Cocoa has taken its place among cosmetic elixers Once thought of as a fat-inducing evil that caused acne, chocolate has become the beauty industry's ingredient of the day, appearing in everything from shampoos and lip balms to perfumes and spa treatments. Chocolate comes from dried cacao seeds. Cocoa contains more antioxidants than more commonly known powerhouses such as green tea and blueberries. Antioxidants can be found in almost every anti-ageing product available as they fight free-radicals that damage cells in our bodies and keep the skin looking young. Chocolate also contains a mixture of vitamins and minerals - magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, calcium, iron, riboflavin and thiamin - and has a high concentration of essential oils, all of which are good for us. It has long been touted as an aphrodisiac - because it contains phenylethylamine and seratonin, both 'feel-good' substances that are naturally released in the body when we're happy or in love to give us a sense of well-being. Cocoa butter, the edible natural fat of the cacao bean, is a popular ingredient in moisturisers because it acts as a barrier, keeping water in the skin, and softens the skin at the same time. It helps to diminish stretch marks and scar tissue. With all these benefits, it is no wonder companies are incorporating chocolate into their products - after all, what woman can resist the lure of chocolate? Even the most disciplined dieters would not object to applying a bit of chocolate to the body, especially if it means they can indulge without the guilt. Gloria Wong, brand manager of Origins, says: 'We bring the special benefits and power of the cacao plant to Origins because not only is it surrounded by historical folklore and cultural significance, it contains numerous well-being benefits that reinforce the special nature of this plant. The foundation of the Cocoa Therapy Collection is a blend of theobroma cacao heightened by the essential oils of vanilla, ginger and orange to help fight feelings of fatigue.' But before you rush out for a guilt-free chocolate fix, consider whether the topical application of chocolate is really effective. Most dermatologists, dieticians and nutritionists agree that chocolate does have many benefits, but only when ingested. None were willing to confirm that chocolate could benefit the skin when applied externally. Gabrielle Tuscher, a dietician at OT&P medical practice, says: 'I would say it is more of a marketing gimmick - chocolate adds a new smell to the products. All the beneficial properties in chocolate [such as] antioxidants, phenylethylamine and seratonin do not penetrate through the skin. It would be a different story if you were to eat it. 'Cocoa butter is the only thing proven to be of use to the skin. It softens skin very well, and is especially good for stretch marks. In places like Hawaii, they have been using it forever - it is very good at keeping skin from drying out, for sunburn and for preventing stretch marks when pregnant.'