV radiation on skin, including the contributions to aging, cancer and sunburn. The authors felt that the compounds in chocolate could help to prevent some of this damage.
To look at this, they examined outcomes for 74 women in Quebec City. During this study, the participants were given either high-flavanol or low-flavanol dark chocolate and the effects were monitored (2).
Overall, the authors were unable to find any significant relationship between the chocolate and skin sensitivity to UV radiation. Nevertheless, the study was limited, especially as it didn’t have a control group.
However, other research has indicated that some of the compounds in dark chocolate can help to protect against sunburn and other types of UV damage, helping to promote skin health overall (3). Much more research is needed in the field, but it is clear that there is at least some support for the concept.
Dark Chocolate, Health and Your Skin
The idea that dark chocolate might help your skin isn’t as absurd as it may sound. In fact, dark chocolate is already associated with a wide range of health benefits.
I’m not going to go into the specific implications here, but you can read more in the list below. This selection highlights other articles from this site that have also focused on chocolate and its benefits.
- 6 Reasons why Dark Chocolate is Oh So Good for You
- How to Choose Dark Chocolate
- Dark Chocolate’s Proven Benefits and the Best Brands
- Should You Turn to Dark Chocolate to Relieve Stress?
- Can Chocolate Make You Smarter?
- Milk Chocolate Might Just Be Good for You
- Cacao Nibs Nutrition - All You Need to Know
- Carbs in Dark Chocolate
Compounds in Dark Chocolate
More than anything, dark chocolate is significant for health because of the plant-based compounds it contains.
Specifically, dark chocolate acts as a powerful source of antioxidants. These come in the form of compounds like polyphenols and flavanols. For that matter, dark chocolate and cocoa are extremely high in these compounds, more than many other sources of antioxidants, like blueberries (4).
As the name suggests, antioxidants help protect your body against oxidation. That process isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can occur too much within our bodies. Excessive oxidation may contribute to the development of a range of diseases – along with many of the symptoms of aging (5,6,7).
The site The Doctor Will See You Now talks about how and why this occurs.
Because of this pattern, many people feel that antioxidants can help combat the side effects of aging, including those associated with the skin. This is why antioxidants are so common in anti-aging supplements, skin creams and similar products.
So, the antioxidants in dark chocolate alone could make it very powerful for the skin.
Flavanols and Polyphenols
There is also another mechanism that connects dark chocolate to the skin. This is associated with the bioactive compounds (8).
In particular, some of the flavanols in dark chocolate may help to improve blood flow to the skin and increase hydration. Some research suggests that this may be especially relevant for protecting against damage from the sun (9,10). Likewise, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the compounds could help in this regard (11).
One study mentioned earlier did find that the polyphenols in dark chocolate could help improve the skin (12). This supports the impacts of these compounds overall and illustrates the potential present in dark chocolate.
With this in mind, there are mechanisms for how consuming dark chocolate could improve the skin. These concepts also support the idea of dark chocolate and sun protection.
Getting the Most from Dark Chocolate
Right now, there isn’t a large amount of research supporting the connection between chocolate and the skin. However, multiple mechanisms for that effect do exist.
Besides that, many of the other health benefits of dark chocolate have been supported by research. So, you will get some advantages from dark chocolate, regardless of the implications for your skin.
With this in mind, how do you get the most out of dark chocolate? Well, you can apply it to the skin and there are various products that take advantage of dark chocolate, cocoa or some of the compounds that they contain.
But, the most practical approach is to include dark chocolate in your diet.
Choosing Dark Chocolate
This is the best way to get all the possible benefits from dark chocolate and its bioactive compounds.
Now, there is no shortage of dark chocolate options, which is why I suggest you check out this Guide to Choosing Dark Chocolate.
- But, as a general rule, darker chocolate will tend to contain more bioactive compounds and will be better for you overall.
- So, the higher the percentage the better.
- The site Vanilla Queen offers more detail about what the percentages actually mean.
You also need to pay attention to the ingredients label. In particular, you want to make sure there aren’t unexpected additives in your chocolate.
Likewise, it’s worth avoiding any chocolate that has been ‘processed with alkali’ or ‘dutched’. This is a manufacturing approach that can potentially decrease the healthy compounds in chocolate.
The site Life Enhancement discusses what dutching means and how it impacts chocolate.
Some people turn to products like Cocoa Via. With this option, the company has intentionally increased the cocoa flavanols. This means there is more potential for health benefits overall.
For that matter, Cocoa Via contains as many flavanols as some of the research studies on dark chocolate flavanols – something that is not true of most other types of chocolate or cocoa.
Now, more research is needed to know whether products like Cocoa Via are actually better for you or whether you should just have dark chocolate daily. But, both approaches do have potential – and can help you get some of the benefits that chocolate offers.
Alternatively, you can turn to products that go on your skin. There are many natural examples, including shea butter, mango butter and kokum butter.
Want to Improve Your Health?
Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use.
Check out my recommended products to see where you can get started.
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