Tired of waking up to new acne before your first cup of coffee?
Turns out, it might actually be the coffee itself that is making your acne worse over time.
If you’re wondering, does coffee cause acne? You’re in the right place.
I’ve done the research from top to bottom and I’ve got the good news (and the bad news). Make sure to read until the end to find my tips and tricks to make sure your morning routine is a help and not a hindrance to your skin progress.
Don’t have time? Then here are some quick remedies:
Can Acne Be Caused By Coffee?
Coffee is made from ground up coffee beans and water. Acne is primarily due to hormonal imbalances. So how do these two things connect?
There are two main reasons why we answer “Yes” when asked does coffee cause acne? It’s because of the two S’s: Stress and Sugar.
- S is for Sugar: Most of the time when you drink coffee, you’re also drinking added sugars in the milk, creamer, sweetener, or actual spoonful of sugar. Anytime you add sugar to your diet even if disguised as a latte, it can cause acne breakouts.
- S is for Stress: Coffee itself won’t cause acne, but drinking a lot of it can. Even if you take your coffee black and avoid all sugars, it contains chemical properties that boost the stress hormones in your body. This tends to increase our calorie intake and mess with your hormones triggering acne. While stress is not the primary reason (and neither is the coffee), together they can create the perfect storm to trigger acne breakouts.
How Does Drinking Coffee Cause Breakouts?
Turns out, this is a fairly complex issue.
Coffee is mostly water, which is good for your skin, right? Yes. But coffee is actually one of the most complex foods on the planet. It contains over 1,000 chemical compounds.
Caffeine is the best (and most appreciated) ingredient in coffee. But one single cup of coffee also contains a complex set of antioxidants, acids, lignans, quinoids, trigonelline, and diterpenes. Most of those are difficult to even pronounce, let alone understand their effects on your skin.
So how does coffee cause acne?
Here’s a simple breakdown of 7 reasons why coffee can cause acne (and some tips to replace the problems):
- Caffeine: Too much caffeine in any form can trigger acne. Because coffee is the biggest offender of increased caffeine, it gets the blame. Specifically, coffee triggers “hypoadrenalism,” which makes your adrenal glands overreact to stress and pump out extra stress hormones. These hormones just add fuel to the acne fire.
- If you are looking for an alternative to caffeine to help you wake up in the morning, then check out hydrogen water machines. It is the best way to get energy, hydration, and all of the health benefits.
- You can also consider Guayusa Leaf Tea. Organic tea that gives you clean energy without the jitters or coffee crashes. Also rich in antioxidants!
- Milk: Does coffee cause acne from dairy? It’s hard to walk away from the coffee counter with at least some type of milky concoction. It makes your coffee creamy and delicious, but it is hands down the worst thing you can eat for acne. It boosts inflammation and redness and swelling and oil production. Milk is basically an acne bomb waiting to explode.
- Instead, try coconut milk or a less sugary and hormonal liquid.
- Sugar: Does coffee cause acne from sugar? Absolutely. Sugar feeds acne and makes it so much worse than it could be. When you sip up your sugary latte (54 grams in a Grande Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks), it goes straight to your bloodstream and raises your insulin levels. This instantly spurs oil production and growth of skin cells leading to, you guessed it, acne.
- I think we all know the obvious substitute is Organic Stevia. This one even has a naturally occurring prebiotic.
- Diuretic: Coffee is a diuretic (which means it triggers bowel movements). This can lead to dehydration if you’re drinking a lot of coffee throughout the day. Dehydration will lead to over oil production, which creates a breeding ground for acne.
- On the other hand, don’t forget how good pooping is for your cleansing out your system! If you are having to use your coffee for this reason, then instead turn to another natural alternative like Peak Biome. Helps keep you regular with no side effects.
- Mycotoxins: Myco-what?! Yes, one of the little known facts about coffee is that it actually contains toxins from mold, aka: Mycotoxins. In hot, humid, climates, mold forms on the crops before and after the coffee beans are harvested. Mycotoxins are terrible for acne (and mess up your immune system). Oh, and they can also be cancerous, so let’s avoid those completely shall we?
- If you think you can’t avoid them, then use a mold-free coffee like Bulletproof coffee.
- Gut Flora: Gut flora just refers to the balance of bacteria in your gut, which is a huge contributor to acne. Coffee disrupts this because of its high acidity. This leads to inflammation and poor gut health.
- If you have read my other acne posts, then you know I highly recommend a probiotic. My favorite is from HUM Nutrition, Pre and Probiotic.
- Nutrient Absorption: When you combine the problems in your gut with the diuretic effects of coffee, your body can’t absorb vitamins or nutrients from food. In fact, one study found that drinking coffee with a meal (or up to 1 hour after eating) impaired iron (and other mineral) absorption by a whopping 72%! This creates a domino effect of both health and skin issues.
Does Coffee Cause Breakouts from Inflammation?
It seems that inflammation is the culprit for almost every single health issue on the planet, including acne.
So does coffee cause acne from inflammation? – Yes.
Inflammation starts in the gut and becomes systemic, affecting almost every organ in the body (including your skin). Caffeine and sugar are the two biggest causes of inflammation – both of which are present in your morning cup of Joe.
Does Coffee Affect Hormones
Does coffee cause acne from hormones?
Coffee can also affect your hormones in significant ways. Because these hormones are so closely connected to acne, this can definitely be cause for concern if you’re a regular coffee drinker.
- Cortisol: Coffee increases cortisol, the stress hormone in your body. Wait – isn’t coffee supposed to decrease stress? Truth is, it actually increases your body’s response to stress (that’s what gives you the energy boost). When Cortisol is increased, the skin produces more oils – leading to acne.
- Insulin: Coffee (and the sugar included) can also cause your insulin levels to spike. In one study of 400 participants, they found that insulin levels play a major role in keeping acne under control.
- Estrogen: How coffee affects estrogen depends on the person, and your age. For younger women, it can significantly impact estrogen levels – but in some older women, it actually has the opposite effects. Either way, keeping your estrogen levels consistent is important to maintaining clear skin.
- Stress Levels: The FDA suggests no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day (this is roughly 4-5 cups). For most of us, that is plenty of coffee for any given workday. But sometimes we get additional caffeine in our diet throughout the day. More than about 200 milligrams of caffeine will start to have a negative effect on your skin and cause acne to persist or get worse.
Benefits of Coffee for Skin
While it may be true that coffee can cause acne, it’s not all bad news. There are several reasons why coffee can be good for the skin, and a few guidelines to keep coffee in your life as an ally – not the enemy.
- Coffee beans actually have a lot of antioxidants, which we know to be really good for the skin. In fact, coffee may be the single best source of antioxidants.
- Organic beans are free from mycotoxins that are grown on cheaper beans. Invest in higher-quality coffee beans that are absolutely free of toxins.
- Drinking 1-2 cups a day can increase your focus and give you a morning boost without seriously affecting your bodily functions.
- Black coffee is the best way to get the benefits without the added risks.
- Topical products that contain caffeine can give you all the benefits without having to get used to the bitter taste of black coffee.
- Try going decaf or limiting your caffeine intake overall by reducing other tea or energy drinks.
- If you can’t go with zero additives, skip the sugar and choose a dairy alternative creamer, or whole milk in coffee (which actually has less sugar than reduced-fat milk).
Does Decaf Coffee Cause Acne?
So we have already discussed the question, “does coffee cause acne?” – but what about decaf coffee?
Decaf coffee eliminates one concern for triggering acne: caffeine. Without the caffeine, you get the beneficial antioxidants without the increased stress hormones.
However, coffee in any form is still acidic and so you still have the possibility of gut problems, increased sugar (if you’re more of a latte person) and some decaf coffees actually have more mycotoxins than regular coffee.
Don’t freak out, but another great way to use coffee would be a coffee enema!
Which Coffees Cause Acne?
Unfortunately, the biggest offenders of these coffee fails are the most common forms of coffee you find at Starbucks and the grocery store.
Organic coffee is grown at high altitudes and has no mycotoxins. In addition, organic coffee currently has no association with gut problems or inflammation in the body. Spending a bit more on high-quality coffee may actually allow you to enjoy your morning cup without the harmful side effects on your body or your skin.
How to Deal with Coffee Withdrawal Headaches
Quitting coffee completely is not a walk in the park. The brain fog, headaches, irritability, and did I mention the headaches? There are a few things you can do to cope with coffee withdrawals and help your body recover quicker:
- Supplement with Amino Acids. Specifically, L-phenylalanine and L-tyrosine can be taken to prevent withdrawal headaches and mood symptoms. Try taking 500mg of each at breakfast (when you’d normally have coffee), and then again at lunch if you’re experiencing symptoms.
- Give Yourself A Little Extra Love. Tell your friends and family that you might need a little more space and patience and give yourself a little pampering during the process.
- Try Tea Instead. It has much less caffeine (but still a little to curb the headaches), and tea has significantly more health benefits than coffee.
Does Replacing Coffee with Tea Help with Breakouts?
A cup of coffee has about 200 mg of caffeine. Black tea has just 110mg – cutting your caffeine intake by half with just one change. If you can go even further, green tea has just 36mg, and white tea has even less at 25mg.
Don’t forget about herbal teas which can be a great substitute and have a whopping 0mg of caffeine. If you’re ready to ditch the coffee and give tea for acne a try, here’s a few tips:
- Try Different Flavors. There are about a million varieties of tea on the market. You may not like the first one you try. Go with something you wouldn’t normally try and open yourself up to the possibilities.
- Don’t Expect It To Be Coffee: Tea is tea. Don’t expect it to be something that it’s not, but appreciate it for what it is. Expecting your cup of tea to taste like coffee will no doubt be a disappointment.
- Start with These. These varieties of teas are great ones to start with that have proven benefits for your skin:
- Peppermint Tea
- Dandelion Tea
- Chamomile Tea
- White Tea or Green Tea
- Matcha Tea
But Coffee Helps Me Poop in the Morning!
Don’t despair. Most of us actually appreciate the fact that a cup of joe can get things moving along in the morning. But if you are using it as a crutch to make sure you poop, then consider using a better alternative.
You need regular bowel movements to start making progress towards your health goals. However, Stanford researchers have just discovered an unusual nutrient that eliminates constipation by breakfast. You simply add it to your breakfast tea, oatmeal, or smoothie and fully empty your bowels effortlessly, naturally, and daily. I recommend adding immediately for perfect poops daily.
Make a Coffee Face Mask for Acne Instead!
Coffee isn’t just good in a cup, there are lots of ways to use coffee topically to benefit your skin. A coffee face mask is one option to get all the benefits of those amazing antioxidants without the sugar or gut inflammation.
Although the effects are short-term, caffeine in topical products can decrease the appearance of cellulite by dehydrating the tissue. A coffee face mask can be a great way to reduce swelling and puffiness too!
The Bottom Line
Does coffee cause acne?
As an adult, coffee is a lifeline. It’s the best pick-me-up you can get in the morning without a prescription. This AM necessity, however, can jeopardize your skin without you even realizing it. The lethal combination of caffeine and sugar are the two biggest causes of inflammation, which only makes your acne worse.
The truth is, your latte isn’t the cause of your acne, but it is definitely doing more harm than good. Try taking your coffee black, and spring for high-quality organic beans, or take a break from coffee completely. Opt for a morning tea instead and put your coffee in a face mask to reap the benefits for your skin without any of the risk.