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How Does Coffee Affect Our Skin?

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In this Article

Our Insatiable Appetite for Coffee
The Direct Impact of Coffee on our Skin
Can Coffee Affect our Skin
Can Coffee Benefit our Skin from the Inside?
Everything in Moderation

How did you start your morning? Up and awake before the birdsong, a quick 5km run followed by yoga and a green smoothie? Before being ready and raring to go at your desk by 8am, kids clean, fed and ready for a homeschool session?

Or, if you’re anything like me, you pressed snooze at least twice, rolled out of bed feeling groggy, felt guilty for not exercising and you’re on your second coffee by 9am. 

As much as I’d love to be super efficient as soon as I wake up (my copy of The Miracle Morning remains unread on my Bridget-esque self help bookshelf), I’m just not. And I‘m especially not until I’ve had a cup of expertly dripped proper coffee. Granted, I’m more of a morning lark than a night owl. But I definitely don’t function until I’ve drained my coffee cup.

Our Insatiable Appetite for Coffee 

I’m a freelance writer, so the coronavirus pandemic related working from home surge hasn’t affected me. I always work from home. But what I do miss is the ability to go to my local coffee shop, laptop in hand, and have a change of scenery whilst I have my one on one with my true love - coffee. 

In short, I live for that first cup in the morning. 

And I’m not alone. Us Britscollectively spend £4bn (yep, that’s fourbillion) on coffee shop coffees alone, in one year. Which is an awful lot, especially considering that we’re known as a nation of tea drinkers. 

For lots of reasons, many of us are drinking more coffee than we normally would. Covid is taking its toll as we navigate our way through Zoom meetings, homeschooling and not having the divide between work and home. We can buy coffee from anywhere these days, including the petrol garage and McDonalds. And we’re pretty tired, most of the time. 

So aside from keeping us awake and more alert, what’s the impact of drinking coffee on our body? More specifically, on our skin? (We are a skin care brand after all.) 

I took it upon myself to find out how coffee can impact our skin, both directly and indirectly. 

The Direct Impact of Coffee on our Skin

Coffee is packed full of antioxidants. Antioxidants are naturally occurring plant based substances that help to neutralise free radicals. Free radicals are nasty, unstable molecules that causedamage to our DNA and cells, including our skin cells. 

Free radicals are introduced into our bodies via breathing in pollution and environmental toxins, smoking and eating highly processed, fried, salty and sugary foods. But even if we live a virtuous life in the middle of a field, we can’t escape them. Normal biological functions, such as breathing and digestion also create free radicals. 

So we need antioxidants in our diet to help ‘mop up’ all these nasty free radicals. Fruits and vegetables are our main source of antioxidants, and the more varied our intake of these foods the better, since each one generally contains a different mix of antioxidants. 

Coffee containsantioxidants called polyphenols. These help to reduce the level of free radical damage our cells and skin experience. And as we’ve discussed before, consuming an antioxidants rich diet will help to protect our skin fromfine lines, wrinkling, sagging and drooping

Let’s hear it for coffee!

What’s more, the scare stories we’ve heard about coffee, or rather, caffeine, being dehydrating might not even be true! Sure, drinking double figures worth of coffee every day isn’t going to do us any favours, not least because we probably won’t sleep. But drinking up to four each day is fine. (And remember, fatigue is a sure fire, one way ticket todull skin city.) 

Caffeine is only a verymild diuretic. A diuretic is something that makes us want to pee. But since it only has a mild diuretic effect, it’s not actually that dehydrating. Dehydration will show in our skin - it’ll make it appeardull and sullen

But coffee also contains lots of water (unless a double espresso is your thing). So dehydration isn't really a worry from drinking coffee if you limit your intake. If you’re worried, then always have a glass of water on hand to drink throughout the day. (Which we should really be doing anyway.) 

However, there are some potential downsides - coffee can directly impact our skin in a negative way, but that really depends on how you drink it…

Adding cow’s milk to your latte or cappuccino may be as natural to you as breathing. But dairy can be acause of your skin problems and acne. Dairy products contain a hormone that’s produced by dairy cows, called insulin like growth factor 1, or IGF-1. 

IGF-1triggers the release of sebum, that natural oily substance in our skin. Too much sebum causes oily skin and acne breakouts. So if you have acne prone skin, why not explore the cacophony of dairy free milks now available?

From soy to coconut and almond to tiger nut, there’s so much choice. In my humble opinion, (and as a vegan for four years), oat milk is your best bet. Choose a barista version and it won’t split in your coffee like almond milk does and isn’t thin and watery like rice milk. It’s also the most environmentally conscious choice. 

Also, if you tend to have a croissant with your morning coffee, then all that sugar could be aggravating your skin. 

Sugar is an inflammatory food. When we eat it, our body releases insulin, a hormone that helps to manage blood sugar levels. High insulin levels can lead to high levels of inflammation (hence why type 2 diabetes is a chronic inflammatory condition) and acne breakouts. 

But you don’t need us to tell you that cakes and pastries should be reserved as treats. Nor that coffee tastes so much better without sugar or sugary syrups added to it. 

Can Coffee Affect our Skin indirectly?

Drinking coffee can benefit our skin in an indirect way, too. If starting your day with a large cup relaxes you, takes the edge off the shock of waking up and gets you in gear, then that’s a good thing! Minimising stress by enjoying a cup of coffee first thing can never be a bad idea. 

However, drinking too much caffeine has been linked with the release of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s released as a response to our body being under stress. High levels of cortisol also triggers the release ofmore sebum. Which as we now know,causes oiliness and acne breakouts.

So, as ever, the moral of the caffeine based story, is to drink coffee in moderation. The general consensus is no more than four regular cups of coffee a day. 

Can Coffee Benefit our Skin from the Inside? 

Yes! All those wonderful used coffee granules make an excellent facial and body scrub. They’re a bit messy, so I use them towards the end of a soak in the bath. I use them directly on my body, mixed with a little water to slough away all those dead skin cells. 

On my face, I mix around a tablespoon of used coffee grounds with a teaspoon (ish) of coconut oil (that I’ve warmed in my hands first). Then I apply it to my face using gentle circular massaging movements. I leave it on for ten minutes then I rinse it all off. Hey presto, glowing, smooth skin!

If you’re also looking for the perfect skin care products to support your skin, then look no further! Our range ofcream cleansers, moisturisers, toning sprays, masks and serums has been developed to suit all skin types. You’ll benefit especially if your skin is stressed out, dehydrated or prone to acne, oiliness or redness. 

Everything in Moderation

Like everything, and like our nans used to say, most things are ok, if they’re consumed within moderation. So go ahead, make that coffee! 

If coffee is the one thing that will kickstart your day, then there’s nothing wrong in it. If you want to go to a coffee shop for a takeaway coffee (and it feels safe in today’s world) then do it! 

As long as you’re not drinking more than four or so cups a day, then you’re doing fine. Also try not to drink it past lunchtime in case it interferes with your sleep. And it’s probably best not to have a sugary pastry with each one too. 

Enjoy! Every last, velvety, smooth, strong mouthful. I’m off to put the kettle on… 


Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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