When we start thinking about what types of foods dictate a healthful diet, the topic of whether or not caffeine should be considered often comes into question.
Caffeine undoubtedly has some benefits, but without the constant flow of coffee, tea, and energy drinks, the vast majority of us can’t even get out of our pajamas. This makes us health conscious folk wonder; is this caffeine dependency really worth the few hours of improved alertness? Is caffeine a friend or foe for acne sufferers? I’d say that if you depend on it, it’s definitely going to cause some issues down the road…so let’s look into why caffeine can cause acne.
7 Ways Caffeine Causes Acne
While there is no hard scientific evidence that suggests that caffeine is directly linked to the development of acne, there is no question that caffeine contributes to acne prone skin in a number of ways. So, when you ask yourself “Does coffee cause acne?”, the answer could be yes!
1. Caffeine Magnifies Our Stress Response
When caffeine is consumed, it increases the level of androgens (the male sex hormone) in the blood and causes your adrenals to over-react if you’re a consistent high-caffeine consumer. Androgens cause our bodies to experience stress, which is directly linked to the overproduction of skin cells and clogged pores, as well as the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol triggers overt amounts of oil to be produced on the skin. As more and more of this oil accumulates, germs and bacteria multiply in the clogged pores which causes white blood cells to rush to the infection. The resulting inflammation is called acne.
One insane study found that a person who consumes coffee while under stress actually had cortisol levels 211% higher than those who didn’t under the same conditions. This is because caffeine makes you hyperactive.
Some other downsides to overtaxing your adrenals include:
• Insomnia or unrestful sleep
• Dehydrates the skin causing dead skin cells to build up and clog pores
• Inhibits the body’s ability to release toxin build-up
• Sluggish kidney functions
• Contributes to constipation due to decreased water intake
• Can cause various withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, wooziness, and jitters
• Can cause adrenal burn-out over time
All of which contribute to the formation or aggravation of acne! It’s especially important to cut back on caffeine if you suffer from hormonal acne as it can inadvertently affect insulin sensitivity and balance. Blood sugar levels play a HUGE role in the clarity of our skin and can contribute to the production of excess sebum, over-production of skin cells, and causes an increase in inflammation throughout the body.
2. Caffeine Causes Insulin Resistance and Impairs Metabolism
Like I’ve stated above, insulin sensitivity can cause some major acne issues. Drinking coffee can actually impair your body’s ability to process and utilize the carbohydrates you consume which can lead to systemicly elevated insulin and blood sugar levels.
This doesn’t seem to be an issue for those on a low-carb diet, for for those who aren’t, these effects can last up to a week after consuming coffee!
As you know, insulin resistance causes your skin to over-produce oil, sebum, skin cells, and increases inflammation – the perfect environment for acne to thrive.
3. Dairy and Sugar Used in Caffeinated Beverages Cause Acne
For those who add milk, creamer, sugar, or other sweeteners to their morning coffee, acne can be a disaster waiting to happen especially if you get your coffee at Starbucks. There’s no way most people walk out of there without a concoction of milk, sugar, and high amounts of caffeine.
Dairy is also one of the top food groups to cut out of your diet when trying to clear up your skin as it increases inflammation in the body. Sugar also causes blood sugar spikes that depress the immune system and cause your skin to over-produce oil.
Bottomline is, cutting out the dairy and processed sugars you may be adding to your cup of jo is a good place to start.
4. Caffeine Makes You Have Cravings, Especially for Sugar
Since coffee elevates the stress hormone cortisol, our bodies and brains begin to crave comfort foods, especially sweets, salty foods, and carb-rich snacks.
Drinking a lot of coffee on a daily basis makes you crave these acne causing foods and it becomes harder and harder to resist. When you start eating these empty foods you’re basically feeding acne!
5. Coffee Impairs Mineral Absorption
If you’re deficient in zinc, selenium, or iron and drink coffee on a regular basis, chances are it’s the reason you’re deficient in these minerals! Having low zinc levels is especially linked to having more acne prone skin.
Try to have coffee as far between meals if you can. One study revealed that coffee consumed with a meal or within an hour before or after a meal impaired iron absorption by 72%.
6. Caffeine Disrupts the Gut
Having the best gut health you can is important on so many levels including the health and clarity of your skin.
Consuming caffeine in the form of coffee causes the digestive tract to become more acidic. Bad flora, bacteria, and yeasts LOVE acidic environments and will grow out of control causing a dysbiosis in the gut.
Dysbiosis impairs your body’s ability to produce B vitamins as well as its ability to absorb nutrients. This can cause deficiencies, digestive issues, hormonal imbalance, and of course acne!
You can help curb this by taking a really good probiotic, but you would need to avoid drinking coffee too soon before or after taking it.
7. Coffee Contains Mycotoxins
For those of you sensitive to molds and drink a lot of coffee listen up! Mycotoxins are a bi-product of the molds that grow on cheap coffee beans and other crops before harvesting and during storage.
These types of toxins are usually found on low-quality crops of coffee that grow in low-altitude, humid, hot climates and consuming them can do a number of things to your system.
Mycotoxins can cause:
- Impaired immune response to bacteria, fungus, yeasts, and other invaders (including acne bacteria)
- Imbalanced hormones due to the fact that mycotoxins act like estrogen in the body
High quality, high altitude coffee beans typically contains far less mycotoxins.
How do I Cut Back on Caffeine?
My suggestion is to gradually decrease the amount of caffeine that you consume on a daily basis. This way you don’t have a nervous breakdown, have some crazy relapse, or are late to work because you fell asleep in your bowl of cereal.
Over time you’ll find that your body will adjust to smaller amounts of caffeine. Paired with the right lifestyle choices, your complexion will begin to clear. If you enjoy the flavor of tea and coffee and don’t wish to consume any caffeine, go for decaf beverages.
There is one rule that I need to emphasize: NEVER drink caffeine as your first drink of the day. You’ll only acidify your body when you should be alkalizing it. Drink fresh spring water with a squeeze of lemon to help flush your system and hydrate your tissues. I bet if you start doing this simple step, You’ll really feel a difference in your overall hydration throughout the day.
As for me personally, I may have a nice cup of tea or matcha about once a day and I find that it suits me quite nicely. I’m not saying that you have to give up caffeine for good, just consume it consciously and in moderation. Your skin will thank you for it!
What About Decaf?
While decaf coffee still contains the anti-oxidants without the issues related to caffeine consumption it still makes your digestive system more acidic than it should be. Drinking coffee in any form willy nilly without taking this into consideration can eventually cause dysbiosis in the gut and encourage acne as a result.
Another unfortunate thing is that decaf coffee usually contains even HIGHER levels of mycotoxins because decaf beans are often the worst quality beans on the totem pole. Their lack of caffeine content also strips them of any protection the caffeine offered to begin with.
All in all, the best thing for your skin is to switch to tea or herbal teas for your morning cuppa!
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