Is Coffee Bad For Your Skin? Here’s What Derms Think

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When contemplating a skincare conundrum — Does collagen powder do anything? How much exfoliating is too much exfoliating? Is coffee bad for your skin? — I know exactly where to turn for clarity: science, of course. But in the case of that last question, science is sadly no help at all. There’s evidence that a morning cuppa can cause acne… but there’s also evidence it can soothe rosacea. It may constrict blood vessels and thus, impede the flow of nutrients to the skin… but it’s also packed with potent antioxidants. Confused? Yeah, experts are, too.

“There’s wide variation in terms of how people are affected by caffeine,” Dr. Aanand Geria, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Geria Dermatology, tells The Zoe Report. Besides the aforementioned downsides, coffee drinking has been linked to an increase in cortisol production — and cortisol, “the stress hormone,” is associated with a host of skin issues, from premature aging to dehydration. On the other hand: “A study last year showed that women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 23 percent lower chance of developing rosacea,” Dr. Geria says. (I mean... impressive, sure, but that’s a jitter-inducing amount of java.) “This benefit can be attributed to not only the caffeine, but also the high amount of polyphenols in coffee, which function as antioxidants," the dermatologist explains. Antioxidants, as a refresher, help defend against premature aging and environmental aggressors. Most likely, these negatives and positives cancel each other out, and coffee has a net zero impact on skin health. “When caffeine is consumed in moderation there really should be no adverse effect to the skin,” Dr. Geria confirms. That being said, every body is different, and some may be more susceptible to the not-so-great side effects of a large soy latte than others.

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Starting to suspect your cold brew's been messing with your complexion? Ahead, five coffee alternatives that only have upsides.

Matcha Tea

“We're definitely a very coffee-centric society, and people are right to start questioning the overall benefits and risks,” Sarah Koszyk, M.A., R.D.N., a registered dietitian and founder of MIJA Naturals, tells TZR. “Drinking too much coffee can result in increased anxiety and decreased sleep quality” — both of which impact your skin, by the way. Her suggestion? Say good morning to matcha.

“There is a rare class of amino acids in matcha, L-theanine, that works with the caffeine to release a ‘calm focus’ that aficionados describe as a high, that unwinds stress, enhances focus, and promotes creativity,” she says. Which is precisely why ceremonial-grade, organic matcha is the base of her daily supplement, the Superstar. “Beyond this, so many of our ingredients such as goldenberries, camu camu, lucuma, cacao, avocado, turmeric, hemp seeds, chlorella, and nutritional yeast also provide comprehensive, anti-aging, health-optimizing benefits — from fortifying the immune system to optimizing skin health for glowing beauty from within,” Koszyk says. Simply mix a tablespoon or two with hot water (it’s very tasty) and enjoy.

Dandelion Tea

Personally, I’ve converted to dandelion tea half the time — I mix some Dandy Blend with oat milk and adaptogens a few times a week. “The root of the plant is a known digestive aid and helps get your digestive system moving in a healthy and gentle way,” Ray DeRosa, the founder of LION Tea, tells TZR. By boosting gut health, the tea indirectly boosts skin health, too. It’s also a mild diuretic (i.e., it makes you pee more often) that “leaves you feeling less bloated” and helps drain any fluids that cause puffiness. Dr. Geria is skeptical, but intrigued: “Its anti-inflammatory effects might be helpful in reducing symptoms of rosacea and eczema,” he says. Plus, it’s pretty darn delicious — like a slightly less bitter version of my usual Venti.

Saffron Latte

Love the bright-eyed effect of coffee, but not the caffeine crash? Try the Saffron Latte, a newish release from The Fullest. “Saffron is similar to coffee in the sense that it works instantly, but its benefits are so different,” Nikki Bostwick, the founder of The Fullest, tells The Zoe Report. “Saffron increases serotonin and dopamine levels in your body almost immediately, so it makes you feel good.” At the same time, the spice eases digestion, helps you focus, and reduces inflammation. Plus, it might convince you to cut down on sugar. “You don’t need any added sweetener because the coconut water powder base [in the latte mix] makes it naturally sweet,” Bostwick says. “I like it best with unsweetened, raw almond milk.”

Golden Milk Latte

Golden milk lattes — aka, lattes made with bright yellow turmeric rather than coffee — have become trendy as of late, for good reason. "[Turmeric] is an antioxidant powerhouse which helps reduce inflammation in the body," Dana Kofsky, a Los Angeles-based wellness expert and founder of healthy lifestyle service Wellness Styled, previously told TZR. It’s also thought to help the liver eliminate toxins more readily (so they don’t wreak havoc on your complexion). For more beauty benefits, opt for Crushed Tonic’s new turmeric elixir — it combines the buzzy ingredient with marine collagen, probiotics, and biotin.

Hibiscus Tea

Tea is a classic coffee alternative, and when it comes to sipping your way to better skin, hibiscus tea is tops. “I love hibiscus tea because it’s not only a great source of vitamins A, B1, B2, C, zinc, and iron, but it has Omega-3 fatty acids and natural alpha hydroxy acids that are absolutely essential for maintaining that healthy, glowy skin we all want,” Serena Poon, a celebrity chef who works with Kerry Washington, tells TZR. “Hibiscus is also known for its exceptional antioxidant properties that give us the elasticity, anti-aging properties, and free radical protection we need for optimal skin health.”