Sep 12, 2017

Chocolate and Acne: A Sweet Debate

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By Dr. Kyle T. Amber MD

“Don’t eat so much chocolate; it will make your acne worse!” my mother would shout as a I gave into my sweet-tooth as an acne prone teen. As a child, it sounded as though it was a typical motherly excuse to get me to eat my veggies rather than my sweets. In dermatology, however, this has been an area of debate since the late 1960s.

In a clinical trial of 65 subjects, half the subjects were given a bar containing 10 times the normal of amount of chocolate in a normal bar, while the other half of subjects were given non-chocolate bars. A comparison in the number of acne lesions on the face was no different between the two groups. Likewise, 5 healthy subjects were given a two enriched chocolate bars for a month, contained 1,200 calories, half of which was vegetable fat, with no change in oil secretion in the skin [1]. Still, skepticism of these findings persisted [2]. One small subsequent study of subjects given 6 servings of 39-gram chocolate bars for 7 days found a limited relationship between chocolate and acne[3]. Some have deconstructed the original study noting methodologic flaws which could have contributed to their conclusion that chocolate had no effect on acne [4]. Additional studies were performed

In two studies of 10 and 14 acne prone men, there was a an association of acne with chocolate, with a dose-dependent increase in acne lesions when consuming pure chocolate[5, 6]. An additional study of acne prone men by a different group of researchers reached the same conclusion [7]. An additional study of 54 college students of both genders also showed the same thing [8].

This more recent batch of studies corrected a large number of methodological limitations that existed in the initial study. Thus, it appears likely that chocolate does in fact lead to an increase in acne. Once again, mom is always right.


1.    Fulton JE, Jr., Plewig G, Kligman AM. Effect of chocolate on acne vulgaris. Jama. 1969; 210: 2071-4.
2.    Mackie BS, Mackie LE. Chocolate and acne. Australas J Dermatol. 1974; 15: 103-9.
3.    Anderson PC. Foods as the cause of acne. Am Fam Physician. 1971; 3: 102-3.
4.    Goh W, Kallianpur KJ, Chow D, et al. Chocolate and acne: how valid was the original study? Clin Dermatol. 2011; 29: 459-60.
5.    Block SG, Valins WE, Caperton CV, et al. Exacerbation of facial acne vulgaris after consuming pure chocolate. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011; 65: e114-5.
6.    Caperton C, Block S, Viera M, et al. Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Assessing the Effect of Chocolate Consumption in Subjects with a History of Acne Vulgaris. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014; 7: 19-23.
7.    Vongraviopap S, Asawanonda P. Dark chocolate exacerbates acne. Int J Dermatol. 2016; 55: 587-91.
8.    Delost GR, Delost ME, Lloyd J. The impact of chocolate consumption on acne vulgaris in college students: A randomized crossover study. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016; 75: 220-2.

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