Whether you prefer having your coffee black, with milk, sugar, an extra shot of espresso, cream, or take it over ice, one thing is true, enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning is a part of the daily routine for millions of people around the globe. Many coffee-drinkers find it helpful to get a burst of energy during the day, while others rely on a cup of tea for their caffeine.
While many consume caffeine one way or another, years of debates over the pros and cons of coffee can bring a feeling of guilt as you kickstart your day with this stimulating beverage. So let’s take a deeper dive into caffeine and its effects on the skin. Keep on reading!
Is Caffeine Good for the Skin?
There’s no doubt that caffeine permeates through our lives in one form or another, and that might be the reason behind the long-standing debate over whether it affects the skin. Caffeine is packed with antioxidants (polyphenols, melanoidins, and hydroxycinnamic acid), vitamins (B2, B3, and B5), and minerals (potassium, manganese, and magnesium). All these natural elements present in caffeine can restore and sustain the health of skin cells and maintain overall wellbeing.
Benefits of Caffeine for the Skin
If you’re hesitant about the role of caffeine in the health and appearance of your skin, don’t worry. We’re here to bust commonly prevalent myths and misconceptions about caffeine. Below are some skin benefits of caffeine when applied topically. So, let’s get to it!
- Soothes the Skin - Caffeine is filled with natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory elements, like melanoidins, cafestol, kahweol, and polyphenols, which are known to reduce irritation, redness, and swelling on the skin. It can calm discomfort and itching associated with various skin problems that cause inflammation, including acne, when applied topically.
- Anti-Aging Action - Since caffeine is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it acts as a natural anti-aging agent. When applied topically, it helps prevent and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, and fine lines on the skin. The anti-inflammatory effect of caffeine can also prevent hyperpigmentation due to skin inflammation.
- Fights Sun Damage - Caffeine is also associated with decreasing the photoaging effect of the sun’s harmful UV radiations, thanks to its high amounts of antioxidant constituents. UV damage can cause sunburns, sun spots, melasma, premature wrinkles, and fine lines and aggravate inflammatory skin conditions. Thus, shielding the skin against UV rays saves you from several skin woes in the long run.
- Calms and Treats Acne - Besides the anti-inflammatory action of caffeine that soothes inflammation caused by acne, caffeine can also help fight infection due to harmful bacteria that cause acne breakouts. The chlorogenic acids in caffeine provide anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits that can help treat acne and reduce the likelihood of future acne breakouts. Acne can occur from excess oil, buildup in the pores, and dead skin cells. Using coffee scrubs can help slough away dead skin cells and unclog pores.
- Improves Microcirculation - Caffeine is a natural vasoconstrictive compound, which narrows down the blood vessels and boosts microcirculation to the body, including the skin. Since more blood flow means higher levels of micronutrients and oxygen, the skin receives an additional dose of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other essential compounds needed for its optimal functioning and appearance. Enhanced blood circulation ensures revitalized and healthier skin.
- Reduces Puffiness and Dark Circles - The microcirculation-boosting action of caffeine that arises due to its vasoconstrictive effects can reduce swelling of the tissues due to excess fluids or toxins accumulated under the skin.¹ When applied topically, it also de-puffs and brightens the delicate skin around the eyes, making the eyes appear fresher and brighter.
- Protects the Lipid Barrier - The integrity and health of the skin’s outer, protective layer, also called its lipid barrier, is crucial to protect the skin from external damaging factors and maintain its health and youthfulness. Polyphenols in caffeine combat free radicals, UV rays, bacteria, and other impurities, defending the skin’s natural barrier. As a result, the skin cells are protected against breakdown and damage, which can manifest in the form of hyperpigmentation, acne, wrinkles, and fine lines.
- Accelerates Cell Repair - The natural regenerative action of caffeine is an outcome of phenolic compounds and tocopherols found in it, which maintain the health of the lipid barrier and encourage the natural repairing and renewing process of the skin. It also minimizes inflammation that can compromise the skin’s barrier. Consequently, the damaged skin heals faster and returns to its original shape and appearance.
- Reduce the Appearance of Cellulite - Caffeine creams have been used to help treat cellulite and stretch marks. Caffeine can help soften the area and make the appearance of cellulite less visible. According to Aesthetician Lori Scarso, “Caffeine is known to stimulate enzymes that break down fats cells.” ²
Does Caffeine Affect Your Skin Negatively?
The controversy around the effects of caffeine is still arguable. One school of thought maintains that caffeine is beneficial for the skin due to its abundant composition of skin-savvy compounds. At the same time, the other group believes that caffeine or coffee can negatively impact the skin and exacerbate various skin conditions, such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, and other inflammatory skin problems. Its also thought to cause dehydration, which can worsen the condition of dry and dehydrated skin.
Most of the negative assumptions regarding caffeine are related to its diuretic action, which is believed to cause dehydration and dryness. Too much caffeine can produce this effect, and it can be avoided by watching out for the amount of caffeine consumed daily and drinking more water to keep the body and the skin hydrated.
Another common concern about coffee intake is that it can worsen acne. Well, having coffee with sugar, milk, or cream can have a negative effect on the skin and make your acne worse. Also, too much caffeine can elevate the level of cortisol in the body, a hormone linked to acne. So if you decide to drink coffee, try to drink it without sugar or dairy.
Consuming caffeine throughout the day can also interfere with your sleep cycle and ultimately have negative consequences for your skin as well. Sleep deprivation or inability to reach REM sleep can slow down the skin’s healing ability. Also, lack of sleep and tiredness can stimulate the production of cortisol, which can trigger acne. Therefore, it’s important to limit your caffeine intake to your morning routine only.
How Much Caffeine Should I Consume?
To be on the safe side and avoid any harmful effects on the skin, it’s essential to take your coffee in moderation. Whether coffee is bad for your skin depends on how you take your coffee and how much of it you consume.
For most adults that are healthy, having 400 milligrams of caffeine a day seems to be safe.³ Avoid drinking more than 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day and sip on enough water to keep your skin amply hydrated from the inside out. A healthy balance of caffeine can help rule out side effects on the skin.
For many people, caffeine is a tool to start their day. However, the years-long discussion about coffee or caffeine being bad or good for the skin can be worrying for some. We know that the coffee plant is highly abundant in skin-loving compounds, including plenty of antioxidants, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. When incorporated in your skincare, these compounds can be beneficial in maintaining a healthy, plump, and radiant complexion by preventing and repairing cell damage.
Even though coffee offers countless skin and health benefits, make sure you take it in moderate quantities to help avoid any adverse effects on the skin.
- Iftikhar, Noreen. (2018). ‘Why Does Vasoconstriction Happen’, Healthline, Accessed March 22, 2022. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/vasoconstriction
- Cleveland Clinic. (2021). ‘Do Caffeinated Skin Care Products Work’, ClevelandClinic.org, Accessed March 22, 2022. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/benefits-of-caffeine-for-skin-care/
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022). ‘Caffeine: How much is too much?’, MayoClinic, Accessed March 23, 2022. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678#:~:text=Up%20to%20400%20milligrams%20(mg,widely%2C%20especially%20among%20energy%20drinks.