Does Coffee Cause Acne? (Detailed Guide)

Key Takeaways:

  • There is no definitive evidence that drinking coffee causes acne. However, some factors related to coffee may exacerbate acne.
  • Caffeine in coffee may increase stress hormones like cortisol which can increase oil production and inflammation, potentially worsening acne.
  • Adding milk, cream, or sugar to coffee introduces new acne triggers. Drink black coffee to avoid this.
  • Coffee's antioxidant content may help improve skin health, but more research is needed on coffee's effects on acne.
  • Limiting coffee intake, choosing black coffee, and managing stress levels can help prevent coffee from worsening acne.


Acne is one of the most ubiquitous skin conditions, affecting millions of teenagers and adults worldwide. From mild comedonal acne to severe cystic acne, breakouts can be painful and challenging to treat. With acne prevalence being so high, most people are searching for causes and solutions. One commonly questioned factor is the role of coffee and caffeine intake. Can our daily coffee fix cause or worsen acne?

This article will provide a detailed evaluation of the evidence around coffee and acne. It will analyze key considerations, benefits and drawbacks, related scientific research, and best practices. By the end, readers will have a thorough understanding of coffee's effects on acne as well as recommendations for mitigating any risks. With the comprehensive information provided here, individuals suffering from acne will be empowered to make informed choices regarding coffee consumption.

Acne is a multifaceted skin condition with no single cause. Lifestyle choices, genetics, hormones, diet, hygiene, and more can all contribute to acne to varying degrees. Given coffee's popularity and widespread consumption, it is wise to scrutinize and understand any potential impacts it may have on acne. The information here will help readers gain clarity on this purported acne trigger.

Does Caffeine Cause Acne?

Caffeine is the central nervous stimulant contained in coffee. But does caffeine actually cause acne breakouts itself? Or are other factors at play? Here we analyze the evidence.

Does caffeine increase oil production and inflammation?

Some research indicates that caffeine intake may exacerbate acne:[1]

  • Caffeine consumption can increase stress hormones like cortisol. Fluctuating cortisol levels may trigger excess oil production, leading to more clogged pores and acne.
  • Cortisol also triggers inflammation which worsens acne.
  • According to a study by theJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, caffeine intake correlates with increased cortisol levels.[2]

However, the study did not specifically analyze acne outcomes. More direct research on caffeine, cortisol, and acne is still needed.

Do antioxidants in coffee benefit acne?

While the potential for caffeine to increase oil production and inflammation exists, coffee also contains beneficial antioxidants:

  • Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants like chlorogenic acid that can protect skin cells from free radical damage.[3]
  • Antioxidants combat inflammation, a key factor in acne pathogenesis. This may help mitigate some risks of increased cortisol.
  • One study found coffee's antioxidant content decreased inflammation in skin cells when applied topically.[4]

However, more research is required to determine if antioxidants from consuming coffee impact acne.

Key Takeaway

While caffeine may potentially aggravate acne by increasing oil production and inflammation, the antioxidant content may confer some skin benefits. Overall there is no definitive evidence conclusively linking caffeine alone to worsened acne. More rigorous studies are still needed.

Does Adding Milk or Sugar to Coffee Cause Acne?

Beyond just the underlying coffee, what you add to your brew can also influence acne outcomes. Do additions like milk, cream, or sugar worsen acne?

Can dairy milk worsen acne?

Adding dairy milk to coffee introduces a beverage with the following drawbacks:

  • Hormones found in dairy milk like IGF-1 may stimulate oil production, exacerbating acne.[5]
  • One study found a positive correlation between milk consumption and acne in teenage boys.[6]
  • However, more rigorous research is still needed to establish a causal link.

Does sugar intake cause acne?

Sugar is another common coffee addition which may promote acne:

  • Foods with high glycemic loads like sugar can increase inflammation and oil production.[7]
  • A study in Australia found positive associations between sugar intake and acne severity in young males.[8]

Again, more research is required to determine a direct causal relationship. But limiting sugar intake may be beneficial.

Key Takeaway

Adding dairy milk or sugar to coffee may introduce new acne risks factors not present in black coffee alone. To minimize potential risks, limit additives to your coffee.

How Does Coffee Consumption Amount Affect Acne?

Beyond just coffee's contents, does the quantity consumed also impact acne? Here we analyze evidence on coffee consumption levels.

Can drinking excessive coffee worsen acne?

There are a few reasons a high coffee intake may exacerbate acne:

  • Drinking 3 or more cups of coffee per day provides greater exposure to acne-aggravating components like caffeine.
  • Excess caffeine intake can severely disrupt cortisol levels and hormone balance.[9]
  • One study associated heavy coffee drinking with increased acne risk in women.[10]

Does moderate intake cause acne?

Research suggests coffee consumed in moderation has minimal effects on acne:

  • According to one study, 1-2 cups of coffee per day showed no significant impact on acne development.[11]
  • Low to moderate caffeine intake may not substantially influence hormone levels for most individuals.

Key Takeaway

While excessive coffee intake may potentially worsen acne, moderate consumption in the range of 1-2 cups daily appears to have minimal effects on breakouts.

Can Switching to Decaf Prevent Acne?

For coffee lovers trying to minimize acne risks, one option is switching from regular to decaf coffee. But is decaffeinated coffee any better for your skin?

Does decaf coffee contain less acne-provoking agents?

Decaffeinated coffee contains vastly reduced amounts of caffeine:

  • An 8 oz cup of decaf coffee contains about 3 mg caffeine vs 95 mg in regular coffee.[12]
  • This means decaf delivers only ~3% of caffeine compared to regular.
  • With substantially less caffeine, decaf coffee is less likely to aggravate cortisol levels and acne.

Do the antioxidants remain?

Fortunately, the switch to decaf retains coffee's beneficial antioxidants:

  • Decaffeination does not appear to reduce antioxidant levels in coffee beans.[13]
  • Decaf drinkers can still obtain protective antioxidants like chlorogenic acid.

Key takeaway

Overall, switching to decaf coffee can meaningfully reduce acne risks while retaining antioxidant benefits. It is a wise choice for coffee drinkers prone to breakouts.

How Can You Drink Coffee Without Worsening Acne?

For those who can't give up their coffee fix entirely, here are some tips to enjoy coffee while avoiding increased acne:

  • Limit coffee intake to 1-2 moderate cups per day maximum to prevent excessive caffeine exposure.
  • Avoid additions like milk and sugar that introduce extraneous acne-provoking factors.
  • Choose black coffee to eliminate risks from dairy, sugars, and other additives.
  • Opt for decaffeinated coffee to reduce risks of increased oil production.
  • Manage stress through yoga, meditation, and other techniques.
  • Cleanse skin thoroughly after drinking coffee, but avoid over-washing.

By following these best practices, coffee lovers can continue enjoying their beverage of choice while neutralizing or minimizing risks of aggravated acne.

7 Key Questions About Coffee and Acne

Still have questions about the relationship between coffee and acne? Below are answers to 7 of the most frequently asked questions.

Does coffee cause acne?

There is no definitive evidence that drinking coffee causes acne. However, some components like caffeine may increase hormone levels that could potentially worsen acne for some individuals. More research is still needed.

Does caffeine make acne worse?

Caffeine may exacerbate acne by increasing cortisol levels which stimulate oil production. But caffeine also has antioxidant effects. Overall the impact is inconclusive without further research.

Does adding milk and sugar to coffee worsen acne?

Yes, adding dairy milk introduces hormones that may increase oil production. Added sugar also causes blood sugar spikes that can worsen acne. Drink black coffee to avoid these risks.

Can drinking a lot of coffee cause acne?

Excessive coffee intake, like 3+ cups daily, may contribute to acne breakouts by severely disrupting hormone levels. Moderation is key. 1-2 cups max per day is recommended.

Does decaf coffee help acne?

Yes, switching to decaf coffee can meaningfully reduce risks of acne since it contains nearly no caffeine content. But decaf retains the antioxidant benefits.

Is coffee good for your skin and acne?

Coffee contains antioxidants that may confer some skin benefits related to inflammation and cell protection. But more research is needed to determine coffee's effects on acne specifically.

Should you stop drinking coffee if you have acne?

Eliminating coffee may help some acne sufferers, but moderate coffee intake is likely fine for most people. Focus on limiting intake, choosing black coffee, and managing stress levels.

The Bottom Line: Can Coffee Consumption Affect Acne?

While more extensive research is still needed, some evidence suggests that coffee can exacerbate acne depending on intake amount, additives, caffeine content, and individual hormone sensitivity. The potential for coffee to increase stress hormones like cortisol may instigate more oil production and inflammation.

However, coffee also provides antioxidant benefits that may promote skin health. The relationship is complex with many variables. Overall there is no definitive cause and effect established yet between coffee and worsened acne.

For those concerned, limiting coffee intake, opting for decaf or black coffee, and actively managing stress can help mitigate risks. Coffee drinkers should also adhere to a regular acne skincare regimen to prevent and treat breakouts.

While coffee may not be causing acne, certain factors may lead it to aggravate acne conditions for some individuals. But with careful moderation, addition avoidance, and stress management, coffee consumption and healthy skin can co-exist.


The Editorial Team at brings you insightful and accurate content on a wide range of topics. Our diverse team of talented writers is passionate about providing you with the best possible reading experience.