How coffee affects your skin’s health and appearance is complicated. The bottom line on coffee and skin health is: “it depends.”
Coffee and Your Skin’s Appearance
On one hand, coffee is chock full of antioxidants. Antioxidants can reduce the appearance of aging, including the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, caffeine is also a diuretic, so coffee can be mildly dehydrating. Anything that dehydrates your skin can make your skin appear lackluster and aged.
To gain the benefits of coffee’s antioxidants while avoiding drying out your skin, don’t substitute coffee for water when you are thirsty. You should also drink a bit more water during the day if you enjoy coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages.
How else can coffee hurt your skin’s appearance? One of the best contributors to bright, healthy skin is a good night’s sleep. If coffee is keeping you up at night, cut back, and be sure to drink any caffeinated beverages before 3pm.
Allergens and Toxins
Some people can have an allergic reaction to coffee itself. But often, such a reaction may not be to the coffee beans at all. Unfortunately, coffee can often contain mold and mycotoxins. To avoid them, go for good quality coffees and check the date on the packaging. At home, store coffee in a cool and dry place.
What you add to your coffee can often be the culprit in allergy-related skin flare-ups. Dairy and sugar can exacerbate inflammation or trigger an allergic response in many people. Flavored syrups and creamers can also have artificial sweeteners and chemicals you may be sensitive to.
Coffee and the Stress Response
Coffee increases your body’s stress response. When you face a stressful event after drinking coffee, your body can release up to 200% more cortisol than it would without coffee. This cortisol, in turn, increases the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands in your skin. It also increases your insulin production. These physiological responses are why stress is a big trigger for acne breakouts and other skin flare-ups. If you have skin issues that are affected by stress, see if dialing back your use of caffeine helps, or switch to decaf.
Coffee and Inflammation
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows capillaries and veins. This may lower inflammation and redness. That’s why many topical skin treatments containing caffeine boast that they can reduce puffiness, redness, and inflammation.
For those with rosacea, drinking coffee might help. Although hot beverages and caffeine are often triggers for rosacea flare-ups, drinking coffee was shown to reduce overall incidents of rosacea in recent research appearing in JAMA Dermatology. (In the research study, the protective benefits for rosacea happened only with coffee, not caffeinated tea or soda.) In addition to the vasoconstriction offered by caffeine, the antioxidants and polyphenols in coffee may also contribute to the positive results with rosacea. If you love the flavor of coffee, but are afraid the heat will trigger your rosacea, try experimenting with a cold coffee drink, and see if it has the same effect. You might find that coffee is something you can enjoy again.
For most people, coffee can be a healthful, invigorating beverage. Watch carefully how your skin reacts, use the tips above, and see whether coffee is a friend or foe to your skin health regimen.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.