Does Coffee Cause Acne?

by Ramona Sinha

Coffee is bad news for acne.

All the coffee addicts out there, don’t take offense if I ask you to stay away from your cuppa. I know how tough it is. I am a coffee-obsessed person, and I turn into a “depresso” every time I think of giving up my cup of espresso. But then, life is about making tough choices. So, is too much coffee really bad for your acne? Scroll down and find out!

Table Of Contents

Does Coffee Cause Acne? What Does Research Say?


Coffee doesn’t cause acne (good news!). But, here’s the bad news – it can worsen your acne. Why? And How?

Coffee is a super complex potpourri of hundreds of chemical compounds (1). All these chemicals have tremendous mood-enhancing abilities. Coffee contains:

  • Dietary phenolic compounds
  • Chlorogenic acids
  • Quinides
  • TrigonellineAnd, of course, caffeine (the culprit!)

Caffeine makes your adrenal glands overreact, which increases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your system (2). Your increased stress levels can worsen your acne.

Stress can turn your already active sebaceous glands hyperactive. And it appears that the sebocytes (sebum producing cells) have stress hormone receptors (3). The extra oil secreted by the pores ultimately clog them, trapping all the dirt, impurities, and bacteria, causing an acne flare-up (4).

Also, when you are addicted to coffee and have multiple number of cups every day, it affects your sleep. If your body doesn’t get enough rest, it is stressed. Fewer hours of sleep means more stress. This is another way coffee can wreak havoc on your existing acne.

Apart from doubling the stress response of your body, here are a few other things coffee does to worsen your acne:

1. It Makes You Insulin Resistant

When you drink coffee, your body cannot process the carbohydrates effectively. This increases the blood sugar levels in your system, and your skin ends up secreting more oil. Also, the skin cells start replicating, which causes inflammation, redness, and swelling.

A study found that consuming coffee along with a low GI meal decreased insulin sensitivity (5). Another study found that the insulin resistance could last for several weeks after you have consumed coffee (6). Not good news at all!

2. Coffee Increases Your Craving For Sweets

And you always wondered why that gooey caramel pudding attracted you like a magnet after you’ve just had a cup of coffee! Well, the caffeine in coffee reduces the perception of sweet taste, which increases your craving for sweets (7). It was also found that sugar consumption could trigger breakouts (8).

But wait. This doesn’t end here.

The relationship between what you eat and your acne flare-ups is pretty complicated. Your diet affects your skin and overall health as well (9).

3. Milk And Sugar In Coffee May Trigger Acne

Love those giant milky concoctions from your favorite coffee shop? Well, think again before ordering them – because milk consumption can trigger acne (10). Moreover, milk can also increase your insulin levels, which can trigger acne (11). The same goes for sugar.

So, does this means you have to cut down on your coffee consumption? If you are overdoing it, I mean, if you are literally surviving on coffee, then, yes!

As I mentioned in the beginning, coffee doesn’t cause acne. But, when you drink a lot of coffee, and that too, with milk, cream, sugar, and sweet donuts and pastries, you are making your acne worse. You don’t have to ditch coffee altogether. But, you can reduce your caffeine intake. At least try to. You can try the following ways.

Back To TOC

How Do I Break Free Of The Caffeine Trap?


1. Cut It Down Gradually

One cup at a time. If you drink a lot of coffee, you might not be able to cut it down to zero one fine morning. If you usually have 10 cups a day, bring the number down to 5. And then, restrict it to only 3 cups a day. Proceed slowly. However, you can still get caffeine from other sources, such as chocolates. Limit your consumption of chocolate too.

2. Switch To Some Other Go-To Drink

Here’s a deal – if you cannot let go of it completely, try decaf (yay!). Decaffeinated coffee does contain caffeine, but it can help you cut down on your caffeine intake. Try this until you can completely switch to some other drink (maybe detox water or lemonade!).

3. Water, Water, And More Water

Whether the weather is is warm or cold, consume a lot of water. Whenever you feel like taking a coffee break, sip on water. Use the coffee mug to keep flavored water (try herbal infusions) and keep sipping. When you are hydrated, you feel more alert and energized.

4. How About Green Tea?

I know green tea is not even remotely close to coffee, but you can give it a try. It contains one-third of the caffeine that coffee has. Try it someday.

5. Avoid Sugar And Skip Those Muffins

Start by cutting down on the sugar content in your drink. Stop pairing your coffee with muffins and donuts. This might help control your breakouts.

Also, make sure you are not drinking coffee in the afternoon and right before going to bed. The caffeine kick can disrupt your sleep and make your acne flare-up go crazy.

Quitting coffee will not give you flawless skin overnight, but you will begin to see the results gradually. Of course, you need to take your acne medication as well. Follow these tips for at least a month and share your experience and feedback in the box below.


  1. The Effect of Time, Roasting Temperature...” Scientific Reports, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion…” Psychosomatic Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Brain-Skin Connection…” Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Study of psychological stress…” Acta-dermato Venereologica, US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Caffeinated coffee consumption impairs…” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Metabolic and hormonal effects of caffeine…” Metabolism, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. Caffeine May Reduce Perceived Sweet…” Journal of Food Science, Wiley Online Library.
  8. Acne: prevalence and relationship…” Journal of The European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. The relationship of diet and acne” Dermatoendocrinology, US National Library of Medicine.
  10. Milk consumption and acne...” Dermatology Online Journal, US National Library of Medicine.
  11. High intakes of milk, but not meat…” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
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Ramona Sinha

Ramona is a journalist-turned-content writer. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and has been writing for the digital world for over five years. She specializes in writing for Skin Care. She has done a certificate course titled ‘Dermatology: Trip To The Skin’, offered by Novosibirsk State University. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps and guides readers in selecting products and ingredients specific to their skin type/issue. When Ramona is not working, her books and passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.