You’ve probably heard that caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea can be good for your health. While too much caffeine is dangerous—especially energy drinks and supplements—in moderation is thought to be fine.
Coffee, in particular, has been well studied and has been linked to all sorts of good things, including a reduction in the risk of heart problems and even some neurological disorders. (Although both coffee and tea are thought to contain potentially beneficial ingredients other than caffeine.) That’s what happens when you put the stuff in there. in your body, but what about? On your body?
Caffeine has certain properties that can be good for your skin, too — and cosmetic companies have introduced caffeinated products such as eye creams, anti-cellulite lotions, tinted moisturizers, and cleansers that supply it. But will a caffeinated product really make your skin look better than a decaffeinated product? When it comes to skin health, here’s what the experts say.
Manufacturers Say Caffeine Gets Results
There are several reasons why skincare companies include caffeine in their products, they say. “Caffeine, derived from coffee beans, helps visibly refresh and recharge the skin,” said Lizz Starr, executive director of product development for Origins, which includes a line of caffeine-infused products called Ginzing.
Susie Wang, founder and skincare chemist at 100% PURE, which also includes products containing caffeine, says the ingredient has many benefits, such as “around the eyes, it brightens dark circles and softens the area; on the body, it helps to reduce cellulite.” detoxifying and minimizing; on the skin, it accelerates the healing of sun-damaged skin; and in the bath, it increases circulation and aids in lymphatic drainage.”
How does caffeine achieve all these benefits in skin care products? “When caffeine is used topically in a cream or serum, a chemical present in it, chlorogenic acid (CGA), can soothe sunburned skin and help heal acne-prone skin with its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties,” says Cheek. “Antioxidants in caffeine can also help reduce signs of hyperpigmentation in the skin, including dark circles, sun spots, redness and fine lines.”
“Finally, when coffee is used in a scrub, it can help improve the body’s circulation by dilating blood vessels,” Wang says. This process is known as microcirculation, Wang says, which helps reduce cellulite on the skin.
What caffeine does, according to dermatologists
While there is some evidence that drinking coffee may have some of these skin benefits, there is less evidence of the effects of topical treatments.
“The research we have on these products is not that substantial, and what we have is not entirely convincing,” says dermatologist Rajani Katta, MD, voluntary clinical faculty at Baylor College of Medicine and McGovern Medical School at UT Health in Houston. . “There are limitations to the research. For example, several studies of cellulite cream have been conducted in animals, not humans. Some limited studies of cellulite creams in humans — just 15 people in one study — saw a benefit, but because they didn’t have a placebo group, it can be difficult to really evaluate the study results.”
In another study that Dr. Katta mentions, researchers looked at a caffeine gel to see if it reduced under-eye bags. “The researchers compared the caffeine gel to a similar gel formulation that contained no caffeine, and the results were actually similar in both groups,” she says. “This study shows the importance of having a placebo group when trying to study the effects of skincare ingredients.”
The researchers theorized that the reduction in puffiness wasn’t really due to the caffeine itself, she says, but rather to the cooling effect of the gel formulation that led to the narrowing of blood vessels and less moisture in the skin.
In addition, as a 2020 paper in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology on oral consumption points out that while we often think of “coffee” and “caffeine” interchangeably, there may be another property of coffee in particular that can affect the skin.
Caffeine could theoretically be beneficial for the skin
Despite the lack of studies proving its effectiveness, caffeine could theoretically be beneficial for the skin. “The ingredient caffeine is an antioxidant, so it can definitely be helpful for rejuvenating aging skin and treating wrinkles,” says dermatologist Patricia Farris, MD, in Metairie, Louisana. Caffeine also constricts blood vessels, which is why it is found in many skin care products for redness and for reducing bags under the eyes. [But] there are very few studies on this ingredient alone.” She points to the same small study of just 15 patients that showed some improvement in cellulite.
“Here’s what I tell patients about caffeine: When combined with other ingredients, caffeine provides skin benefits,” she says. “While there aren’t many studies on this ingredient alone, cosmetic chemists have used caffeine in combination with other ingredients because it has unique benefits for the skin, such as constricting blood vessels.”
Can Caffeine in Makeup Give You a ‘Coffee Buzz’?
If you’re concerned that using these products will turn you into a jittery mess, Dr. Katta and Dr. Farris that that is unlikely. “You’re not going to absorb enough caffeine from a skincare product to give you a coffee buzz,” says Dr. farris.
But again, there isn’t much research on the subject. “We don’t have enough studies to properly answer this question — ideally, you’d want volunteers to apply caffeine-containing creams to their skin and then measure caffeine levels in their bloodstream,” says Dr. katta. “With the research we have today, we know that caffeine has the ability to penetrate the skin barrier, so theoretically it could have a stimulating effect, if you apply enough caffeine cream to a large enough surface area of your body. There should be a problem with the small amount used in an under eye cream, but in theory it could be a problem if you use an anti-cellulite cream all over your legs for example.”
People who are extra sensitive to the effects of caffeine may want to avoid using the products on large body surfaces, says Dr. katta. “But in general we wouldn’t worry about systemic risks if you use them over a smaller part of the body, like the eyes.”
For this reason, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, Dr. Farris that you may want to avoid caffeine-containing beauty products. However, you are unlikely to exceed the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)’s (ACOG) 200mg recommended caffeine limit for pregnant women.
People with a specific allergy to a particular ingredient should exercise caution and read ingredient lists. As always, consult your physician regarding any individual medical conditions or concerns you may have before embarking on any new skin care regimen. (And be sure to check out these new groundbreaking anti-agers, according to dermatologists.)