February 8, 2017

Enjoy Your Chocolate This Valentine's Day!

I wrote about the connection between various foods and Adult Acne breakouts. Naturally, the time around Valentine's Day brings up questions about the chocolate-breakout connection. Dermatologists have long poo-pooed the idea that there is a connection between the two, and I think it's because the focus was always on the chocolate -- that is, the cocoa.  There's more here than meets the eye!


Adult Acne and chocolate.  Is there a connection?Think about this: when are you most likely to eat chocolate? Around your period!  And when do you break out the most? You get the idea...

However, and this is a big however, with mounting evidence that there is indeed a connection between dairy and some acne conditions, and between sugar and increased inflammation in the body leading to worsening of existing acne conditions, chocolate is starting to be seen under a new light.


Considering that most Valentine's Day gifts are in the form of milk chocolate, let's examine dairy first...

The most common claim that I hear amongst my colleagues is that the dairy-acne connection is due to added hormones given to dairy cows, such as growth hormones. I have always been extremely skeptical of this because since hormones do so much in the body, many more problems should be occurring if changes in the skin were happening because of added hormones in dairy milk.  

In addition, many types of dairy products also contain significant amounts of iodine, such as yogurt, whole milk and some cheeses.  Numerous studies have shown that iodine can aggravate acne in those who are already genetically acne-prone. With this in mind, I have always been inclined to believe the problem was iodine content in dairy products, not hormones. 

Adult Acne and cheese.  Iodine or growth hormones?

One of my most trusted mentors has since explained to me that there is a hormone naturally produced by the cows themselves that triggers a receptor in the oil glands of some people that tells the oil glands to pump out more oil, which then creates inflammation in pores with slightly larger glands -- typically those in center of the face and across the chin and jaw areas.

So, the claim that dairy can aggravate breakouts is correct, but my colleagues may be wrong about how. 

If you think that there's a possibility your dairy consumption could be aggravating your breakouts, it's worth cutting out all dairy products for six weeks and seeing what happens.  And it has to really be all dairy, not the occasional splash of milk in your coffee or just a tiny piece of cheese in your salad.  You also will have to look for hidden dairy in foods and protein shakes, like Whey and Casein.  According to my mentor, it takes six weeks for this hormone to clear your body.  If your acne starts to clear before the six weeks are up, you still should wait the entire six weeks before adding dairy back to make sure that it's not coincidence.  


High glycemic foods can cause inflammation which can cause adult acne flareups.
So, what about sugar? 

High glycemic foods, such as white flour and white sugar (I'm having a flashback to Susan Powter shouting, "I never eat anything white or shiny!" lol), have been shown in recent studies to aggravate acne in people who are showing signs of insulin resistance. This seems to imply that the issue here is also of hormones.  If I'm understanding this correctly, and please correct me in the comments section if I'm wrong, insulin running around abnormally can trigger testosterone production in the ovaries.  Testosterone is responsible for oil production in the skin.  More testosterone means more oil, which means irritated pores leading to a breakout.  Also something to consider is the fact that simple carbohydrate foods have been shown to increase inflammation in the body, which can effect the skin's ability to heal itself.  

Given these two things, I believe that sugar can indeed make an existing acne problem much more severe.  Remember, though, there has to be insulin resistance, or there has to be enough consumption to cause inflammation in the body effecting the skin, and acne must be a problem to begin with - this is about an acne problem being worsened, not started.


Think you break out from chocolate? When are you most likely to eat it?  Think about it.
Do sugar or dairy cause acne? Absolutely not. Acne breakouts always start out with microscopic blackheads that are created by dead skin cells and stickier-than-normal oil, which build up enough to irritate the pore lining. When it comes to food consumption, the difference between a minor and a major breakout will be the amount of extra oil produced and/or any irritation that can worsen an existing problem. 

What can you do if your recent chocolate 
treat does aggravate your Adult Acne? 

Clear away excess dead skin cell buildup to coax out impactions, and reduce inflammation! How?
  • Every night, massage each blemish, or blemish clusters, with the corner of an ice cube, making sure not to stay in one place so you don't burn yourself with the ice.
  • Dry gently, then dab with a Salicylic Acid Mask or gel.  Leave on overnight.
  • Depending on your skin's oil level, apply a Clay Mask once or twice a week.  If your environment is arid and dry, like it's been in Chicago with the cold, you can massage in a calming moisturizer before applying the mask.

So, enjoy your chocolate, have an amazing day with your loved one, yourself, and your friends or family, and let me know how your skin does afterwards! I'd love to hear from you. 




Your acne problem has a source, and clearing your skin requires finding that source and either eliminating it or healing it.  You can start that right now by filling out my Eval by Email® Online Skincare Consultation Form created specially for ages Gen-X to Baby Boom!

Eval by Email, Virtual Skincare Coaching specially designed for acne sufferers ages 24 and up.

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