Can Drinking Coffee Negatively Affect Your Skin?

Written by Morgan Covington, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on June 24, 2022 No Comments

coffee woman

Caffeine has quickly become a highly popular skin care ingredient known for its ability to energize and reinvigorate the skin. While the benefits of caffeine containing topical products is well documented, many wonder if getting caffeine from their daily cup of coffee can help (or hurt) their skin.

Here’s how your morning cup of joe affects your skin, and why you might want to consider limiting your intake.

Why Caffeine May Not Be Great for Your Skin

Coffee is a must-have for some people who rely on it to feel awake and alert in the morning and throughout the day. But there are characteristics to the beverage that might not be best for your skin.

Coffee is Dehydrating

Coffee is a diuretic which means it pulls water from the body, including the skin. When skin is dehydrated it’s more likely to look dull and less plump. Fine lines, wrinkles and under eye bags are more apparent when skin isn’t getting enough moisture.

Caffeine Triggers a Stress Response

Caffeine will make you feel alert, but does so by triggering a stress response, which leads to the release of a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol is high, the skin produces more oil (sebum) which can make you vulnerable to acne breakouts. Long term cortisol exposure also speeds the aging process.

Caffeine May Cause Sleep Loss

If you’re drinking several cups of coffee per day or indulging in the afternoon or evening, you may experience sleep loss. Loss of sleep keeps cortisol levels high, but affects skin in other ways too. Skin cell repair and rejuvenation happens during REM sleep. Without a good night’s sleep, skin ages faster.

Coffee Constricts Blood Vessels

Drinking coffee leads to vasoconstriction, which can prevent blood and oxygen from circulating in the small capillaries that are closest to skin’s surface. This can lead to a dull complexion and crepe-like wrinkles.

Additional Ingredients Can Be Damaging

If you take your coffee with dairy, you could be making your acne worse or increasing your risk of a breakout. Evidence suggests dairy (especially non-organic) makes acne around the mouth and jawline worse. Dairy is also inflammatory for most people, potentially leading to puffiness around the eyes.

If you’re adding sugar to your cup of Joe, you’re potentially increasing free radicals and damaging collagen and elastin. Collagen prevents wrinkles and keeps skin voluminous by giving it structure. Elastin gives skin its stretch, which prevents sagging. Excess sugar can also contribute to acne or rosacea.

How Can Coffee Benefit Skin?

The skin benefits of coffee appear to be better realized when coffee is applied topically. Skin care products with this caffeinated ingredient are increasingly available.

Coffee as an Antioxidant

When you drink it with sugar, coffee increases free radicals through a process called glycation. But when applied topically, coffee’s antioxidant properties can reduce free radicals and benefit skin by keeping it youthful.

Coffee as a Vasoconstrictor

Ingesting too much coffee can constrict blood flow, leaving skin dull. But as a topical, coffee can help reduce redness for those with rosacea. When applied around the eyes, it might also reduce puffiness.

Coffee as a Skin Brightener

Coffee grounds can act as exfoliants in coffee-based face masks. Caffeine may also brighten skin thanks to the high concentrations of antioxidants and its vasoconstrictive properties.

How to Prevent Coffee from Damaging Your Skin

Moderation is key to prevent coffee from damaging your skin. If you’d prefer not to give up your daily habit, consider the following to reduce coffee’s negative impact on your skin.

  • Stick to just 1-2 cups per day, preferably before 10am
  • Drink one additional cup of water for every cup of coffee
  • Invest in quality, organic coffee beans
  • Drink your coffee black to limit dairy and sugar
  • Choose decaf for coffee’s positive benefits minus the excess caffeine

Drinking black coffee isn’t always bad, especially when consumed in moderation. 1-2 cups in the morning gives you antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit skin. Drink too much, or load your coffee drink with dairy and sugar, and you’ll negate those positive benefits.

Morgan Covington, MD

Dr. Morgan Covington received her medical degree from the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. She completed her intern year training at Presence Resurrection Hospital and stayed in Chicago for her dermatology residency at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital. Dr. Covington is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, Skin of Color Society, and Texas Medical Association.

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