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Is Caffeine Bad for Your Skin? What to Know!

cup coffee hand

That morning cup of coffee is an essential part of millions of people’s morning routines. Enjoying coffee is as ingrained as taking a shower, getting dressed, and packing a lunch.

Some people look forward to the caffeine hit, while others simply seek out that intoxicating taste of the first sip of the day. But is your morning cup of liquid gold really all that bad? The short answer is yes. Caffeine is bad for your skin.

All of us coffee lovers have heard “If you replace your cup of coffee with tea, water, a smoothie, etc., you’ll have more energy, feel healthier, and everything will change for your skin.” When it comes to our favorite “vices” like caffeine, the rumor mill is churning out the idea that your daily coffee habit could be wreaking chaos on your skin.

While there are potential benefits to this morning jumpstart and applying it topically to your skin, it can also cause damage to your skin when consumed— especially if you are already suffering from acne or other skin conditions.

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What is So Bad About Caffeine?

Though a latte can work wonders in boosting your mood or curing that afternoon slump and headache, drinking coffee in large amounts or even just every day can have adverse effects on your skin. Caffeine is a diuretic that rids your body of sodium and water. What does this mean for your skin?

Your skin loses water every time you consume caffeine. Caffeine essentially is a dehydrator that can show up on your skin in the form of premature wrinkles, increased dryness, possible inflammation, and a loss of elasticity over time. In addition, the high acid content of coffee can alter your hormonal balance and change the amount of oil your skin produces. Drinking too much caffeine can cause your skin to lose its luminosity and start to look dull and aged.

According to Dr. S. Manjula Jegasothy, M.D., CEO and Founder of the Miami Skin Institute, in an interview with InStyle Magazine, ” drinking too much coffee can cause the skin to wrinkle prematurely and become more lax with time.” Dr. Jegasothy confirms that “these changes definitely give the skin a more aged appearance than in people who do not consume caffeine.”

two cups of cafe latte
Image Credit: Alexander Schimmeck, Unsplash

Acne and Caffeine

While coffee doesn’t cause acne by itself, studies show that it can increase the effects of acne due to the stress response caffeine causes in your body. Caffeine makes you feel alert and awake for a while, but the same chemicals causing that effect also lead to a heightened stress response in your body.

These stress hormones, like cortisol, can even increase the amount of oil produced by your body’s sebaceous glands— leaving you vulnerable to breakouts. How you enjoy your coffee in the mornings can further affect how coffee reacts with your body. Black coffee on its own is rich with antioxidants and is good for you in small amounts.

Not many coffee lovers actually enjoy the taste of pure black coffee. While there are some who enjoy the stark bitterness of a plain cup of joe, most prefer cream, sugar, and other flavors or mix-ins in their coffee. Key ingredients like milk and sugar are two of the top dietary causes of acne.

Dairy

While there has been an increase in the use of milk substitutes like coconut milk, oat milk, and the old classic soy milk — milk itself can affect your skin. There is significant evidence to suggest that dairy can irritate your skin and cause acne. A 2014 study explicitly links increased inflammation and acne irritation to dairy. The study also suggests that the hormones in milk triggers your acne— especially around your mouth or jawline.

Lavender latte with oat milk
Image Credit: Chrisdunlap8, Shutterstock

Sugar

Unless you are drinking plain black coffee, you probably add sugar. You may even add extra sugar to your coffee creamer (which has sugar already). However, excess sugar in your bloodstream can cause something called glycation. Glycation is a natural chemical reaction caused by insulin in the bloodstream spiking beyond what our body’s insulin levels can handle.

The thing is, glycation affects the elasticity of the skin. The parts of the skin that keep it looking young and “springy”’— collagen and elastin— weaken when linked with sugar. These essential foundations of healthy skin slowly degenerate, and your skin shows increased signs of aging prematurely. When glycation occurs, your skin will become drier and less springy, which leads to wrinkles, sagging skin, and dullness.

How to Combat the Negative Effects of Caffeine on the Skin

Everything is okay in moderation, and caffeine and coffee are no different. It is recommended to have no more than two to three cups of coffee per day. It is vital to make sure your body is hydrated. Remember how caffeine is a natural dehydrator? Not only do you need to maintain your body’s daily dose of water, but you also have to increase water consumption to counteract the caffeine.

A well-rounded diet and drinking plenty of water are critical for your skin and general wellness. Water intake is the golden ticket to healthy skin. Despite our love of coffee, it is not the ideal method of staying hydrated.

Think of it this way, if you guzzle three or more cups of java every day without replenishing or taking care of your body’s water supply, you’re even more likely to see an increase of issues with your skin caused by dehydration. When in doubt, drink more water!

woman drinking water
Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

The Topical Benefits of Coffee

Topical products, or products applied directly to the skin, that contain caffeine or coffee, are beneficial for the skin. Caffeine in topical creams, ointments, cleansers, or lotions has anti-inflammatory effects.

While drinking caffeine can increase the chances of redness and inflammation showing on your skin, applying products containing caffeine can reduce wrinkles, brighten your skin, and actually get rid of inflammation. Although the effects of these products are often short-term, they can add incredible value to your skincare routine when done correctly.

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Caffeine in skincare

While consuming ungodly amounts of coffee in the mornings or throughout your day can be harmful to your skin, skin care products containing caffeine and coffee grounds can be invaluable. If you love your coffee loaded up with cream and sugar, you’re even more likely to experience the adverse side effects of coffee on your skin.

When ingested, caffeine is a potent stimulant. But luckily for us, it has similarly brightening effects on our skin. Coffee and caffeinated skin care products may not be as effective as a solid night of sleep, but you don’t have to give up your morning routine just yet.


Featured Image Credit: Alehandra13, Pixabay

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Samantha Reed

Samantha teaches middle school English language arts and has been a freelance writer since 2014. She has also worked at literary magazines and newspapers as an editor and as a writer. You could say that writing is her passion! She also enjoys a great cup of coffee and has a cat named Raven.

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