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What is the Connection Between Caffeine and Acne?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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There are several potential connections between caffeine and acne, although their exact link is not fully understood. Studies have shown that caffeine can make acne symptoms worse. It is not fully understood how or why caffeine causes skin conditions to worsen. Researchers also do not know if symptoms are caused by caffeine itself or something else found in many caffeinated foods and drinks.

One theory of how caffeine and acne are related states that caffeine causes the liver to work more slowly, which leads to a buildup of toxins and breakouts. Caffeine is a stimulating drug and all substances are filtered by the liver to absorb toxins and other impurities. If this cannot be done effectively, these toxins may leave the body through other systems, such as through the pores on the face or through sweat glands. When the pores become bogged down with bacteria and toxins, acne can occur.

Another potential link between caffeine and acne is that many foods and drinks which contain this substance also contain ingredients which may contribute to acne. For instance, chocolate and soft drinks usually have a lot of refined sugar, which some studies have linked to breakouts. Coffee is also often consumed with sugar. Some people may also respond to the heat of hot coffee and tea by flushing, making skin conditions appear worse.

Many experts believe that caffeine may not cause acne and other skin conditions, but that it may aggravate the condition. There may also be other factors to consider. For instance, hormones may also trigger acne breakouts, especially in women during their menstrual cycles. It is also happens that at this time of the month, many women consume more caffeine and sugar than at other times.

Different individuals may have different triggers for their skin conditions, but the link between caffeine and acne should be taken into consideration. One can determine if drinking caffeinated beverages or eating foods which contain it is contributing to breakouts by cutting these things out of the diet for several weeks. If acne improves, this may indicate a connection. It is also a good idea to pay close attention to when breakouts occur, foods eaten beforehand, and whether or not they occur more during certain times of the menstrual cycle than during others.

Anyone with severe acne should visit a dermatologist for treatment options. For many, changing dietary habits is not enough to alleviate acne symptoms. A topical or oral medication may be necessary.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By ddljohn — On Apr 11, 2013

@burcinc-- I know that caffeine does worsen acne for some people, my sister is also one of them. But I think that a little amount, such as one cup of coffee per day isn't the reason. I think caffeine supplements or people who drink four-five cups of coffee a day experience this more.

I think there needs to be more studies on this relationship, I haven't any recent studies done on it.

My theory is that it might have to do with cortisol stress hormones. People break out in pimples when they get stressed. I read somewhere that caffeine raises cortisol stress hormones in the body, so maybe this is how it causes acne.

It might not be having this effect on people who have naturally low levels of cortisol. What do you guys think?

By burcinc — On Apr 10, 2013

I was taking an energy supplement with caffeine earlier this year. It made me break out. When I quit the supplement, my acne disappeared. For me, caffeine causes acne.

By burcidi — On Apr 09, 2013

I don't buy the theory of caffeine causing buildup of toxins. Even if caffeine makes the liver work more slowly (I wonder how much caffeine that takes), caffeine is also diuretic. Caffeine promotes urination and I think that more urination means getting rid of more toxins.

I have acne prone skin and I've been drinking tea and coffee for years. Caffeine has never made my acne worse. There are foods that cause acne like oil rich foods such as nuts and chips. But caffeine is not one of them in my opinion.

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