Coffee and acne: does caffeine cause acne?

Coffee and Acne(Sign up for the 30 day acne healing #healyourfacewithfood challenge here!)

Here are a few questions I get all of the time about coffee and acne:

Does coffee cause acne? Does caffeine cause acne?

Or just… in general….

What is the link between coffee and acne?

Before we go any further though my dear, I’ve got a wee confession for you.

I absolutely adore coffee.

I really, really do. I love the taste, I love the history of the coffee bean, and what/how the production of it has changed dramatically over the years, I love it all.

And, thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have an impact on my skin, at all. It does, however, impact my anxiety and my mood, so I try to stay away from having more than one cup a day.

Coffee and Acne
Me, enjoying one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, a big ol’ cupa java.


HOWEVER, it could be seriously impacting your acne (every body is different right?), so I wanted to share a bit of “food for thought” on whether or not coffee is causing your acne and give you the 5 reasons it might be impacting your skin.

Before we go over all of the drawbacks of this delicious nectar of the gods (or devils, depending on how it impacts your skin), let’s glance through some of the benefits

Coffee is a super complicated beverage, as it’s made up of almost 1,000 different kinds of compounds (and herein lies a large portion of the problem for your skin, there are so many variables that could be negatively impacting you, you never know which one it might be!).

The most popular of these chemical ingredients is definitely caffeine which gives coffee its famous “mood uplifting” and stimulating properties. It also contains antioxidants, lignans, trigonelline, and diterpenes.

Regular coffee drinkers swear by the mood enhancing and focus increasing effects that this beverage has on them. Not only does coffee help you in the difficult task of staying awake in the early morning, but it’s also been shown to potentially lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and stroke, helping burn fats and improving physical performance.

But. Let’s get down to business. Is coffee really triggering your acne breakouts? 

Here are 5 reasons coffee may be making you breakout:

Reason #1: Coffee may be increasing your cortisol levels, which is no bueno, my love.

Cortisol is the hormone responsible for spiking up your stress levels and can be a major contributing factor to the formation of acne. (If you’ve just gotten of birth control and your skin is not doing well, read this article on how to heal your acne naturally after birth control for some tips).

Cortisol is the adrenal gland’s response to anxiety and/or stress and it can have quite an impact on your skin. The caffeine content in coffee can actually cause a big increase in the cortisol levels, by directly stimulating the adrenal glands; ergo, there IS the potential that this is what’s negatively affecting your acne.

What you can do about cortisol levels and coffee: 

  • If you are chronically stressed out or depressed, it might be a good idea to wean yourself off of coffee to see how you feel. Just for a few weeks even – to see how it goes.
  • Also, to counter this effect you can include cortisol inhibiting fruits, vegetables, and ingredients like garlic, bananas, and pomegranates into your diet.

Reason #2: Coffee may be causing insulin resistance in your body.

We go over the impact that sugar has on your skin here and here, and it’s pretty powerful.

What’s “insulin resistance” though?

Insulin is the hormone in your body that helps to regulate your blood sugar, so when you are insulin resistant, it means that either your insulin molecules have stopped functioning properly, or the insulin receptor sites have become less receptive over time. (This situation can lead to a WHOLE host of problems that you do not want; diabetes, heart disease, etc. so take this seriously!)

One or both of these situations can trigger more insulin production in the body which stimulates sebaceous glands to produce extra oil. This is a bad news for acne, as oil leads to blocked pores on the skin, resulting in more acne bacterial growth. (Read more on how to heal your acne naturally after birth control, here.)

Numerous studies have shown that coffee may cause insulin resistance, and that the effect may last as long as 1 week.

What you can do about insulin resistance and coffee: 

  • Try to limit your coffee intake to 1 cup/day to keep the insulin sensitivity in check.
  • Drink coffee before you do physical activity; you’ll use up the fatty acids accumulated in the bloodstream which will help regulate your blood sugar.
  • To boost insulin receptor function, keep a check on your carbohydrate intake and eat more antioxidant-rich molecules to safeguard the insulin molecules.

Reason #3: Coffee may be affecting your sleep patterns.

The neurotransmitter adenosine along with the hormone melatonin play a significant role in putting the body to sleep by reducing brain’s activity and overall mental alertness. Caffeine achieves the opposite effect by blocking adenosine receptor sites; as a result, you’re awake all night reorganizing your closet (who, ME?) and increasing the chances of a breakout, in the meantime.

What you can do: 

  • I try not to drink coffee after 4pm. Anything later than that and I’m awake for days. So I’d recommend only drinking it in the early morning and/or before work outs, so that you can burn off the caffeine efficiently.

Reason #4: The mycotoxins in coffee may be causing your acne.

Coffee is considered to be the largest source of mycotoxins, the natural chemicals produced by fungi, responsible for causing inflammation and joint-aches.

Low-quality coffee is more prone to mycotoxins as they are grown in hot and humid climates, favourable to fungi. These can worsen acne either by getting in the way of timely immune system responses to acne bacteria, or by acting like estrogen and disrupting balanced sex hormone levels.

What you can do about mycotoxins and acne: 

  • Not all coffee is full of mycotoxins; you have to make sure its high quality. I’d recommend going to a nice coffee shop in the neighborhood, asking about their sourcing and production and making a decision from there.

Reason #5: Coffee may be blocking your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Coffee can have a major effect on your body’s ability to absorb iron, potentially lowering it by almost 70%. Although it doesn’t seem to have any significant effect on the absorption of other nutrients, it is known to curtail zinc, vitamin B6 and B12 absorption by a minor degree.

Deficiency of these vitamins and minerals may be making you breakout.

What you can do about vitamin B and acne: 

  • Avoid drinking coffee just before or with a meal; this prevents the coffee from immediately reacting to your food. You can eat small snacks with coffee, though;)

So, after reading all of this, what do you think about coffee and acne? Are you sensitive to it? Is it actually causing you to breakout?

If you highly suspect there is something going on with coffee and your skin, I’d recommend a little 3-4 week detox.

Take a before and after of your skin just to get the full effect, remove coffee completely (if you can) for at least 3-4 weeks, and see how it looks after that.

The results should be really telling and informative for you. Leave me a comment below and let me know how it goes!!!

ALSO, the #healyourfacewithfood 30 Day New Years Challenge starts in just a few weeks, are you signed up!? Grab your (free) spot here:

Heal Your Face With Food




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