The benefits of caffeine in skin care products show that caffeine isn’t just for drinking! You are seeing caffeine as a natural skin care ingredient because scientific studies show that caffeine has anticancer, antioxidant and age fighting benefits when applied topically to skin.
How much caffeine is usually in skin care products?
Caffeine is a natural botanically sourced compound. When added to commercial skin care products, it is usually present at around 3% or so. You will usually see caffeine combined with other beneficial botanical ingredients, retinol, and antioxidants to help fight skin aging and free radical damage.
Why do dermatologist's recommend caffeine containing skin care products?
Scientific studies have shown conclusively that when caffeine is applied to skin it can,
help inhibit cancers from forming, and
reduce some of the cellular damage from sunburns (by helping skin remove skin cells damaged from sunburn).
Scientific study, and my clinical observation, suggest that when caffeine is combined with EGCG green tea polyphenol antioxidants it can decrease the number of cancerous and non-cancerous tumors from UV rays. - Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
I’ve used the combination of topical EGCG green tea antioxidants and caffeine cream in my dermatology practice since the 1990s, before the most compelling scientific research into how caffeine worked for skin health was completed. I discovered the benefit for my skin cancer patients almost as a surprise. Over the years, chart note after chart note, my patients and I saw this combination of green tea antioxidants and caffeine reduce the number of precancerous growths that they develop over the years compared with before they used the product.
The products I've used in my practice contain pharmaceutical, stable and high concentration amounts of both green tea EGCG antioxidants and caffeine. I use the cream on the face, neck, chest and back of the hands.
I include my Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy. as an important part of the Complete Skin Care Routines that I build for my patients with skin cancer and sun damage. My patients apply it twice a day right after washing their skin and under their moisturizer and sunscreen. It is a product that I never fail to apply twice daily to my own skin.
For those wanting to include the benefits of retinol to stimulate collagen renewal, fight skin aging, acne and skin pigment problems, I use my Retinol Night Cream which has caffeine, retinol and green tea EGCG antioxidants together. This is applied after washing and under moisturizer.
Does caffeine help or hurt rosacea?
A 2018 study of nurses found that drinking caffeinated coffee was inversely associated with rosacea severity. Decaffeinated coffee was not. Thus, the caffeine in coffee appeared to provide some protection against rosacea.
Good studies using topical caffeine to treat rosacea have not been done. That said, I find it beneficial when combined with EGCG green tea polyphenols and I always use my Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy when I create a skin care routine for rosacea. An example of such a routine is found in my Complete Skin Care Kit, which works as well for rosacea as it does for my skin cancer patients.
Can caffeine and green tea antioxidant combination help acne?
A study done using a combination of caffeine and green tea antioxidants showed some reduction of the acne causing bacteria and improvement in acne in as little as 2 weeks. It was not a rigorous study but my own clinical experience corroborates the benefits.
Can topical caffeine help reduce eye area puffiness?
The scientific evidence for this benefit is soft at best. In one study, 3% caffeine was combined with vitamin K and emu oil and showed promise. It is far from a conclusive study on the benefits of caffeine however. Theoretically, caffeine is known to both constrict capillaries and increase overall skin blood flow, two circulatory effects that could enhance the appearance of the eye area. Plus, people have used cool tea bag soaks for years to reduce puffy eyes. But, another study using caffeine 3% gel failed to demonstrate results.
I think the theoretical scientific concepts for select ingredients such as caffeine hold promise for the eye area. My Advanced Corrective Eye Cream includes caffeine along with retinol, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, green tea EGCG polyphenol antioxidants and vitamins A, C, E and K. This area of skin is highly absorbent and very prone to appearance issues and I think the potential benefits are worth the effort.
Does caffeine fight cellulite?
From a purely scientific perspective one could hope because caffeine theoretically has been shown in the lab to increase lipolysis (fat breakdown) by inhibiting the activity of phosphodiesterase. Unfortunately, this does not seem to translate to real use scenarios. I have not been impressed by studies using topical caffeine cream to reduce cellulite nor have I seen it work when tried by my patients.
What are the side effects of caffeine in skin care?
Caffeine in skin care is considered well tolerated. It is not an allergen nor irritant. When ingested in excess, it can cause heart arrhythmias, agitation and sleep disturbances.
The bottom line for the benefits of caffeine in your skin care products from the dermatologist:
I recommend skin care products that have caffeine combined with green tea EGCG polyphenols as a key part of a skin care routine aimed to improve:
- head and neck skin cancer risk reduction,
- facial skin aging,
- acne, and
- rosacea, seborrhea and facial redness from skin sun damage.
I still think there is potential benefit for eye area puffiness. Though the scientific evidence is lagging, it certainly won't hurt this often troubling and highly absorbent area of skin when combined in a product with other beneficial ingredients.
Sadly, caffeine products for cellulite don't seem to work - darn!
Most commercial results-oriented caffeine skin care products are formulated with around 3% caffeine and I don't recommend applying caffeine products to large body surface areas.
Li YF, Ouyang SH, Tu LF, et al. Caffeine Protects Skin from Oxidative Stress-Induced Senescence through the Activation of Autophagy. Theranostics. 2018;8(20):5713-5730. Published 2018 Nov 10. doi:10.7150/thno.28778
Herman A, Herman AP. Caffeine's mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(1):8-14. doi: 10.1159/000343174. Epub 2012 Oct 11. PMID: 23075568.
Lu YP, Lou YR, Xie JG, Peng QY, Liao J, Yang CS, Huang MT, Conney AH. Topical applications of caffeine or (-)-epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) inhibit carcinogenesis and selectively increase apoptosis in UVB-induced skin tumors in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Sep 17;99(19):12455-60. doi: 10.1073/pnas.182429899. Epub 2002 Aug 30. PMID: 12205293; PMCID: PMC129466.
Stallings Alison F, Lupo, Mary P., Practical Uses of Botanicals in Skin Care, J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2009 Jan;2(1): 36-40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2958188/