Will Cocoa Butter Remove Acne Marks?

Cocoa butter is a great moisturizer. It's often used as an after sun balm. It smells amazingly like a chocolate bar.

Cocoa butter is also used to try to fade away dark marks on the skin, including those spots that acne breakouts leave behind. But is it effective? Can cocoa butter fade acne marks?

Solid cocoa butter on a cutting board
Heike Rau / Getty Images

What Are Those Dark Marks?

Acne marks, or those dark marks that blemishes leave behind after they have healed, are called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Some people are more prone to developing hyperpigmentation. Although everyone can get acne marks, medium to dark complexions is more likely to develop hyperpigmentation than lighter skin tones. And those marks are more likely to be long-lasting.

Even if you're not picking at your pimples (a major no-no) you may still get acne marks. In some people, acne marks fade by themselves after just a few weeks. In others, though, they may never go away without treatment.

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

acne red marks
Acne with red marks.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

acne brown marks
Acne with brown marks.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Cocoa Butter Won't Erase Acne Marks

Although it's been utilized for years as a dark mark "eraser," there really is no evidence that cocoa butter does anything to fade hyperpigmentation.

Since hyperpigmentations fade, all by themselves, over time it may seem like the cocoa butter is what's doing the work. But in reality, the marks would have faded regardless.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but studies have shown that cocoa butter won't get rid of stretch marks or stop them from forming either.

That's not to say cocoa butter isn't good for the skin. It is. It's a good moisturizer for the skin and is full of emollients that make your skin feel soft and smooth. It just won't fade acne marks.

Cocoa Butter Can Clog Pores

There is one problem with putting cocoa butter on your face. Cocoa butter is considered mild to moderately comedogenic. This means it can clog your pores. So, if you're diligently rubbing cocoa butter onto your face every day, you may be doing more harm than good.

If cocoa butter clogs your pores, it's actually contributing to breakouts. More breakouts mean more dark marks.

Try Glycolic Acid Instead

For mild marks or new marks, OTC glycolic acid can lighten them. It can take several months, though. Those marks are stubborn! So try to be patient.

If your marks are very dark, or you've had them for a long time, you'll get better results with prescription medication. Topical retinoid products like Retin-A (tretinoin) and Tazorac (tazarotene), and azelaic acid are often prescribed to help diminish dark marks.

Another benefit of those prescription medications is that they help treat acne as well. Which brings us to another important point.

To Get Rid of Dark Marks, You Must Get Rid of Acne First

To really get ahead of those dark marks, you have to get acne under control. Otherwise, you're trying to clear old marks while new ones are appearing. It's a never-ending battle.

If acne tends to leave lasting marks on your skin, you should see a dermatologist right away. The sooner you start treatment, the easier it will be to get those marks under control.

Don't be frustrated if your dermatologist focuses in on treating acne first, and ignores the marks for now. Remember, acne needs to be brought under control before you have a good chance of treating the marks. Once your skin is relatively clear, your dermatologist will then focus on evening out your skin tone.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ud-Din S, McGeorge D, Bayat A. Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albaeJ Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016;30(2):211–222. doi:10.1111/jdv.13223

  2. Davis EC, Callender VD. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(7):20-31

Additional Reading
  • Abad-Casintahan F, Weng Chow SK, Goh CL, et. al. "Frequency and Characteristics of Acne-related Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation." The Journal of Dermatology 43.7 (2016): 826-28.
  • Moore J, Kelsberg G, Safranek S.  "Clinical Inquiry: Do Any Topical Agents Help Prevent or Reduce Stretch Marks?" Journal of Family Practice. 61.12 (2012) :757-8.

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.