Chocolate Treats the Body and Soul

By Lara Evans Bracciante

Originally published in ASCP's Skin Deep, February/March 2006.

Chocolate and skin care aren’t words often used together in the same sentence unless there’s a warning involved, as in: For a healthy complexion, avoid chocolate. But perhaps that premise should be questioned.

After all, dark chocolate is loaded with flavonoids — compounds that are also found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine — which serve as powerful antioxidants. Flavonoids have been credited with reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack. Evidence also shows they may help ease an overactive immune system, which can be the underlying cause of chronic inflammation, arthritis, cancer, carpal tunnel syndrome, and eczema.

But don’t dismiss the warnings altogether. The age-old adage linking chocolate and breakouts may have some relevance. Milk chocolate is not only depleted of those beneficial flavonoids, it’s also loaded with additives, including a significant amount of sugar. Sugar can weaken collagen (which results in wrinkles) and cause inflammation (which can bring on acne, puffiness, and eczema). Your best bet is to choose dark or semi-sweet chocolate low in sugar with few added ingredients and no hydrogenated fats or oils.

Other options? Don’t eat it at all. Instead, apply it, bathe in it, wrap yourself in it. Following is a sampling of cocoa-inspired skin care treatments worth noting. From various spas around the country, these novelty treatments provide menu options for those who are looking for a truly special treat. And people love to give them as gifts for others — especially around Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate Bliss Wrap

Yampah Spa and Salon - The Hot Springs Vapor Caves, Glenwood Springs, Colo.

A detoxifying and stimulating treatment, this blissful wrap starts with a steam in the vapor caves. A body masque of healing clay, chocolate, cream, and honey is then applied to the body. The client, wrapped in cotton blankets, relaxes and enjoys the soothing chocolate aromatherapy. The client emerges feeling and smelling great. 60 minutes, $58.

Hot Chocolate Meltaway

The Wellness Spa, Edmond, O.K.

This treatment features a facial, complete with a revitalizing chocolate mask, and culminates with a moisturizing treatment. The hands are scrubbed with Dead Sea salt and chocolate mint or raspberry oil then dipped in paraffin. Melt away, as warm stones massage the neck and shoulders. The experience ends with a mug of gourmet hot cocoa to sip. 60 minutes; $89.

Chocolate Splash Pedicure

Transition Salon & Day Spa, Escondido, Calif.This decadent treat for the feet encourages the client to enjoy a fizzy chocolate footbath and indulge in a warm chocolate cream massage and heated paraffin treatment. 80 minutes; $60.

Chocolate-Chile Wrap

La Posada de Santa Fe Resort, Santa Fe, N.M.

An exclusive chocolate-chile blend, this treatment revitalizes and tones skin while detoxifying the body. 60 minutes; $120.

Chocolate Bean Polish

The Spa at Hotel Hershey, Hershey, Penn.

The treatment combines the gentle exfoliation of cocoa bean husks and walnut shells with a softening cocoa body moisturizer. Smells so good, you may want to eat it. 30 minutes; $60.

Chocolate Meringue Body Treatment

Bon Bon Hair Salon and Spa, New York City

Using cleansing grains consisting of Dead Sea salt and chocolate and caramel extracts, this delicious scrub will leave skin velvety soft, smooth, and free of toxins. A tranquil Vichy shower is included. Finally, a delightful massage with a mouth-watering Swiss chocolate mousse, containing nourishing essential vitamins plus shea butter, moisturizes the skin, leaving it creamy and delicious. 60 minutes; $120.