Starbucks cups are a universal sight on Madison Avenue, where I have my skin clinic. It’s not uncommon to see clients saunter in sporting a fistful of cappa-mocha-latte love. According to the National Coffee Association, 61% of all Americans drink coffee daily and the average consumption is around three cups. Recently, Charlotte’s Book extolled the virtues of caffeine applied topically, but when you drink the dark brew, is it good for your insides? Here’s how coffee affects your skin and the science behind it all.
Like sodium and alcohol, caffeine dehydrates our bodies. They make the liver work in overtime, which causes toxic build up in the body. When our bodies are in toxic overload, the presence of low-level toxins that make their way to your skin disrupt healthy skin function. While we can sing coffee’s praises as a laxative, it is a diuretic, which means it causes you to lose hydration, which has a direct effect on your skin. Dehydrated skin causes inflammation (redness) and premature aging (collagen loss). Additionally, without enough water flushing your system, toxic buildup in the skin can also cause acne.
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2. Creamer Clogging
If you are acne-prone, check to see how much dairy you are consuming. When you consume caffeine in the form of light or sweet coffee, you run the risk of consuming additional acne boosters. According to the good people at Clear Skin Forever, any milk or sugar that’s in your coffee can trigger acne. Clear Skin Forever calls milk the worst thing to consume if you want to maintain clear skin, because it’s loaded with hormones, negatively effects the production of sebum, and glues dead skin cells together.
3. Destructive Sweeteners: Glycation
Aside from causing dehydration and creating acne, sugar causes glycation, which results in inflammation and premature aging.
4. Tannin Build-Up
Tannins are found in coffee and black tea. A close male friend likes to joke that his English/Irish grandparents lived well into their 90s because they drank so much tea, it preserved their internal organs and turned their skin into supple leather. While there’s absolutely no science behind that anecdote, it does point to the fact that tannins—which are present in coffee and black teas—are used to tan animal hides into leather. And where does all that tannin end up? It gets processed by your liver, which filters gunk out of your body. Sadly, your liver also retains a fair amount of these toxins over time, which can contribute to liver spots on your skin.
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Solution? All Things in Your Moderation
Overall, consuming too much coffee, and all the milk and sugar that may be in there, will age you faster than want. So what do you do? My motto: less is more. Wean yourself slowly, but try. Try hard. Drink more water to flush out toxins and combat dehydration. Consume less caffeine or switch to decaf or green tea. It’s not easy, but worth the attempt.
It’s all about balance and moderation. Minimize some of the habits that are detrimental to your skin and see how it responds for at least two weeks. Listen to your body! Read your skin. For example, drink only one cup of black coffee (fair trade and/or organic) in the morning and not after 11am. You can also switch to a non-dairy supplement like almond or coconut milk for your coffee.