There have been well detailed, long speculations when it comes to the correlation between caffeine and acne. Is there any truth in these accusations or is caffeine actually innocent? It’s an interesting question, and there are a variety of different factors that are coming into play.
Of course, acne can be caused by a multitude of external and internal factors including diet. However, although diet aka what we put in our bodies, can exacerbate acne, is there actually any science behind things such as caffeine actually being a direct causal factor? Other things such as lack of exercise, lack of a proper skin care regime, poor hygiene, bad luck genetics can all have an effect on acne breakouts as well.
Though it is a concern that is gaining traction and has been discussed for some years, it is generally regarded that caffeine does not, in fact, cause acne. With that in mind, it is also generally considered that coffee can make acne worse in some form or another. This could be by increasing the intensity of the breakout or causing redness and swelling of the skin, amongst other things.
The reasons why coffee may be bad for your skin
1. Caffeine increases your heart rate
When you drink a cup of coffee, you essentially raise your heart rate. When you raise your heart rate, your body then raises your adrenaline. When the adrenaline is raised, your stress levels are aggravated and evaluated.
There are undeniable links between coffee and raising stress levels and or anxiety in the brain and body. The general consensus is that if you suffer from anxiety or heart problems in the first place, caffeine probably is not the drink for you. Other conditions where you should avoid caffeine include high blood pressure or circumstantial anxiety disorders and other heart problems such as high cholesterol.
So, what has this got to do with caffeine causing acne?
Coffee doubles the body’s natural responses to stress. This process is called hyperadrenalism. Hyperadrenalism is when the body produces an extra amount of the stress hormone, which as we have already confirmed, is highly aggravated by coffee. All of this comes into play in raising other hormone levels:
Hormones such as cortisol (the stress hormone), are raised significantly and somewhat doubled if not more when the body intakes caffeine from drinking coffee.
Cortisol is a major factor and a major cause of acne breakouts. This is because it raises oil levels in the surface of the skin, which then gathers in the pores of the skin and further seeps deep down inside them. The pores then become blocked.
If the pores remained properly unwashed, the raised cortisol and therefore oil increase brought on by the increased hyperadrenalism can cause pore blockage, and dirt builds up inside them, which naturally causes acne breakouts.
Not only does stress naturally have negative consequences for clear skin, your body is more prone to breakouts when it is stressed, and it is at least made twice as worse with the addition of caffeine.
This can lead to all sorts of other complications besides from just acne such as difficulties sleeping and falling to sleep, headaches, dizziness and even constipation. Insomnia means that you will be tired, tiredness leads to the body not being able to function as it should, which can lead to complications such as acne breakouts and pimples on the face or other parts of the body.
Caffeine should be avoided at night and the evenings for a proper sleep pattern to continue and be maintained. If the body gets the right amount of rest and recovery time, the skin has a much better chance of rejuvenating and regenerating the collagen-like it needs to do in order to keep clean, healthy and blemish free.
2. Coffee Plus Dairy Plus Sugar: The Fatal Combination for Acne
Unless you are a hardcore caffeine drinker, you will probably take your coffee with the addition of milk or cream or/and sugar. Dairy and sugar are big players when it comes to causing bad skin. They are frequently charted as two of the major causes of acne breakouts and prolonged blemish suffering.
Therefore, when they are mixed in with caffeine, you are basically signing a death warrant for your skin. All three together highly antagonize your pores and oil production and capacity to regenerate and subsequently lead to major potential outbreaks.
Dairy can be for some people, not all, a major factor when it comes to acne break out. This has been proven time and time again with extensive research to back it up.
Why is dairy so bad? Dairy is so bad for your skin because of lactose, which is present in the majority of dairy products but especially milk.
Lactose often causes breakouts and can agitate a number of different processes in the body. Many people opt for dairy-free milk in their coffee, such as soy or almond alternatives to avoid the after effects of full-fat lactose dairy milk.
Sugar, as is common knowledge, is traditionally bad for maintaining healthy skin. You may have heard your parents warn you about the dangers of eating too many sweets, well they weren’t just being bossy. There really is no benefit to eating too much sugar. It is notorious for causing acne breakouts.
High blood sugar levels lead to lower insulin resistance in the body. When this happens, the body’s ability to break sugar down becomes hindered over time which leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and more. All of these things also contribute towards higher levels of aggressive acne and skin breakouts.
Even if you do not take your coffee with sugar, drinking coffee can make you crave sugar anyway. When your body effectively ‘crashes’ after the adrenaline boost that comes with caffeine, it will crave a pick me up which can lead to an increase in sugary foods for a ‘quick fix.’
3. Too Much Caffeine Can Lead to Poor Insulin Resistance
As discussed above, the sugar factor in coffee can lead to poor insulin resistance. However, there is slightly more to it than that.
Drinking coffee on a regular basis, so a few cups a day, can really hurt your body’s capability in terms of how it deals with carbohydrates. When the body stops processing carbohydrates efficiently, insulin levels are consequently affected.
It can raise insulin levels in the body and therefore as a further consequence raises blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates have a high sugar content; this is why blood sugar levels are raised as the insulin struggles to correctly break down the carbohydrates that enter the body.
Insulin is an issue for the body as it is well known to cause oil production in large quantities on the skin. If your body is making too much of it, then it will stop being effective, and your body will stop recognizing it as a viable hormone. This leads to complications such as diabetes, obesity and blood sugar problems.
4. Coffee Effects How Your Stomach Processes Things: Bad Bacteria in Your Stomach
Drinking too much coffee and therefore having too high of a caffeine intake, can cause something called dysbiosis inside the body. What is dysbiosis? Well, it’s quite a simple concept for such a big and scientific word.
Dysbiosis is the process that describes a microbial imbalance inside the stomach and gut. Microbial just means all things organisms, so not that complicated right? Well, caffeine causes this in higher quantities because of the acidic content in every cup.
The acid can attack the good bacteria that exists naturally in the stomach, and that comes from eating and drinking other things such as good yogurts and water. When the acid in the coffee acts in such a way, it stops the body in its tracks from being able to produce natural vitamins and absorb the normal nutrients it needs from food.
This, as you can imagine, has bigger repercussions and implications for your health. This can lead to a whole host of problems with regards to iron deficiencies, indigestion problems, other digestive problems and poor effects for the rest of your organs, not to mention the skin and therefore consequential acne.
5. Coffee Can Contain Moldy Mycotoxins
A mycotoxin is the word used for anything toxic that comes off fungus –mold, spores, you name it. Though not on its own, coffee actually contains mycotoxins which occur when the coffee is being grown and stays after it has been harvested. The mold is from the crops and stays through the harvesting of the coffee beans.
Mould is quite commonplace in the climates in which coffee is grown, i.e. hot and moist and on a low altitude. The climates where it is common are also the climates from which the cheaper coffee is supplied and grown as well and therefore used more widely in chain coffee stores such as Starbucks.
So, if you have ever purchased and then drank a coffee from Starbucks, you’ve probably drank its mold spores as well. Not a nice thought, is it?
Mycotoxins are really bad for acne, and that goes without saying. They also have a largely negative effect on the overall health of the body. They clog up pores, they make the body less resistant toself healing, and they certainly are not good for your general antibodies.
However, don’t fret. If the coffee is sourced and grown at a higher altitude, there is a much lower risk level when it comes to lingering mycotoxins, and it is much safer though somewhat more expensive.
So, for the sake of your skin, it may be worth avoiding that cheap cup of coffee and splashing out a bit of extra cash. Or just avoiding caffeine altogether!
So does caffeine cause acne?
Caffeine does not directly enter your body and immediately cause an outbreak of bad skin. With that in mind, it contributes to a lot of other factors that cause terrible breakouts, and therefore the correlation between caffeine and acne is somewhat pronounced.
Caffeine has not been proven to directly be a causing factor of acne and blemish breakouts on the face and other parts of the body. It has been proven to cause a chain of events that lead to acne breakouts.
If your caffeine intake happens to be anything over one cup a day, you should probably slow down.
- It plays havoc with your stomach bacteria balance.
- It plays havoc with your cortisol levels which leads to higher anxiety, higher oil production, and higher breakouts.
- It plays havoc with your sleep patterns which leads to the body not having enough recovery time.
- Some types of coffee actually contain mycotoxins, a type of mold come from fungus through the cultivation process that also plays havoc with not just your skin but other bodily functions as well.
If you must drink coffee, don’t be fooled into thinking that decaf is better for you and therefore your skin, because it isn’t really. Yes, it has less caffeine which is a good thing, but it still messes with your internal bacteria in a negative way and contains an even higher risk of containing mycotoxins residue from the growing and harvesting process.
Instead, try drinking coffee in much smaller quantities to start yourself off with. Caffeine withdrawal is a real and serious thing and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you need advice regarding caffeine withdrawal and how to cope or deal with it, you can talk to your medical professional.
Alternatively, you could try to limit the amount of milk and sugar you take with your coffee as well as drinking smaller quantities, as they are agitating factors when it comes to acne breakouts for separate reasons. If you can’t drink your coffee without milk, try a dairy alternative such as soy or almond milk and see if your skin knows any improvements with this subtle change.