The Unfortunate Skin Consequences Of Your Coffee Habit

While it may not have been named America's official drink, many would argue that coffee more than deserves the honor. If you've ever worked the night shift, pulled an all-nighter studying for an exam, or just struggled to get up and go in the morning, you probably understand the vital role coffee plays for so many overworked and tired people. Have you ever wondered, though, what role it may play in the appearance of your skin?


Does coffee really contain antioxidants that can help your skin fight against signs of aging? Is it true that caffeine is a diuretic that can cause you and your skin to become dehydrated? If you've ever wondered whether or not drinking coffee has an effect on the way your skin looks, this guide is for you. Here is everything you need to know about what you can expect from your skin, if you're an avid coffee drinker. 

Caffeine and dehydration

There is no debate around the fact that the caffeine contained in coffee is a diuretic, meaning it pulls water from the body and removes it through increased urination. For those who drink a cup or two a day, the effect is mild. Drinking three or more cups, however, can lead to more significant fluid loss. Less water in your system means less hydration and (unless you take preventative measures) eventually, dehydration. Dehydration can cause skin to become dry from the inside out, resulting in dullness and increased visibility of fine lines and wrinkles.


If you're not willing to part with your coffee habit but hate the idea of your skin looking prematurely aged, make a point of increasing your water intake. Trying matching your coffee intake ounce for ounce with water on top of your usual hydration routine. This will give your skin its best chance at remaining properly hydrated despite the effects of the caffeine you're ingesting. 

Coffee and antioxidants

Part of why coffee's effects on skin are so shrouded in mystery include the fact that the drink is commonly touted as containing antioxidants, which are known for their anti-aging properties. It is true that the coffee fruit from which coffee beans (seeds) are extracted is rich in several antioxidants, including rutin, chlorogenic, protocatechuic, and gallic acids. According to Healthline, antioxidants play a role in neutralizing free radicals, which are known to damage cells in ways that can lead to premature aging as well as serious diseases such as cancer.


On the surface, this would lead you to believe that drinking coffee is a good way to consume the antioxidants that will benefit the appearance of your skin. In reality, it isn't quite that simple. While green coffee beans do retain many of the antioxidants found in coffee fruit, typical roasted beans do not, thanks to the roasting process. If you're interested in how your skin could benefit from these antioxidants, consider trying a coffee fruit supplement rather than drinking traditional coffee. 

Vasoconstrictors and toxins

According to the "World Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases," a vasoconstrictor is a substance that causes the narrowing of blood vessel walls, resulting in increased blood pressure. Caffeine, the active ingredient in coffee, is a known vasoconstrictor. Some skin experts, such as New York City Master Aesthetician, Jillian Wright, theorize that the effects of caffeine, including the narrowing of blood vessels, prevent the body from eliminating toxins as readily as it would without the substance at play.


Wright and other proponents of the theory propose that toxins hanging around longer than they should inside the body can have a negative effect on the appearance of your skin. These effects could look like a gray or sallow complexion or an increase in crepe-like texturing. If you're someone who tends to believe in the health benefits of detoxes or cleanses but still holds tight to your coffee habit, it may be time to reconsider one or more of your positions. 

Gut health and skin inflammation

When it comes to gut health, coffee can put a real cramp in your plans. Since coffee beans become so high in acid during the roasting process, the drink tends to cause irritation of the gut. It can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, which allows stomach acid to flow up the esophagus and cause heartburn, throat pain, or even coughing, as reported by LiveStrong. The combination of the acids and the stimulant in coffee can also trigger painful cramping and diarrhea, especially for those with IBS and similar gut health issues.


So, what do all these gut effects have to do with your skin? As it turns out, quite a lot. Gut health has been directly linked to the health of basically every other system in the human body, including the skin. Unbalanced gut flora can lead to inflammation and the worsening of skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis (via NowPatient). 

Cortisol and acne

The stimulant effect of the caffeine in coffee raises levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in the human body. One side effect of elevated cortisol levels is increased production of sebaceous gland oils, which can result in more acne, clogged pores, and blackheads. Acne and inflammation can also be worsened by some of the ingredients that are often added to coffee to offset its strong, bitter taste.


If you tend to drink your coffee in latte form, you're actually drinking more milk than coffee. Unless you've made the swap to plant milk, this can add up to a significant dairy intake. While there is no proof that consuming dairy directly causes acne in every person who does so, a study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology has now shown that there is an undeniable link between high-dairy diets and acne rates, at least in adolescents. If you're struggling with acne and drink a lot of lattes, it may be worthwhile to at least experiment with switching to non-dairy milk for the sake of your skin. 

Added sugar and glycation

Milk isn't the only ingredient frequently added to coffee in an attempt to make it more palatable. Nearly every latte, cappuccino, frappe, and other coffee-based drink you order from a coffee shop is also liberally sweetened with various forms of sugar. Since coffee isn't usually a significant source of protein, starting your day with a sweetened cup of it can result in a spike in blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels sharply rise beyond the limit your body's insulin stores can control, it triggers the process of glycation.


Glycation occurs when the body binds excess sugar in the bloodstream to two specific types of protein molecules: collagen and elastin. The result is less plumpness and elasticity in your skin (via Olay). Over time, a high-sugar diet can cause your skin's appearance to become saggier, drier, and more wrinkled. If you just can't bring yourself to break up with coffee, skipping the added sugar and dairy while aiming to stay hydrated is the best course of action for your skin.