Is it really worth the buzz?

By Yelena Moroz Alpert
October 14, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement

If you can't start the day without your daily dose of Starbucks, we have some good news: There are other ways to get your caffeine fix (and we’re not talking about tea). According to dermatologists, “But first, coffee,” is a mantra you might want to apply to your skincare routine when fall weather puts your skin into limbo. “The transition between seasons is a big contributor to skin changes,” says Howard Sobel, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City and founder of Sobel Skin. “When the temperature and humidity drops quickly, skin works harder to maintain its hydration.” This can lead to inflammation spikes, especially if you’re prone to skin conditions like rosacea. Add gruesome indoor heating and tiresome back-to-school schedules, and your skin is probably crankier than a kindergartener in Zoom school. 

That’s where caffeine comes in. You’ve probably heard that it can “wake up” your skin, but what does that really mean? “It’s an anti-inflammatory when used topically,” says Dr. Sobel. “It can also reduce wrinkles, brighten skin, and depuff by improving circulation in the skin.” What’s more, its antioxidant-rich, meaning it can help protect skin from UV damage, pollution stressors, and skin cancer. We asked dermatologists how to effectively use caffeine on every area of your skin—and if it really works just as well in a cream as it does in your favorite mug.

Caffeine for your eyes

Your undereyes are a fickle space. Factors like a restless night, a salty dinner, or even too much sun can all cause fluid retention and hyperpigmentation below your eyes. According to Dr. Sobel, caffeine is a great topical ingredient to improve puffiness and promote circulation. Results are not long-lasting, so dermatologists agree that twice a day is the magic number for best results. Keep your eye cream in the fridge for some tingling morning magic, then pamper peepers at night after a long day of staring at the screen. 

Tip: Always tap eye treatments instead of rubbing back and forth. “Dark circles are caused by loss of volume,” says Susan Bard, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Vive Dermatology in Brooklyn, N.Y.  “Rubbing creates shearing forces which can cause micro cracks in the skin. It can also lead to irritation, stimulating pigment producing cells to release its pigment.”

$18, dermstore.com

In balmier weather, look for eye gels that absorb quickly. This one from Versed is infused with caffeine and cucumber juice, and soaks into your skin like a dream.  

$54, sephora.com

If your undereye bags are coupled with dryness, look for emollients like shea butter to smooth out fine lines and create an environmental barrier. The newest from Bobbi Brown works by managing discoloration, then priming the delicate undereye area for concealer should you need to further camouflage last night’s Netflix marathon.

$29, dermstore.com

The paper-thin skin of the eye can be more sensitive to eye cosmetics. If you’re prone to redness, try this hypoallergenic formula starring aloe, rose water, and milder green coffee seed extract.

$7, ulta.com

This serum-like caffeine and EGCG (aka green tea extract) is packed with antioxidants said to reduce sun damage and plump up that sunken eye look. Bonus: It’s practically undetectable once applied, allowing moisturizer or foundation to be layered seamlessly.

Caffeine for your face

Your eyes are not the only place that puffs up. Indulging on high-sodium foods can cause fluid retention, leaving you with a swollen face come morning. According to Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, Calif., caffeine is a vasoconstrictor. “Caffeine may temporarily constrict the superficial blood vessels in the skin, helping the skin to appear less red, irritated, and blotchy,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “By constricting the vessels, it may also help to prevent fluid seepage from those vessels, which may, in turn, help skin appear less puffy.”

Caffeine is also packed with antioxidants. By applying topically, you can limit the amount of free radicals (i.e., the cause of fine lines and wrinkles) that your body produces.  Another anti-aging perk? Amino acids. Some types of coffee, like green coffee bean oil, are full of them and can help aid in collagen and elastin production. Don’t expect to see instant results; but its soothing properties can promote these benefits when used long-term.

$54, sephora.com

Start the day with the ultimate caffeinated skin care experience (it’s akin to taking CrossFit before sunrise!). This mask is made from a blend of yerba mate and guayusa boasting four times more caffeine than coffee. The zingy micro-exfoliant also includes lactic acid (an AHA favorite) to leave your face feeling pumped and rejuvenated.

$45 for 5, nordstrom.com

If you can’t shake off that Zoom zombie pallor, revive your skin with these self-warming masks. Its main star is caffeine, but it's also supported by an Oscar-worthy cast of skin-lightening niacinamide and collagen-building copper tripeptide. 

Caffeine for your body

Caffeine is a prime ingredient found in slimming and cellulite creams. According to Dr. Shainhouse, it can increase blood flow and is said to stimulate the removal of the fatty acid from the fatty layer. 

But know this: while skin is smoother and more taunt after washing with caffeine products, don’t expect a cure for butt dimples. “Caffeine does not get rid of cellulite,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “It may temporarily reduce superficial fluid and inflammation in the skin, so that skin is temporarily dehydrated and less puffy, which can make cellulite visually less apparent. Caffeine does not destroy the fibrous bands that tack down the skin and trap subcutaneous tissue and fat that create the bumpy appearance of cellulite.” 

In short, don’t rely on caffeine as your cellulite cure. But it’s still worth adding to your body lineup; when caffeine is combined with other ingredients, it can energize the skin and optimize cellular energy to help keep skin hydrated, conditioned, and healthy. 

$32, crabtree-evelyn.com

Don't have the time for your cup of joe before showering? Adding a dose of this powder to your body wash is the next best thing. The aroma of this herbal concoction concocted with coffee arabica seeds will awaken skin as much as your brain. 

$45, sephora.com

With over 4,000 five-star reviews, customers swear by this cream’s smoothing effects, thanks to the powerful effects of caffeine-rich guaraná.