A cup of coffee and a skincare regimen: two morning rituals done many ways. Brew your coffee hot or cold. Throw back a potent cortado or indulge in a thick frappe drizzled in caramel. But if you’re wondering if coffee is good or bad for your skin, the never-ending debate based on new research insights can be confusing. Thankfully, you don’t have to give up coffee completely to achieve your skin goals. Let’s get a few things straight about coffee and skincare.
The good news is that coffee isn’t bad for your skin—depending on how you like it prepared. Certain foods, like sugar, dairy, and simple carbs, can trigger inflammation and sebum production in some people, which can result in breakouts.¹ So, coffee on the darker side may be better for your skin. But if black coffee isn’t for you, dairy-free milk from nuts and rice can be skin-friendly and tasty.
Coffee beans are a rich source of antioxidants that can be good for your health, skin included. In skincare, antioxidants help block free radicals from causing damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause oxidative stress, contributing to signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.² Chlorogenic acid (CGA), which is found in coffee, demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity that indicates it could be a beneficial alternative treatment for acne.³ Another study demonstrated that coffee consumption may help protect the skin from photoaging, and polyphenols like CGA may contribute to improving hyperpigmentation.⁴ Another study indicated that coffee berry extract has the potential to be used topically for anti-aging purposes.⁵
Caffeine has a reputation for causing blood sugar to spike, which may contribute to breakouts. Thankfully, this doesn’t usually happen with coffee (though there are exceptions). There’s no clear explanation as to why coffee is largely spared from being a skincare foe, but it might be due to its high antioxidant content. However, synthetic caffeine doesn’t typically possess the same antioxidant superpowers as caffeine in coffee. So, it may be wise to skip sodas and energy drinks if you’re prioritizing your skin, as there’s no reason to believe these beverages do any favors for your skin. Plus, they’re often packed with sugar, which can contribute to skin damage.
Coffee with non-dairy milk
Coffee with milk and sugar
So, how exactly can coffee, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories help your skin? Here’s what you need to know:
Topical use of caffeine constricts blood vessels around the eyes, helping, in turn, to relieve dark circles under the eyes and help the skin appear more rejuvenated and fresh.⁶
One study demonstrated that a topical cream containing caffeine as an active ingredient effectively improved the appearance of cellulite.⁷
Coffee’s antioxidant properties offer a variety of potential health benefits, including anti-aging properties. Photoaging occurs when UV ray-induced free radicals damage healthy skin cells. Caffeine’s antioxidant properties may help protect cells from UV radiation and slow down the extrinsic factors of premature aging.⁸
The anti-inflammatory properties of coffee are attributed to CGA, which has been shown to improve hyperpigmentation from sunspots.⁹ CGA also has antibacterial properties, which may also help tackle acne.¹⁰ Polyphenols in caffeine may reduce the risk of developing psoriasis and other chronic inflammatory skin conditions.¹¹
When it comes to rosacea, coffee has been associated with an increase in flushing; however, it’s unclear whether that is from the temperature of the coffee or its chemical profile. More studies are needed to determine if coffee induces the same anti-inflammatory effects on rosacea that it does for other inflammatory skin conditions. One study found that increased caffeine intake from coffee was inversely associated with the risk of rosacea.¹²
Wondering how to reap the benefits of coffee in your skincare routine? Here are two ways to use it on your skin for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties:
Coffee is sometimes used in skincare products for its impressive skin benefits. Caffeine constricts blood vessels beneath the skin’s surface, which may help reduce dark circles and minimize under-eye puffiness. Eye creams with caffeine may help brighten under the eyes in the short term. Look for eye creams whose ingredients contain caffeine, green tea extract, and coffee extract like these:
Facial scrubs from coffee grounds physically exfoliate by buffing and polishing the skin. If you opt for physical exfoliation over chemical exfoliation, moderation is the key to healthy, non-irritated skin. Scrubs can be too harsh for daily use, so gently massaging a facial scrub on damp skin once or twice a week is plenty, although not necessary. Scrubbing too hard or too often can create microtears in the skin—ouch! Some scrubs also contain caffeine for its aforementioned skin benefits.
Looking for something fun to do with all those leftover coffee grounds? Here’s a simple recipe for a DIY coffee face mask:
Mix equal parts of jojoba oil (or another non-comedogenic oil) and coffee grounds.
Apply to your face using a circular motion.
Leave the mask on for 10-15 minutes.
Rinse off with warm water.
Repeat as desired up to three times a week.
Making skincare a part of your daily self-care ritual can boost your skin’s health, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. With the right products, your skincare routine can do most of the heavy lifting while you sleep. Curology helps take the guesswork out of your skincare routine—our licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options.
Getting started is as simple as answering a few questions and uploading some selfies.* If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our licensed in-house dermatology providers, who will be with you every step of the way.
Some of them! Coffee is rich in polyphenols, which reduce inflammation within the body and have antioxidants properties.
Sort of. One study found that drinking four or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily resulted in a 20% lower risk of malignant melanoma.¹³ It’s well known that UV rays increase free radicals. Although more research is needed, the antioxidant effects of coffee may help to scavenge free radicals in the skin, reducing the formation of skin cancer. It’s important to know that coffee does not protect you from the sun, but once the sun has caused a free radical surge in your skin, the antioxidant properties in coffee may help.¹⁴ That said, there’s no substitute for a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
The good news is that coffee isn’t bad for your skin—depending on how you like it prepared. Certain foods, like sugar, dairy, and simple carbs, can trigger inflammation and sebum production in some people, which can result in breakouts. So, coffee on the darker side may be better for your skin. But if black coffee isn’t for you, dairy-free milk from nuts and rice can be skin-friendly and tasty.
American Academy of Dermatology. Can the right diet get rid of acne? (n.d.).
Poljšak, B. and Dahmane, R. Free radicals and extrinsic skin aging.Dermatology Research and Practice. (2012).
Luo, J., et al. Anti-acne vulgaris effects of chlorogenic acid by anti-inflammatory activity and lipogenesis inhibition.Experimental Dermatology. (June 2021).
Fukushima, Y., at el. Skin photoprotection and consumption of coffee and polyphenols in healthy middle-aged Japanese females. International Journal of Dermatology. (April 2015).
Saewan, N. Effect of coffee berry extract on anti-aging for skin and hair—in vitro approach.Cosmetics. (2022).
Vrcek, I., et al. Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment. Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery. (2016).
Byun, S.Y., et al. Efficacy of slimming cream containing 3.5% water-soluble caffeine and xanthenes for the treatment of cellulite: Clinical study and literature review.Annals of Dermatology. (June 2015).
Herman, A. and Herman A.P. Caffeine’s mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use.Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. (2013).
Fukushima, Y., at el. Skin photoprotection and consumption of coffee and polyphenols in healthy middle-aged Japanese females. International Journal of Dermatology. Ibid.
Luo, J., et al. Anti-acne vulgaris effects fo chlorogenic acid by anti-inflammatory activity and lipogenesis inhibition. Experimental Dermatology. (June 2021).
Yorulmaz, A. Coffee and skin: What do we know about it?Turkey Clinic Journal of Dermatology. (2019).
Li, S., et al. Association of Caffeine Intake and Caffeinated Coffee Consumption With Risk of Incident Rosacea in Women.JAMA dermatology. (2018).
Loftfield, E. Coffee may be associated with a lower risk of malignant melanoma.Journal of the National Cancer Institute. (February 2015).
Rosado, C., et al. Another Reason for Using Caffeine in Dermocosmetics: Sunscreen Adjuvant.Front Physiol. (2019)
This article was originally published on November 18, 2022, and updated on December 12, 2022.
Nicole Hangsterfer is a licensed physician assistant at Curology. She obtained her masters in physician assistant studies at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern in Chicago, IL.
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Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C