Myth Buster: Is Caffeine Bad for Your Skin?

Whether it’s a strong black coffee to start the day, a latte with friends or a cold glass of diet coke, lots of us have caffeine in one way or another. It’s a popular vice, but what does it actually do to our bodies, in particular – our skin.

We’re breaking down the science behind caffeine and the effect it has on our skin.

How does coffee affect your skin?

There’s an obvious answer to this: caffeine. Most of us drink it, for that little pick me up to get through the mid-morning/mid-afternoon/all-day slump. However, caffeine is a mild diuretic, which can cause dehydration. Despite old claims that coffee is terrible for dehydration, it’s recently been shown that it’s not nearly as bad as we first thought. 

The other big ingredient that affects our skin is antioxidants. Antioxidants can be positive for skin health by neutralising free radicals, but there remains a limited body of research about how much antioxidants really impact our skin when consumed or applied topically. Free radicals increase signs of ageing such as wrinkles and fine lines, but it’s definitely a bit of a stretch to call coffee anti-ageing. 

Depending on how you take it, you may also be consuming milk and sugar as you fuel your caffeine habit. The relationship between sugar, dairy and skin has long been debated, but ultimately acne is such a complex condition that a direct link between sugar and dairy has not been consistently shown. However, some people report an improvement when their intake is reduced. 

Can coffee make acne worse?

Ever noticed your skin breaking out when you’re stressed? It’s down to our old enemy cortisol, a stress hormone, that causes the body to create extra insulin which in turn causes skin to produce more oil and increase skin turnover, all of which can often end up in breakouts

Caffeine may not cause breakouts, but drinking high amounts of coffee has been linked to prolonged elevated cortisol levels leading to anxiety and insomnia. If you’d like more information on recommended coffee intake, you can check the NHS website for further guidance. 

If you’re already pretty stressed, it’s probably best to cut back on the coffee. And not just for the sake of your skin, increased stress levels over a long period of time can impact almost every area of health.

Is coffee in skincare good for you?

Caffeine is an ingredient commonly used in eye creams. Dr Jason Thomson tells us, “skincare with caffeine can help reduce the swelling, particularly around the eye area”. It temporarily de-puffs the eye area, constricting blood vessels and temporarily helping with dark circles under the eyes.

It’s also often used in body scrubs to help temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite. However, it can be quite a harsh exfoliant so avoid using it on the face in case of irritation. 

So, it’s good news! If you do need a quick mid-morning pick me up it’s perfectly fine to order your beloved artisanal coffee from your favourite barista and enjoy your coffee, responsibly, knowing there will be no long term effects on your skin. 

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