The Coffee Conflict: Does Coffee Improve or Sabotage Your Complexion?

​Coffee contains antioxidants that may be beneficial for the skin

Credits: Maria-Fernanda Gonzalez at
Edited By:
Raja Sivamani , MD, MS, AP

Daily coffee consumption is a regular part of many people’s lives around the world. Coffee is packed with caffeine and is actually the most commonly consumed psychoactive chemical in the world.[1] Not only is drinking coffee part of many people’s morning routines, but it is often a centerpiece of the community, as people converse at coffee shops or enjoy a cappuccino after a family dinner. Coffee contains high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. Studies also show that coffee intake lowers the risk for Alzheimer’s disease in mice[2] and may protect against alcoholic liver disease.[3] Does coffee also reduce the risk for skin conditions? This is a hot topic of debate, and there is scientific evidence both supporting and disproving the effects of daily coffee consumption on skin health.


How Does Coffee Improve Your Skin Complexion?

Coffee contains antioxidants that help ward off damaging free radicals in the body. Following a typical Western diet, people consume more antioxidants through daily coffee consumption than all fruit and vegetable consumption combined![4] Examples of antioxidants in coffee are hydrocinnamic acids, tannic acid, and polyphenols.[5,6] There is evidence that reactive oxygen species play a role in the pathogenesis of some skin diseases, such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.[7,8] For instance, tannic acid (a type of flavonoid) has been shown to improve clinical scores of atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema) in mice.[9,10] Flavonoids have also been shown to protect skin from sun damage and can even improve skin texture.[11]

Coffee consumption may also protect against nonmelanoma skin cancer. In a clinical study of over 90,000 Caucasian women, daily coffee consumption was associated with a reduced occurrence of nonmelanoma skin cancer.[12] Of those women who drank six or more cups of coffee per day, there was more than a 30% decrease in prevalence of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Of those women who drank decaffeinated coffee, there was not an association between coffee consumption and reduced risk for skin cancer.

In a separate 10.5 year study, daily coffee consumption of four cups or more was significantly associated with a 20% decreased prevalence of malignant melanoma. The researchers believe that bioactive chemicals in coffee, including caffeine and chlorogenic acid, may suppress cancer cells caused by ultraviolet type B radiation.[13] In addition, coffee roasting generates vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid) and nicotinamide which have been shown to suppress UVB induced skin damage and may be another way that coffee protects against skin damage from ultraviolet light.[14] 


How Does Coffee Hurt Your Complexion?

For some people with inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, cutting out coffee may improve symptoms of flushing and redness.[15] However, recently published literature blames the heat of coffee, rather than the caffeine, for triggering flushing episodes in rosacea.[16] Cold coffee drinks may be a better option for those with this condition.        

Caffeine in coffee may have a mild diuretic effect and can theoretically lead to dehydration and dry skin. However, it appears that those that drink caffeinated beverages do not have any difference in how well they are hydrated compared to those that prefer beverages without caffeine.[17] 


The Bottom Line About Coffee

As growing research explores the nutrients contained in coffee, more evidence has revealed how antioxidants in coffee provide beneficial skin effects and overall health benefits. In fact, daily coffee consumption may reduce the risk for skin cancer although more studies are needed to better understand how coffee changes skin cancer risks. The idea that coffee worsens symptoms of rosacea may relate to the heat of the coffee rather than the coffee’s ingredients. Coffee is a mild diuretic, although probably not to a high enough degree to cause significant dehydration. It is a good idea to drink plenty of water in order to stay hydrated and avoid prune-like, dry skin.


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