Made from antioxidant-rich cocoa, chocolate has become known for its heart-healthy benefits. The sweet stuff contains flavonoids, which protect cells from free radical damage that can lead to heart disease and have been shown to lower blood pressure [Source: Cleveland Clinic]. But chocolate isn't just good for your heart—it can also benefit your skin.
Although eating chocolate was once believed to cause breakouts, research shows that the dark variety is actually good for your skin. A study in the Journal of Nutrition gave women high or low flavanol powder dissolved in water and discovered that flavonoids in dark chocolate absorb UV light, help protect and increase blood flow to the skin and improve skin's hydration and complexion [Source: Journal of Nutrition].
But what about applying chocolate to your face? It may seem counterintuitive, but using a chocolate face mask can help keep skin clear and hydrated, according to Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. The key is using the right ingredients. "Since prepackaged face masks may contain salt or sugar particles with jagged edges that can scratch your skin, I recommend making your own chocolate face mask at home," says Wu. "They're cheap to make and all natural so if you accidentally lick your lips, you know it's safe enough to eat."
Mixing up a chocolate face mask in your own kitchen is easy. All you need is dark cocoa powder and plain yogurt (use cream instead of yogurt if you have sensitive skin). "The cocoa powder is high in antioxidants," says Wu. "And the yogurt contains lactic acid to help unclog pores."
Combine 2 to 3 tablespoons of dark cocoa powder (70 percent cacao or more) with 2 to 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt to make a paste. Depending on the type of yogurt you use, add more or less until you get the consistency of brownie batter. Apply with fingertips to clean, dry skin (be sure to wear an old t-shirt since it can get messy) and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes; rinse with lukewarm water. If you have dry skin, consider adding a teaspoon of honey or a tablespoon of mashed avocado—both ingredients help lock in moisture and keep skin hydrated. For very dry or sun damaged skin, also add a teaspoon of olive or almond oil for even more moisture.
- Cleveland Clinic. "Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled." (January 2012). http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/chocolate.aspx
- Journal of Nutrition. "Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women." (June 2006). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16702322
- Wu, Jessica, M.D. Personal correspondence.