Does Coffee Cause Acne? The Link Nobody’s Telling You About

Everything You Need To Know

So you heard somewhere that your morning coffee may be causing or worsening your acne, and if you’re anything like – well, everyone else – you probably had the same reaction:


After all, society practically runs on the stuff. And whether you’re a craft coffee lover or you just rely on the pick-me-up in order to function decently at work, quitting is the last thing you want to think about.

We get it – there are a lot of rumors and anecdotes floating around about the sneaky culprits that are truly causing your acne, and sometimes it’s hard to filter through all of the information and get to the facts.

But, on the other hand, if there are really things that you do every day that make your acne worse, it’s important that you know about them, right?

Because we know the struggle of busting myths and finding the truth, we did the research to help you crack the code to vanquishing your acne for good. And while some reputable sources claim that the link between acne and dietary habits is unclear, we have to call it like we see it.

So, what’s the deal with coffee? Is it stopping you from getting the clearer and healthier skin you’ve always wanted?

Our answer: maybe.

Read on to find out.

Coffee: The Good and The Bad

There are lots of great health benefits that coffee consumption delivers, but there are three major factors we want to point out that may link coffee drinking to acne. Coffee, in particular, can affect your:

  • Insulin
  • Cortisol
  • Cravings

And these factors all pretty much lead back to one thing … caffeine.

Coffee and Insulin

The first thing that you should know about coffee and its acne-causing potential is that coffee makes you insulin-resistant during the immediate window after you drink it.

So what is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas to regulate your blood sugar. When you’re insulin-resistant, or less sensitive to the presence of insulin in your system, two things happen to your body:

  1. Your blood sugar remains elevated for a longer period of time after you consume any food, particularly high-glycemic food.
  2. It takes more insulin to get the job done.

But is it that bad?

Yes, especially if you’re interested in clearing up your skin.

When there are elevated amounts of insulin and blood sugar in your system, your body will overproduce oil and excess skin cells that will cause your pores to get blocked. Aside from that, insulin also increases systemic inflammation, which will make your acne look even worse.

On top of that, think about what most people put in their coffee. Yes, milk and sugar.

If you’re already putting your body in a position to deal with blood sugar poorly, adding sugar to your coffee is going to worsen these effects.

And it isn’t just coffee. Other caffeinated beverages can also put your skin in an equally bad position.

This is especially true of soda and other caffeinated beverages containing sugar.

Great. So how much of an effect does caffeine have?

Unfortunately, caffeine could raise your insulin levels for up to a week. It can also decrease your sensitivity to insulin by as much as 40%.

Coffee and Cortisol

Coffee doesn’t only increase your insulin level. Apparently, it can also affect your cortisol, too!

Actually, not just cortisol – caffeine intake can even significantly elevate the amount of epinephrine and norepinephrine which your body releases in response to stressful situations.

What are these hormones and what do they have to do with caffeine intake?

These are basically the fight-or-flight hormones that your body releases when you undergo stress. These hormones put your body in a position to handle these types of situations properly.

But coffee consumption can cause your body to blow stressful situations way out of proportion, potentially even doubling the amount of cortisol and epinephrine that it releases.

How does this affect my acne?

Remember when we mentioned insulin?

The presence of these stress hormones also causes your pancreas to secrete more insulin. That’s in addition to the high level of insulin coffee triggers by itself.

Coffee and Your Cravings

As if an excess of stress hormones, elevated blood sugar, and increased level of insulin in your system weren’t bad enough…

Stress hormones make you crave sweet, salty, and high-glycemic foods, which are probably the worst things you can eat for your acne-prone skin.

So while you’re insulin-resistant and incapable of dealing with high blood sugar properly, coffee can also make you crave for foods that will make your glucose and insulin levels even higher.

The Good News

Does Coffee Cause Acne? The Link Nobody’s Telling You About

Ok, so enough bad news!

Coffee also contains antioxidants, chlorogenic acid, and other things that can deliver some stellar health benefits over time. The list includes:

  • Decreased diabetes risk
  • Decreased risk of kidney stones
  • Reduced risk of liver cancer
  • Enhanced memory
  • And much more!

And remember when we said caffeine can harm your blood sugar response in just a short time? Other healthy compounds in coffee can actually improve your blood sugar response over time with regular consumption!

So, coffee is both good and bad for me and my blood sugar. What now?

If you don’t want to give up coffee because of its taste or because of its benefits, then you’re in luck!

Decaf seems like a safer option for coffee lovers suffering from acne. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Decaf has no effect on your body’s stress hormone response.
  • It doesn’t affect your body’s insulin sensitivity immediately after consumption.
  • It won’t make you crave for sweet, salty, high-glycemic foods.
  • It can actually improve your blood sugar response over time

The Verdict: Should You Cut Out Coffee?

The truth is, it depends.

If you aren’t already acne-prone, and you’re not worried about the other potential health risks associated with caffeine consumption, then you’re probably in the clear. Coffee won’t likely make you break out suddenly if it hasn’t already.

But chances are, if you’re reading this article, you are acne-prone and you are looking for ways to fight it.

We hate to break it to you, but if you really want to eliminate foods that can contribute to your acne, caffeinated coffee should be one of them. If that seems unacceptable (we know it’s hard), here are our suggestions:

  • Consider switching to decaf, or even green tea, which contains far less caffeine than regular coffee.
  • If you can’t picture yourself cutting out caffeine, then consider limiting your intake of sugary, high-glycemic foods to minimize your insulin levels.

Ultimately, only you can figure out if coffee is causing your acne. And if you’re having trouble clearing up your skin already, what have you got to lose?

Try cutting coffee for a little while and see if there’s any improvement in the clarity and health of your skin. Then, reintroduce it moderately and see if your acne worsens again.

Your body chemistry is unique to you, and experimenting with this type of dietary elimination can really help you figure out how to fight acne at its source.

Does Coffee Cause Acne? The Link Nobody’s Telling You About

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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