How you drink your coffee affects your skin, say dermatologists

Could your coffee be having a negative effect on your skin?

Fashionable young woman with coffee to go wearing pink sunglasses and cardigan - stock photo
(Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images)

The debate around how coffee affects skin is still raging. Some experts maintain a few cups of Joe can exacerbate acne and dry skin conditions. Others say that's nonsense and point to its antioxidant-rich benefits. What everyone agrees on however is that how you take your coffee makes all the difference.

Is coffee bad for your skin?

One school of thought is that coffee is good for your skin because of its antioxidant properties.  These polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids are said to fight free radicals, caused by pollution and UV rays, which ultimately weaken collagen and elastin.

As for whether caffeine dehydrates skin? The jury's still out. But according to Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician at the Mayo Clinic, "caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect but they don't appear to increase the risk of dehydration."

Additionally, the University of Connecticut found that in 12 out of 15 cases people went to the bathroom the same amount, regardless of whether or not the water they drank had caffeine in it.

Does coffee make acne worse?

Stress causes a spike in the hormone cortisol, which we know affects acne; the surge in insulin causing inflammation and your oil glands to go into overdrive. The trouble is, when we're stressed we often reach for caffeine to 'keep us going' - something that can have a negative impact on the skin as one study found caffeine causes a 211% increase in cortisol levels. 

Take your coffee white? You might want to rethink that, too, as proteins in dairy have been linked to acne, while sugar and syrup only add to the perfect storm. If you do decide to add a dash of milk, "go for organic whole fat, as they contain less milk sugar (lactose) and have a lower GI, so will have a less pronounced influence on your insulin levels," says dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams. 

Fiona Embleton is a beauty writer who is now Acting Beauty Editor at Stylist. She is obsessed with Isabel Marant and cats.