Depending on who you’re listening to, you might’ve heard that coffee is good for you or that coffee is bad for you. This is an age-old debate that has only been exacerbated by countless studies claiming coffee’s health benefits. But it’s clear that caffeine and coffee are absolutely having a detrimental effect on some people’s skin health.
Today we discuss coffee’s effect on the skin. More specifically, skin health before and after quitting coffee. We’ll discuss this in the context of reliable scientific research, accounts from professional dermatologists, and anecdotal evidence found online.
Does skin health improve after quitting coffee?
We’ve scoured the internet for answers. Unfortunately for some (coffee addicts), the answer is a resounding yes. It is pretty clear that excessive caffeine consumption can absolutely contribute to degrading skin health and early skin aging.
1 – Caffeine in Coffee Causes A Flight or Fight Response
The first mechanism of this process is how caffeine increases cortisol levels. Additionally, it stresses the adrenal glands, putting your body in a state of fight or flight. We’ve all been there: you drank too much coffee, next thing you know you’re having a panic attack. Your hands become clammy, and your body starts to evacuate water and erm.. poop. This is because caffeine stimulates the central and autonomic nervous systems and directly alters cortisol responses (mostly in men).
Higher cortisol levels from caffeine can subsequently lead to more stress. More stress can lead to fluctuations in hormonal profiles, thus causing acne breakouts.
2 – Coffee Contributes to Acne Breakouts
Not only does the caffeine contribute to changes in complexion and acne breakouts, but the additives in your coffee drink of choice can have a large impact as well. Some are sensitive to things like dairy, sugar, or gluten. These add-ins in your drink may also be affecting your skin. But that’s a topic for another day.
So yes, your skin will improve after quitting coffee. The lowered stress response in the body will help contribute to a healthy environment for your skin to thrive and heal itself of excessive oil and acne build-up. Taking in less dairy, sugar, and syrups may also help individuals who are sensitive to those products. Additionally, improved sleep quality and anxiety levels will prevent hormonal imbalances from taking place and throwing off your body’s natural healing processes.
How can you reduce coffee’s effect on your skin?
You can immediately improve your skin health by cutting down your consumption of coffee. The less you drink, the better your skin will look after drinking less coffee. The daily recommended “safe” dose for coffee is 400mg. Keep in mind, however, that caffeine’s half-life is something like 1.5 – 9.5 hours. It all depends on your body’s ability to metabolize caffeine. Some people can do this better than others. As you age your body actually loses its ability to metabolize caffeine as fast as when you were younger.
3 – Drink Less Coffee. The Caffeine in Coffee Has a Long Half-Life
That means in a worst-case scenario if you drink 400mg of caffeine in your coffee at 8AM, at 3AM you could still have 100mg of caffeine coursing through your bloodstream. This can have a detrimental effect on your sleep, which can lead to anxiety, which can lead to more stress. Yikes.
So what do we recommend if you’re having caffeine-related skin issues? Try limiting yourself to 100mg of caffeine per day. Depending on the strength of your coffee, this could be anywhere from 1-2 cups on average. This will greatly help you mitigate the damage caffeine and coffee could be doing to your skin.
Have you ever wondered how much caffeine in your coffee you’re actually consuming? Or how about how much caffeine is in the 4 shots of espresso you’re drinking every morning? On average, espresso has about 40-60mg of caffeine in each shot. On the high end, that’s putting you near the upper limit of the recommended dose of caffeine in a day at 320mg. Your skin will thank you after reducing those 4 shots down to one.
What exactly does coffee do to your appearance?
Before drinking coffee regularly, some people may have very limited skin problems. After drinking coffee, some people develop cystic acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and excessive skin oil buildup (sebum). While coffee may temporarily make lighter complexions “brighter” by constricting the blood vessels (vasoconstriction) in the face, long-term, it could be doing damage to your skin.
4 – In Addition to Poor Skin Health, Coffee Can Change Your Teeth Color and Dry Your Scalp
We’ve found countless anecdotes online on an interesting subreddit forum on Reddit called r/decaf of people whose skin has greatly improved after quitting coffee. r/decaf is a community of people who are trying to or succeeding at quitting caffeine entirely. Anyone can join, and the forum is filled with countless success stories, tips, tricks, advice, motivation, and reasons to join the “decaf” lifestyle. Like this one for example. Not only did his sleep, emotions, mood, energy, sociability, anxiety, and outlook on life improve, but so did his skin.
“My skin has improved greatly and all acne has disappeared; it has a shine and looks so healthy. My scalp used to be so flaky and that also disappeared, something that thoroughly confused me for the last few years as I always washed my hair. My muscles don’t cramp up as much these days, my hair feels great, and my singing voice has also improved.”
You can find countless examples online of people sharing their experience with coffee’s effect on their appearance. Here’s another story we found on r/decaf.
“I no longer have insomnia, my anxiety has become much more manageable, my skin got way clearer and brighter, my teeth has gotten whiter, and I lost weight. Also, surprisingly, my energy, focus and positivity have skyrocketed.”
5 – Caffeine May Age Your Skin By Slowing Your Body’s Ability to Heal Wounds
According to this study caffeine reduces collagen synthesis in the skin resulting in accelerated aging. Collagen is a key factor in the body’s wound healing process and is the reason why it’s used in so many anti-aging and skin care products.
Additionally, because of coffee’s diuretic effect, the excessive dehydration it causes may play an additional role in reducing the volume of the skin’s surface, resulting in more prominent wrinkling of the skin. This lack of dehydration doesn’t help the healing process of your skin, either.
While caffeine and coffee have and continue to make a huge impact on the human population in terms of productivity, socializing, and economy, your skin will thank you after you see how it changes before and after quitting coffee.
Caffeine and coffee can cause cascading and snowballing effects on the body and mind. What starts as a simple cup of coffee for the jolt of energy it gives you, can quickly turn into a full-blown addiction that wreaks havoc on your body’s normal processes.
Drinking coffee isn’t as harmless as it sounds, and it may be negatively impacting your sleep, hormones, skin, scalp, teeth, wrinkles, hydration, gastrointestinal tract, and more. If you’ve been having issues with skin, sleep, or any of these problem areas concerning coffee, you may want to try quitting for a month or two and see how your life improves.
Depending on the severity of your coffee and caffeine consumption, quitting may be easier said than done. According to stories online from people who quit, they say the first 1-2 weeks are rough. But your sleep, energy, skin, and mood will all bounce back very quickly.
Our advice for those considering the change: quit cold turkey, and eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, protein, and water. Get some exercise, sun exposure, and good sleep. All of these factors should help your body recover faster from the dependence you may have developed to coffee and caffeine.