Everyone’s favorite morning pick-me-up is not just for drinking
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To simply explain what coffee does for your skin is it to glance over the simple fact that, yes, it's a proven, albeit offbeat, ingredient in products. Coffee is multi-purposeful already, making for a great caffeine boost when brewed as a drink, a deodorizer for your trash when you dispose of the used grounds, and a handy fertilizer for your garden that simultaneously deters pests, but more and more, you’ll find it in skincare, too.
The benefits of coffee—whether applied topically or consumed—come down to two key components: caffeine and antioxidants. Caffeine causes vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels, which can stabilize or raise blood pressure, retain body heat in cold temperatures, control blood distribution throughout the body, facilitate the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to organs in need, and protect against blood and fluid loss. In terms of why using caffeine to cause vasoconstriction would be helpful in skincare, Dr. Suzanne Friedler, a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC in New York City, says there are two noticeable effects: “It’ll help to seal up your pores a little bit [and] it may help to decrease a little bit of redness.”
Separate from caffeine, coffee boasts antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, which are atoms missing electrons in the skin caused by pollution or the sun, that studies show may cause premature aging. Balancing out the free radicals subsequently decreases any inflammation caused by them, as oxidative stress (an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants) can lead to inflammation. Inflammation is linked to aging, although what happens on a molecular level to cause deterioration is not quite understood.
Like any skincare, not all products and methods that work for someone else will work for you. However, if you come across a coffee-based skincare product, such a face mask, serum, body scrub, or lotion, now you know not to write it off as gimmicky. “It may not be for everyone, but for somebody who has rosacea, it might provide a temporary effect,” Friedler says. The vasoconstriction from caffeine is the leading benefit for rosacea (redness in the skin caused by enlarged blood vessels). Even if you don’t have more visible signs of irritation that vasoconstriction addresses, like redness or inflammation, your skin can benefit from the antioxidants in coffee.
While the caffeine and antioxidants work their magic, the physical coffee grounds provide a gentle physical exfoliant for your skin. When combined with water, oil, soap, or lotion, the grounds can physically buff away any dead skin cells, which causes skin cells to turn over faster, resulting in a brighter, more even skin tone.
If you’re looking to add a pick-me-up into your routine, try one of these coffee-rich products.
A delicious-sounding ingredient list on a body scrub is not a necessity, but it is an added bonus for this one from Frank Body. Roasted and ground Robusta coffee beans buff away flaky skin, cacao extract gives you a boost of antioxidants, cold pressed macadamia and sweet almond oils hydrate. Bonus: The actual coffee grounds make for a yummy scent.
Post-scrub, moisturize your skin with this coffee body cream from The Body Shop. The company claims the inclusion of Ethiopian green coffee makes the skin feel smoother and look firmer while olive oil hydrates. It doesn’t smell like coffee, but one reviewer likened the fresh scent to “a forest with a fresh layer of fallen rain.”
If you want to smell coffee right under your nose (hello, wake-up call), this mask from Lush is gentle enough to be massaged into the skin, and you can let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water. Coffee grounds remove any dry skin while kaolin (a type of clay) cleanses your pores.
For hydration, natural beauty brand UpCircle makes a serum with jojoba and sea buckthorn oils to moisturize, and coffee, vitamin C, and rosehip oil even out the skin tone. Just put a few drops in your palm and massage into the face. This one also lacks a coffee smell, but serums are less about the olfactory experience since you’ll follow up with a moisturizer after.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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