Is coffee bad for your skin?

Dr. Janet Zand

June 7, 2024

It’s no secret that some foods are terrible for your skin.

For instance, sugar breaks down collagen. And alcohol dehydrates skin and makes wrinkles worse. 

But what about coffee?

There’s a rumor that it’s bad for skin, too. Specifically, that coffee makes your skin look dull and aged.

Is it true, though? Well, turns out the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. So let’s talk about the potential downsides of coffee ... and whether there’s any truth to them.

“Coffee dehydrates your skin...”

You may have heard that caffeine is a diuretic, and diuretics make you dehydrated. And dehydration is terrible for skin, right?

Well, yes, dehydration is bad for skin. However, recent studies have found that caffeine is a very mild diuretic at most.

For example, a university report found that for 80% of participants, caffeine had no effect on how much water they lost via urination. So the diuretic effect of caffeine is almost zero for most people.

However, if you’re still worried about it, just drink more water. That’s always great for your skin! So let’s move on to the next rumor about coffee and skin...

“Coffee raises your stress levels, which ages you...”

Caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, the “fight-or-flight” hormone. And caffeine can boost your stress level. So that means caffeine — and therefore coffee — is bad for your skin, right?

Well, once again, it’s not that black and white. Yes, stress is bad for skin. It changes the proteins in your epidermis, making your skin less elastic. And as your skin loses elasticity, more wrinkles start to form.

However, you’re not going to experience a significant amount of stress from coffee ... as long as you drink it in moderation. Stick to 1-2 cups (8-16 ounces) per day, your skin and stress levels will be fine.

(Of course, there are some people who are very sensitive to caffeine. If that’s you, then you probably already know you’re sensitive to caffeine. And you may need to switch to decaf if you haven’t already.)

So coffee isn’t bad for your skin. In fact, quite the opposite — coffee can actually help you look younger! Here’s how...

Coffee as an anti-ager

Coffee beans are chock full of antioxidants. And as you probably know, antioxidants fight the free radicals that cause fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots.

In fact, one study found that coffee made a significant difference in a group of women aged 30-60. The women who drank coffee had noticeably younger-looking skin, with fewer age spots and wrinkles than women who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers credit coffee’s high level of polyphenols, which supply a huge portion of our daily antioxidants.

The big caveat

While a cup of coffee is a great source of antioxidants, not all types of coffee are good for you.

For one thing, if your coffee is loaded with sugar, then it’s no longer good for your skin. Any benefits from the coffee itself will be outweighed by the damage that sugar will do to your skin (and overall health).

So stick to black coffee or add just a little cream. And if you need a sweetener, use stevia or monk fruit, which are natural and sugar-free.

Also, it's also important to know that not all coffee beans are the same. Conventional (or non-organic) coffee beans may contain synthetic chemical fertilizer and pesticide residue.

For instance, a surprising number of decaf coffee beans contain methylene chloride. Methylene chloride was recently banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, it was only banned for use in paint, paint remover, and similar products. So it’s still found in coffee!

The good news is that you can avoid methylene chloride and other scary chemicals if you drink organic coffee. Organic coffee may cost slightly more, but a little extra in cost can bring huge health benefits.

So try these tips out for a skin-friendly cup of coffee ... and let me know how it goes!

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