Does Coffee Cause Acne?

Does coffee cause acne? Although acne has various causes, it is thought that coffee may trigger hormonal acne and worsen existing symptoms of the skin condition.

Does coffee cause acne?

Acne affects millions of people across the world and is one of the most common skin complaints. Typically associated with spots, pimples and zits, acne can be physically painful and have a significant impact on the patient’s confidence.

Due to this, many people are keen to find out what causes acne. By knowing whether there are specific triggers for the condition, people assume that they can minimize the symptoms of acne, or prevent the condition altogether.

In recent years, many people have asked, does coffee cause acne? With many studies suggesting that diet can cause or contribute to acne, many sufferers are willing to modify their food intake in order to reduce their symptoms.

Does coffee cause acne and what are the symptoms?

Acne can vary in severity and some patients may have relatively mild symptoms, whilst others may experience painful and uncomfortable symptoms on a long-term basis. Acne is generally associated with:

  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Pimples
  • Pustules
  • Nodules
  • Cysts
  • Skin irritation
  • Redness
  • Broken skin

Whilst acne often affects the face, it can also be present on other parts of the body, such as the back, shoulders and chest.

Although there are many reported health benefits associated with drinking coffee, many people believe that coffee can be harmful, particularly if it is consumed in large amounts. As coffee typically contains a large amount of caffeine, drinking too much coffee could have a negative effect.

When people drink a lot of coffee, for example, they may notice the following symptoms:

  • Increased stress response
  • Feeling more alert
  • Inability to sleep
  • Racing heart
  • Palpitations

Although drinking coffee and acne produce very different symptoms, it has been suggested that consuming coffee can cause acne and its subsequent symptoms. Whilst this many not be true for all sufferers, there is evidence to suggest that the increased stress response caused by consuming coffee could exacerbate the symptoms of acne.

Does drinking coffee cause acne and, if so, why?

When people consume coffee, their body generally produces more stress hormones. These have an impact on other hormones, such as insulin. When extra insulin is produced, it can cause an increase in the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands. When excess oil is present, pores and hair follicles can become clogged more easily, leading to spots and pimples.

Many patients with acne already have increased oil production and it is believed that this is a primary cause of the condition. If drinking coffee does increase oil production even more, it is possible that it could worsen the patient’s existing skin condition.

Similarly, the additional insulin released after drinking coffee can lead to increased inflammation in the body. If the patient’s skin is already red and/or swollen, consuming coffee could increase the inflammation and may worsen their symptoms.

If individuals have acne and the condition has been linked to their hormones, it is more likely that coffee will exacerbate their symptoms. As coffee can have a direct impact on hormone production, it’s not unusual for the condition to worsen if coffee is consumed regularly. If patients are already undergoing hormonal treatments, however, they may not notice a difference in their symptoms when they drink coffee.

Coffee can also be a diuretic and people may become dehydrated if they drink large amounts of coffee and do not consume an appropriate amount of water. When this happens, their skin may show signs of dryness. Dry skin can also be a precursor to acne, as flakes of skin may clog the pores and lead to spots, pimples or nodules forming. In addition to this, dry skin can increase the body’s oil production as well. Whilst the patient may have dry or dehydrated skin, they could also suffer from excessive oiliness on some areas of the skin. This combination skin can be particularly difficult to treat with topical solutions and can certainly give rise to the symptoms of acne.

Furthermore, drinking coffee late in the day can affect an individual’s sleep pattern. When this happens, the patient may get less sleep overall and this can lead to their body exhibiting a stress response. As well as causing an immediate stress response due to the caffeine content, coffee could cause a chronic stress response if individuals regularly consume the beverage late at night. As stress has been linked to worsening acne symptoms, it is possible that coffee could contribute to the symptoms of acne in this way as well.

Although people often ask, "does coffee cause acne?", they rarely think about the other elements in their cup. Whilst coffee has been linked to acne, this may be because many people put milk, sugar and syrups in their drink.

As dairy products have been linked to acne in the past, people may notice their symptoms worsening if they drink coffee with milk in it. Whilst the coffee itself may not be exacerbating their symptoms, the regular consumption of dairy products could be. Similarly, excessive amounts of sugar or syrup in coffee could cause acne symptoms to flare-up, and may appear to worsen the patient’s symptoms.

Can it be treated?

When individuals are first diagnosed with acne, they are often keen to treat the condition as quickly as possible. Standard treatments for acne can include:

  • Topical solutions
  • Medicated skin lotions
  • Hormonal treatments
  • Antibiotics

Whilst these treatments may be effective, there could be other ways to combat the condition. If an individual suspects that coffee is having an impact on their skin, they may want to exclude the drink from their diet and monitor the results.

Often, this is the best way to determine if a specific food or drink is having a negative impact on your health. However, individuals should remove coffee from their diet for a significant amount of time in order to gauge the true impact it’s having on their skin.

If symptoms improve once coffee has been removed from the individual’s diet, it may show that coffee is exacerbating their symptoms and that it should be avoided in the future. Alternatively, patients may wish to reintroduce coffee into their diet and avoid some ingredients, such as milk, in order to determine which specific ingredient is causing the reaction.

Can it be prevented?

Although coffee consumption does appear to increase the symptoms of acne, it does not necessary cause the condition to develop. Individuals who are sensitive to the effects of coffee may want to substitute their drink for a decaffeinated cup of coffee or tea, which naturally contains less caffeine than regular coffee.

By working with a specialist physician, dermatologist or dietician, individuals are often able to identify triggers which are exacerbating their symptoms. By removing these items from their diet, the symptoms of acne could be significantly reduced and may be prevented altogether.