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.