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Caffeine in skincare: should you believe the buzz?
August 9th 2017 / 0 comment
You rely on your morning latte to give you a lift, but could a shot of coffee in your skincare pep up your skin in a similar vein? Pour yourself a cup of joe and find out…
Despite our fierce national affiliation to tea, it seems that we’re increasingly becoming a coffee drinking Kingdom - coffee shop sales peaked at £3 billion last year according to Mintel, and a survey of 2000 Brits by Honest Coffees revealed that 36 per cent of us wouldn’t start out day without a flat white or similar. To put our passion for coffee into perspective, the same survey reported that 79 per cent of Londoners and those in the Southwest would quit alcohol over a daily caffeine hit. Given our penchant for prosecco and pints, this is quite something, and the popularity of body scrubs using coffee grounds such as Frank Body and Bean Body suggests that our dedication to java is a 360º pastime.
Caffeine has also been seeping into our facial skincare regimes for quite some time, but whether it’s added to pay lip service to our growing modern infatuation with latte art and the like is up for debate. We took cosmetic dermatologist Dr Frances Prenna Jones out for a coffee to get to the nitty gritty of what caffeinated skincare can do for our complexion.
Caffeine as a skincare ingredient- how does it work?
“Similar to when you have caffeine in your diet, in a skincare context caffeine ‘perks up’ the skin and stimulates circulation. It’s also a powerful antioxidant, so topical application can help fight free-radical damage.”
A smidge of caffeine in your moisturiser could help your skin to ward off some of the ageing effects of UV light and pollution, alongside a high quality SPF of course, and skincare expert Paula Begoun recommends caffeine as a soothing ingredient that helps to calm inflammation and irritation.
Caffeine crops up in lots of eye creams in particular- why is this?
“In addition to being an antioxidant, caffeine is also a vasoconstrictor (an agent that narrows blood vessels) which is thought to help with reducing the appearance of puffy eyes and dark circles.”
“This effect is only temporary, however, and only really a positive when used in day creams for the eye area. Lots of caffeine in an eye cream worn at night as well could result in long term dehydration in this area."
A bit like ditching evening espressos, laying off caffeine come your nighttime skincare routine looks advisable to avoid the old dry eye.
Can caffeine help with any other skin gripes?
There’s some truth in throwing caffeine at our cellulite to smooth things over, as Dr Prenna Jones notes:
“Caffeine has dehydrating properties, which means that it can reduce fluids in cellulite tissue, although this can perhaps be regarded as a temporary fix.”
Caffeine can also help to calm redness in rosacea sufferers, by a similar mechanism in which it can diminish the appearance of dark circles and puffiness, as it constricts blood vessels leading to less flushing, plus caffeine’s antioxidant clout and anti-irritant properties help to ward off flare-ups.
Are there any downsides to caffeinated skincare?
Not as such, but not every skincare authority is convinced on the merits of caffeine as a puffy eye eliminator in particular, as Paula summarises:
“Unfortunately, research into caffeine’s effects in this regard are mixed. There is little research indicating that caffeine can have any benefit for puffy eyes; in fact, some research has shown that caffeine has an inhibitory action on a key protein in skin that helps it look younger. Truly, it’s a mix of pros and cons for skin, though lower amounts (less than one per cent) in skincare products probably doesn’t present much, if any risk.”
Dr Prenna Jones also emphasises that there is debate as to the uptake of caffeine by the skin in some cases:
“It's not the concentration of caffeine within a product that necessarily key, but whether caffeine can penetrate sufficiently when applied topically. For instance, a study published in the British Pharmacology Journal in 2009 looked at the penetration into the skin, and found that it was limited.”
Finally, what’s the verdict on drinking coffee in terms of skin health?
Carry on with your coffee habit, encourages Dr Prenna Jones, but with a few caveats…
“Coffee is a great thing as it is a powerful antioxidant and stimulates our metabolism. It also keeps our bowels regular- very important for both body and skin. In small quantities it has positive effects, but as always too much of anything is a bad idea- I never drink coffee after midday. Also, for maximum skin benefit do not combine it with milk and sugar, so hold those skinny double lattes. To reap the most rewards, drink it in its purest form.”
Now for the a barista worthy skincare edit…
Starting short and strong, Skinceuticals AOX+ Eye Gel, £73.50, is a robust antioxidant hit combining 5% vitamin C, along with free-radical fighting backup from phloretin and ferulic acid. These molecules act as the Three Musketeers against environmental damage, while caffeine steps in to minimise dark circles and de-puff, not to mention smooth over the undereye area. It’s the skincare equivalent of an artisan, meticulously prepared and expensive coffee in one of those hip luxe independent cafés, but boy is it worth it for making you look and feel awake.
The espresso shot
By contrast, The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG, £5.80, is a bargain jolt of java, plus green tea extract (EGEC) for additional antioxidant power delivered straight to the eye area. Lightweight and immediately absorbed, it contains an extraordinarily high amount of caffeine, suspended in a cooling, soothing elixir-like form. Add hyaluronic acid for a hydration boost and morning made.
The café au lait
Onto pure French sophistication in a cup (jar), soon to launch Sisleÿa L’Intégral Eye & Lip Contour Cream, £138, applies the roaring success of 2016’s Sisleÿa L’Intégral Anti-Âge cream to the more refined contours of the face- typically the areas that start to show signs of the passage of time first. Caffeine is just one of the the water retention melting, skin texture improving antioxidant molecules blended into this luxe cream- from a telomere protecting yeast and soya protein complex to brightening atlas cedar extract, Sisley has aimed to target every eye concern under the sun. It launches on September 1st if post-summer crinkly eyes and payday are beckoning you to the skincare counter.
The iced americano
With a cool metal tip to bring down inflammation on contact, Clarins Multi-Active Eye, £35, is apparently aimed at thirty somethings looking to combat the dry-eyed effects of nigh on 24/7 screen time and urban pollution. Perhaps the ‘millennial pink’ packaging conveys who it’s aimed at, but I’d say that this refreshing, illuminating gel could serve most of us, especially when slipped under some concealer for added surface fatigue fighting. A drip of caffeine combines with a roster of plant based antioxidants to protect skin and make the under eye area appear more taut and toned. The eye cream equal to grabbing a cold brew on your way to work.
The flat white
Flat out exhausted? For a quick and smooth perker-upper, caffeine-infused Esthederm Lift & Repair Eye Contour Lift Patches, £53 for ten, offer as close as you can realistically get to a skincare quick-fix. Lounge around in them for about five minutes, remove and massage in any excess ‘serum’ and you should notice a generally tighter looking eye area with a lovely side-order of silkiness and fine-line filling hydration (that’ll be the sodium hyaluronate going on here). You *might* not even need an undereye concealer for afters, they’re that effective, although you do pay a price for temporary tired eye relief.
A gentle, pink toned lift, Vichy Slow Âge Eyes, £25, contains skin barrier boosting probiotics, alongside caffeine, soothing Vichy thermal spring water, vitamins E and C, plus the lesser known antioxidant baïcalin, a plant root extract used commonly in Chinese medicine for its protective effects on cells. Light, quickly absorbed and softening, it works well under makeup, but do be aware that despite the fact that it’s labelled as suitable for sensitive skin, it does have quite a bit of fragrance going on.
A limited edition, wibbly textured little sister to the cult original GinZing™ cream, Origins GinZing™ Energy Boosting Gel Moisturiser 75ml, £29, is a flight-friendly caffeine pepped hydrator that keeps oily and combination skins especially supple and balanced. The fragrance averse should steer clear (citrus wake-up call ahoy), but if you’re a long-term GinZing™ fan this is a zippy summer take, complete with shelfie-worthy new packaging.