Ask any coffee drinker and they’ll tell you that coffee has benefits beyond the pleasant aroma and often much-needed pick-me-up.
There’s growing evidence that drinking the occasional coffee can help ward off things like diabetes, heart disease and gallstones.
The truth is, coffee could very well deliver a wealth of benefits, but don’t fill up on it just yet.
Even Dan at acne.org found no evidence that coffee causes acne.
While there are plenty of good things to be said about coffee, there are many ways in which coffee can affect our skin negatively, namely – our acne.
Although some studies have shown that drinking coffee can be good for blood sugar and insulin levels, the caffeine in the coffee may result in the opposite effect being achieved.
Short-term studies show that caffeine causes insulin resistance and high blood sugar.
When our blood sugar is high, the pancreas responds by increasing insulin.
The insulin increase then stimulates the release of other acne-causing hormones like insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and androgens.
These can then result in an increase in sebum production and skin cell growth, which may lead to worsened acne.
At this point, results are paradoxical.
That’s why it’s important to rely on other information to help determine whether coffee is bad for our skin.
Cortisol and Your Skin
Coffee consumption may also magnify your body’s stress response by increasing your cortisol levels.
An increase in cortisol can then exaggerate our responses to stressful events of normal daily life.
This means that what might “stress” our body for an hour normally, could result in “stressing” our body for several hours, or days, longer than it should when our cortisol levels are chronically high.
This chronic, low-level stress can then trigger acne, especially in those of us who are already susceptible to stress acne.
Coffee’s effects on cortisol levels also increase our cravings for sweet, salty, fatty and calorie-dense snacks.
If we regularly drink coffee, this might amount to making it harder to say “no” to these unhealthy cravings on a regular basis.
While the cravings themselves aren’t necessarily a bad thing, if and when we do cave in to these mounting cravings, the simple carbs, sugars and dairy in these foods can cause havoc for our skin by spiking insulin levels.
Why Sleep Means Clearer Skin?
I’m sure everybody is already aware of coffee’s effects on our sleep/wake cycle, even if we just know that it serves as a stimulant.
In the morning, our cortisol levels are high (this is normal, as it helps us wake up).
However, chronic coffee drinkers don’t experience this natural elevation of cortisol in the mornings, which is why they often can’t “function” without their morning coffee.
All throughout the day, coffee drinkers are sipping on their pick-me-up to keep them going.
We’re then trapped in a vicious cycle of having to drink coffee to spike our cortisol just so we can be functional.
This might not equate to a restless sleep in some, but for those who consume several cups a day, it very well may.
It takes 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated from the body; consuming caffeine too close to bedtime could result in a further jolt to our cortisol, increased skin inflammation, increased breakdown of collagen, as well as various other issues that could manifest on our skin.
Mineral Absorption and Acne
Looking for another way coffee might negatively affect our skin?
Coffee also interferes with the body’s ability to absorb important minerals like zinc and iron, deficiencies that can both contribute to worsened acne.
Indeed, studies have shown that people with acne tend to have lower levels of these minerals than their clear-skinned counterparts.
If you’re like most of North America, and you take your coffee with a mega-dose of cream and sugar, then you’re only adding insult to injury, as dairy and sugar are terrible for your skin.
Studies have shown that people who drink milk and have a diet high in added sugar have higher rates of acne than those who don’t.
So Does Coffee Cause Acne?
At the end of the day, coffee is likely just a small factor contributing to acne – factors like diet, stress and hormones are much more likely culprits.
Despite this, if you think that coffee may be at the root of your acne woes, swapping your daily coffee for a green tea may help to mitigate these effects.
Can’t Give Up Coffee?
That’s okay, just try to drink it black, or opt for decaffeinated coffee which may limit the side effects.
I don't think coffee causes acne directly, I just think it's possible that it could be a partial contribution or cause.
The same way I feel that sugar might be a potential contributor to help worsen acne.
I've learned that using process of elimination is a great way to weed out what might be worsening your breakouts.
Everyone's different, but at least you know some possible suspects now.
This way you can weed out what worsens your acne and what doesn't.