There's a reason dark chocolate (or to be absolutely technical, cocoa) is considered a superfood. It's good for you inside and out and in many ways. I'm going to tell you how and why in 3…
More and more spas are adding chocolate masks, scrubs, and other skin treatments to their services for a reason. In fact, long before this chocolate craze we've been using a very common component of chocolate on our skin: cocoa butter. We already know what that does for your skin: it conditions, soothes, and hydrates with regular use. But there are benefits to the skin besides this. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are also found in teas and wine, and it's these compounds that are the key to its antioxidative properties. They are also the reason why dark chocolate is bitter! The higher the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, the higher the percentage of flavonoids you will get. For perspective, consider that milk chocolate has much less than 10% cocoa…so not quite as beneficial compared to the intense dark 88% cocoa bars you see nearby.
Applied topically, dark chocolate helps smooth out your skin and reduce wrinkles, again due to the antioxidative qualities of the flavonoids. In addition, dark chocolate stimulates microcirculation (more blood to your skin to keep it nourished and healthy), restores skin elasticity (thanks to the cocoa butter that naturally exists in it), and reduces inflammation.
While you may be tempted to grab a chocolate bar, melt it down, and then slap it on your face, I wouldn't advise that. To get it in liquid form you would have to use a double boiler or microwave and keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn! That's a lot of work for a 15-20 minute skin treatment… instead, you should get unsweetened cocoa powder. It's much simpler to add some warmed ingredients to the powder and get the perfect consistency. In addition, you should know that cocoa powder is even more pure than the commercially available dark chocolate bars. It contains almost 100% cocoa.
We've all heard about this one! And the reason is pretty simple: there is much less sugar in dark chocolate. How many times have you been told that simple sugars are empty calories? It's true. So while you may be able to eat a whole milk chocolate bar in under 10 minutes, you'll be hungry later. Then you're eating more and more while those calories accumulate. Pretty soon, your jeans don't fit like they used to.
Dark chocolate's main ingredient isn't milk or sugar. It's therefore more satisfying than milk chocolate. Perhaps the fact that it melts more slowly in the mouth also helps with satiety, just like eating more slowly and taking smaller bites help you control your eating. It's because of its lower sugar content that it not only satisfy your cravings, but also trains your taste buds over time. After regular consumption, you'll find that milk chocolate bar you loved so much to be too sweet. Your cravings for salty and fatty foods also get reduced in the process. A little dark chocolate after dinner can help keep you from midnight snacking, too.
This is a beauty benefit to me, simply because there's nobody more attractive to people than a happy, relaxed person. And yet, overeating is often associated with stress. As I just mentioned in the last section, dark chocolate is more satisfying and reduces your cravings. Well, it just so happens that it helps with weight loss through mood improvement as well!
Research has shown that a little dark chocolate every day for at least 2 weeks can significantly reduce a person's anxiety and stress hormone (like cortisol) levels. No anxiety, no ice cream binging. And when you feel better, you look better. Happy = Healthy = Beautiful.
Boy, these benefits are starting to add up! And like I mentioned in a previous post, it was after learning about all of this that I realized I could totally get used to the taste (and topical use) of dark chocolate if it meant I would be this much better off! Granted, this particular benefit doesn't really apply to me, as I'm a woman of color and therefore, I don't sunburn easy. What am I talking about?
Researchers in London found that because of those lovely flavonoids in dark chocolate, when you eat a little bit of dark chocolate for at least 3 months (are you seeing a pattern here?), you can prolong sunburn. Consequentially, this prevents premature aging of the skin and wrinkles. This doesn't mean you should nix the sunscreen! It just means that you have yourself a pretty great supplement to your UV protection routine.
HEALTHY, SHINY HAIR
Not only does dark chocolate improve circulation (as mentioned before), but it also contains minerals that promote a healthy scalp and strong hair.
Making a hair mask with that unsweetened cocoa powder can also add some nice shine to your locks! I go with a 3-2-1 recipe: Mix about 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder with 2 tablespoons of warmed honey (ideally raw) and 1 cup of low fat or greek yogurt. Apply however much it takes to cover your whole scalp and hair (longer hair means doubling this recipe to be safe). Put a shower cap over your scalp and hang out for about 20 minutes before you wash it out thoroughly with shampoo (preferably the clarifying or volume-enhancing kind).
Given all these beauty benefits alone, perhaps you're considering making the transition. Maybe you already enjoy dark chocolate and are happy to know it's good for you in these ways. Maybe you're already planning your Chocolate Spa Day with your friends! So I'll add some final take-home points you should remember:
- Eating a little bit of dark chocolate is the key. It should be somewhere around 1 to 2 ounces each day (this is about 1/3 of a standard-size chocolate bar). No more than that! After all, dark chocolate still has sugar and calories.
- When you are making skin or hair treatments for yourself, unsweetened cocoa powder is best because it contains the most flavonoids. You won't mind that bitter stuff on your skin as much as you would in your mouth!
- It seems that incorporating it into your regular diet as an after- or between-meal snack is the best way to go for the longer term benefits like mood enhancement (at least 2 weeks) and sun protection (at least 3 months).
- As I mentioned earlier– as well as in my last post about chocolate— it's the flavonoids that cause chocolate to be bitter. I also mentioned that flavonoids are also found in teas and wines. So you may wonder, ” Why not drink alot of that too?” Well, if the naturally bitter taste is an indication of their presence, I would say dark chocolate still contains more of these compounds. Also, too much of anything, especially alcoholic beverages, has proven to be more harmful than helpful anyway. Having said that, I do have a great dark chocolate tea recipe I will share in a later post for anyone interested!
I hope this has been as enlightening for you as it was for me to research all this. If you have any input on the topic including any more skin or hair treatment recipes, let's talk! I'd love to know more!