Coffee and Acne: Does Coffee Trigger Acne?

Coffee Can Trigger Acne

Coffee can trigger acne by altering your hormones, messing up your gut flora, and impairing your absorption of minerals.

Ahh, coffee… it’s a magical drink. But there’s a catch!

It might be worsening your acne.

This turns out to be a pretty complex issue… I was actually drinking one cup of coffee a day until I started researching this article.

Okay, let’s dive in to the research.

Want to listen instead of reading? Check out our podcast episode about coffee and acne:

> Subscribe to the CSF podcast on iTunes!

What’s in coffee, anyway?

Coffee is super complex. It contains over 1,000 chemical compounds – that’s more than chocolate (250) and wine (450).[1]  The best-known ingredient in coffee is of course caffeine, which gives coffee its incredible stimulant and mood-enhancing properties. But coffee also contains things like:

  • Antioxidants
  • Chlorogenic acid
  • Lignans
  • Quinides
  • Trigonelline
  • Diterpenes (cafestol, kahweol)

Coffee is an incredibly complex chemical soup with a complex interplay of health benefits and drawbacks. First, let’s breeze through the benefits.

What are the benefits of coffee?

If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you already know the answer to this. Increased focus, mood enhancements, and just, well… waking up! There are also reported benefits to lowering Type 2 Diabetes risk, increasing athletic performance, preventing cognitive decline with aging, and more.[2] [3] [4]

That’s all well and good, but it turns out there’s a dark side to coffee for acne sufferers.

So… can coffee trigger acne, or what?

Unfortunately… yes! After a careful review of the evidence, it appears that coffee can trigger acne in several important ways. Actually, seven ways! Check this out – this is incredibly fascinating stuff.

Get rid of acne NOW with these diet and lifestyle changes.

Join 5,000+ readers. Detox your diet and lifestyle and get rid of acne for good, with Clear Skin Forever.

Tell Me More!

#1: Coffee magnifies your body’s stress response

Coffee magnifies your body’s response to stressful events. This is the most dire and far-reaching problem with coffee consumption in relation to acne, I believe.

In technical terms, coffee triggers “hyperadrenalism” – it makes your adrenal glands over-react to stressful events by pumping out excess stress hormones. Not good!

Normally, your body reacts to stressful events – you know, all those little daily stressors at work, while driving, at home, etc., as well as the big things like relationship problems and family issues – by going into “stress mode,” i.e. activating your sympathetic nervous system. Your body releases three hormones – cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine – to prepare you for a “fight or flight” response.

When the stressor is gone, your body goes back into “relaxation mode” (i.e. parasympathetic nervous system mode), and these stress hormones vanish.

(The problem with a lot of the stressors I mentioned is that they don’t stop, they don’t go away. So we’re dealing with chronic, low-level stress all the time. That’s a fundamental problem with Western civilization, I think – read Dr. Sapolsky’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers for an incredible description of this widespread problem and how to fix it.)

So already, we’re dealing with chronically elevated stress hormones. That’s bad enough for acne, but coffee adds fuel to the fire.

In fact, coffee massively magnifies your body’s stress response. One study found that after drinking coffee, a stressful event raised study subjects’ cortisol 211% versus those who didn’t drink coffee, and epinephrine was 233% higher! That means that coffee essentially doubles your body’s hormonal stress response.[5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

This is bad news for your skin, because the same stress hormones that prepare you for a “fight or flight” response (including cortisol) also trigger acne. These stress hormones make your body pump out insulin, a hormone that causes acne in at least three ways:

  • Insulin makes your skin produce excess oil / sebum.
  • Insulin triggers over-production of new skin cells, which makes your pores more likely to get clogged.
  • Insulin increases your body’s inflammation levels, which makes acne more red and swollen.

If that wasn’t bad enough, cortisol depresses your immune system, making it much more difficult for your skin to fight off P. acnes bacteria, which multiply inside clogged pores, eat your sebum (yuck!), and produce inflammatory by-products that make acne even more red and swollen.[9] [10]

So essentially, coffee makes you hyperactive in response to stress, so your body blows things out of proportion, and makes things really difficult on your skin – the result? Worsened acne.

#2: Coffee impairs glucose metabolism and makes you insulin resistant

This is similar to #1, but a little different. Drinking coffee actually makes it more difficult for your body to process carbohydrates effectively. Basically, coffee makes you insulin resistant, which can lead to systemic elevated insulin and blood sugar, causing your skin to over-produce oil, your skin cells to replicate too quickly, and your inflammation levels to go up (i.e. more redness/swelling of acne).

One study found that when healthy men drank coffee, they had 40% reduced insulin sensitivity after they ate a high-glycemic meal an hour later. Not good! That means their blood sugar stayed elevated for a much longer period of time than it normally would.[11]

Another study found that this insulin-resistance effect lasts for a week after coffee consumption.[12]

Several other studies have reached a similar conclusion, finding that caffeine induces insulin resistance.[13] [14] [15] [16] [17]

This isn’t as much of a problem if you’re eating extremely low-carb, but for most folks, coffee can pose a real problem as far as provoking short-term insulin resistance, which can worsen acne.

#3: Milk and sugar in coffee drinks cause acne

Coffee drinks frequently contain milk and sugar. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to walk away from Starbucks without a giant milky concoction, with 8 ounces of low-fat, pasteurized, conventionally-raised milk (the worst kind for acne), a load of sugar, and poor-quality coffee with 300mg+ of caffeine (a stress disaster waiting to happen).

So why are milk and sugar bad for acne?

Well, simply put, milk is probably the #1 worst thing you could eat for acne, and sugar is right up there, spiking your blood sugar, boosting inflammation/redness/swelling of acne, making your skin over-produce oil, depressing your immune system, and damaging your skin cells through glycation.

In short, milky, sugary coffee drinks are acne bombs. Avoid at all costs! If you’re in a bind, go for black coffee, always. However, black coffee still has the other 12 acne triggers associated with it… read on to find out more!

#4: Coffee makes you crave sweets (which cause acne)

Coffee boosts stress hormones (as we saw in #1), which stimulate cravings for sweet, calorie dense foods and salty, high-carbohydrate snacks, which are a recipe for acne.[18]

When you’re drinking coffee every day, it’s much more difficult to say “no” to these cravings, and you end up eating more junk than you otherwise would. The big problem is that these junk foods – chips, cookies, candy, sweets, pastries, etc. – really trigger acne in a bad way. They’re basically made entirely out of different combinations of the top four acne triggers – milk/dairy, gluten, sugar, and vegetable oil.

Avoiding coffee entirely is the best way to let your appetite regulate itself naturally – you’ll find it much easier to avoid problematic acne-causing foods by ditching coffee.

#5: Coffee interferes with absorption of minerals from food

When you drink coffee with a meal (or close to a meal), it impairs your body’s ability to absorb minerals from your food. That’s a really big potential issue for acne sufferers, because acne can be worsened by deficiencies in minerals like zinc, selenium, and iron.[19]

In fact, one study found that drinking coffee with a meal (or up to 1 hour after eating) impaired iron absorption by a whopping 72%![20]

Avoiding coffee will help your body absorb more minerals from your food, which are absolutely key to clearing acne and maintaining clear skin.

#6: Coffee can disrupt your gut flora, leading to acne

Coffee can cause disruptions in your gut flora due to its high acidity, leading to a condition known as “dysbiosis” – essentially, overgrowth of bad bacteria in your intestine, and not enough good bacteria.[20]

Dysbiosis hampers your ability to produce B vitamins and absorb nutrients from food, which is how you get all your nutrients! It’s extremely critical to have this functioning properly, or you risk nutrient deficiencies of all kinds, food malabsorption, digestive issues, and a whole range of potential health issues (including acne).

Dysbiosis also triggers gut inflammation, which can lead to leaky gut and persistent low-level inflammation (redness and swelling of acne).

Probiotics are great, but if you’re still drinking coffee, you’re preventing those probiotics from doing their job properly. You really, really need healthy gut flora to maintain clear skin.[21]

#7: Coffee contains mycotoxins, which can trigger acne

Wait… what? What the heck are mycotoxins?

Basically, they’re toxins created by molds that grow on crops, both before harvesting (during crop growth) and after harvesting (during crop storage).

Not a lot of people know about mycotoxins yet. They’re not out in the public consciousness. And it’s really important that you know about them! Because mycotoxins are bad news for acne.

Molds grow on coffee plants that are grown in low-altitude, hot, humid climates – most cheap coffee (Starbucks, restaurants, coffee stands, and other chains) comes from low-quality coffee grown in such climates. These low-quality coffees are contaminated with high levels of mycotoxins like fusarium and ochratoxin A.[22] [23] [24] [25]

Mycotoxins can worsen acne in several important ways:

  • Mycotoxins can screw with your immune system, preventing proper, speedy immune response to invaders (including acne bacteria).
  • Mycotoxins can act like estrogen in the body – anything that disrupts sex hormone levels is likely to worsen acne.
  • Mycotoxins can lead to cancer (not related to acne, but a bummer nonetheless!).

Now, not all coffee is totally loaded with mycotoxins. High-altitude, carefully-harvested and processed coffee contains much lower levels of mycotoxins, and is available from quality roasters like Blue Bottle Coffee, Intelligentsia, and many smaller local roasters. However, this really high-quality, mycotoxin-free coffee is expensive, and still has all the other problems associated with coffee (#1-6 above).

Three additional reasons to quit coffee (not related to acne)

  • Coffee screws up your normal sleep/wake hormone cycle. In the morning, your cortisol levels are supposed to be highest (which helps you wake up in the morning), but chronic coffee drinkers don’t experience this naturally elevated cortisol in the morning, so they have to drink coffee to spike their cortisol back to normal levels, so they actually can wake up and be functional. Much better, in my book, to let your hormones naturally regulate themselves, rather than becoming dependent on a drug like caffeine to raise your cortisol / wake you up in the morning.
  • Coffee makes it more difficult to build muscle. Coffee is catabolic, because it boosts your cortisol for up to 10 hours after drinking it. Cortisol basically eats your muscles – if you want to build muscle, you’re looking to minimize catabolic hormones like cortisol and maximize anabolic hormones like growth hormone (naturally, of course, by lifting heavy weights – artificially boosting these hormones through whey protein, muscle supplements, testosterone boosters, etc. tends to trigger acne.)
  • Coffee dehydrates the body (it’s a diuretic). This can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling, according to Dr. Perricone, author of The Wrinkle Cure. Coffee also impairs collagen and elastin production, which are absolutely critical to maintaining supple, youthful skin, so coffee ages your skin faster. Quitting coffee will allow you to maintain that beautiful glow and healthy-looking skin for longer.

So… what about decaf?

Decaf coffee may be a reasonable alternative, with some caveats. It still contains the beneficial antioxidants of coffee without the problems associated with caffeine and the elevated stress response (#1, 2, & 4 above), but it is still acidic and can cause digestive flora problems, dysbiosis, and therefore acne.

One big hangup is that decaf coffee usually contains even more mycotoxins than regular coffee, because the worst-quality beans (read: the most mold-infected beans) are usually relegated to “decaf duty,” so you’re getting the biggest mycotoxin hit. Furthermore, the caffeine in coffee is actually protective against mold growth and mycotoxins, so removing the caffeine (as in decaf) makes it more likely that mold will grow on the coffee during storage. No bueno!

So if you want to drink decaf, buy your coffee fresh-roasted from one of the really high-quality coffee roasters out there making high-quality decaf using a Swiss water process to remove the caffeine. They’re using high-altitude, low-mycotoxin beans. You’ll pay a premium for these, but you will avoid most of the caffeine issue, and the mycotoxin issue as well. The only remaining problems with such high-quality decaf would be the mineral deficiencies and dysbiosis (#5 & 6 above). On the occasions when we drink it, we get our decaf from a great local roaster in Bend, Oregon – Lone Pine – and you can order beans online from companies like Intelligentsia and Blue Bottle (we’re not affiliated with any of these companies).

An even better idea is to drink herbal tea, or a steaming cup of bone broth (build your bones with your morning cuppa, don’t deplete them!). Or even simpler (and cheaper), just drink water in the morning with breakfast!

Okay, I’m convinced – I’ll quit drinking coffee! But what about the withdrawal headaches?

Yep… this is a tough one. Quitting coffee is not easy. The headaches, the brain fog, the crappy mood… however, there are a few things you can do to make it easier. As you quit coffee, you can supplement with the amino acids L-phenylalanine and L-tyrosine to prevent withdrawal headaches and mood symptoms. Try taking 500mg of each at breakfast (when you’d normally have coffee), and then again at lunch if you’re experiencing symptoms, and then again at dinner if headaches, etc. are persisting. I’ve used these amino acids to great effect when quitting coffee – my brain stayed a lot clearer, the headaches weren’t nearly as bad, and they helped me get through the worst 3-4 days at the beginning. All in all, quitting coffee is not an easy process, so if you decide to do it, definitely be kind to yourself! Give yourself a little extra leeway, a little more space, a little more pampering during the process.

For a more in-depth explanation of using L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine, read this article.

What about tea? Is it okay to drink?

Awesome question! A lot of the studies quoted here were done with doses of 200mg of caffeine or more. Average adult caffeine consumption is something like 300mg per day. Tea, fortunately, has a lot less, though the amounts vary. According to one report, here are the amounts of caffeine in tea:[26]

Black Tea: 23 – 110 mg
Oolong Tea: 12 – 55 mg
Green Tea: 8 – 36 mg
White Tea: 6 – 25 mg

It depends a lot on how strongly you brew your tea, as well as how caffeinated the tea itself is. In general, white tea has the least caffeine and the most EGCG (a potent anti-acne compound), green tea has a little more caffeine and a little less EGCG, and black tea has the most caffeine and not nearly as much EGCG. White tea is really your best bet. I’ve found a quite inexpensive box of white tea containing 100 tea bags (organic) for under $10 at Whole Foods – Prince of Peace brand, I believe. It takes a little getting used to, coming from black tea, but it’s really quite enjoyable. You should be fine with green tea, too, though I’d generally discourage drinking black tea since it can approach coffee-like amounts of caffeine.

The effects of caffeine on your stress hormone levels appear to be dose-dependent, so drinking substantially less caffeine – through, say, a cup of white tea in the morning – shouldn’t really cause much of a problem. Tea also doesn’t have some of the other problems that coffee does, like acidity. (Tea does impair iron absorption and potentially other minerals, so it’s best to drink it 30-60 minutes before meals, or several hours after a meal.)

Herbal tea, of course, is a perfect substitute! It has zero caffeine, no acidity, and all the medicinal benefits of quality herbs.

Key Takeaways

Coffee can cause acne in a variety of ways:

  • Coffee magnifies your body’s stress response, boosting stress hormones that lead to acne.
  • Coffee drinks are often spiked with milk and sugar, which are two of the top four dietary acne triggers.
  • Coffee can disrupt your gut flora, causing dysbiosis, inflammation, and redness/swelling of acne.
  • Quitting coffee is a small part of a holistic diet- and lifestyle-based treatment for acne.
  • There are many bigger, more important root causes of acne. You need to fix your diet and lifestyle to really cure these root causes of acne (that’s what our book is all about!).

In my opinion, if you want clear skin, there are too many reasons to not quit coffee. It tends to cause acne, especially in acne-prone individuals, and if you’re already struggling with acne, chances are you could boost your results by quitting coffee, and thereby helping to re-normalize your digestion, immune system, and hormones.

Tips for avoiding withdrawal symptoms while quitting coffee are here.

You can replace coffee with some organic white tea, green tea, or herbal tea, or just drop the idea altogether and just drink a green smoothie with breakfast! Plenty of clear-skin-friendly options to choose from. Decaf is also a halfway decent solution, but still causes problems for me (nervousness, irritated stomach and throat from the acidity, etc.), so best to drop coffee altogether. (On the regular, that is! I do enjoy caffeinated coffee on occasion – just not as a daily ritual. That one’s up to you.)

Thanks much to Richard Northrop, a physiologist from Rochester, for providing the inspiration (and some excellent scientific explanations) for this article.

Sources (click to expand)

  1.  http://individual.troweprice.com/public/Retail/Planning-&-Research/Connections/Coffee/Coffee-For-Your-Health ^
  2. Coffee, glucose homeostasis, and insulin resistance: physiological mechanisms and mediators. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Dec;33(6):1290-300. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19088791 ^
  3. Coffee consumption and the decreased risk of diabetes mellitus type 2. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2006 Aug 19;150(33):1821-5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16967592 ^
  4. Effects of caffeine on human behavior. Food Chem Toxicol. 2002 Sep;40(9):1243-55. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12204388 ^
  5. Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption. Psychosom Med. 1990 May-Jun;52(3):320-36. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2195579 ^
  6. Caffeine affects cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activation at work and home. Psychosom Med. 2002 Jul-Aug;64(4):595-603. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12140349 ^
  7. Stress-like adrenocorticotropin responses to caffeine in young healthy men. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1996 Nov;55(3):365-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8951977 ^
  8. Inheritable stimulatory effects of caffeine on steroidogenic acute regulatory protein expression and cortisol production in human adrenocortical cells. Chem Biol Interact. 2012 Jan 5;195(1):68-75. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22100783 ^
  9. Caffeinated coffee does not acutely affect energy intake, appetite, or inflammation but prevents serum cortisol concentrations from falling in healthy men. J Nutr. 2011 Apr 1;141(4):703-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21346100 ^
  10. Immunodeficiency via glucocorticoids. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glucocorticoid#Immunodeficiency ^
  11. Caffeinated coffee consumption impairs blood glucose homeostasis in response to high and low glycemic index meals in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1254-61. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18469247 ^
  12. Metabolic and hormonal effects of caffeine: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Metabolism. 2007 Dec;56(12):1694-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17998023 ^
  13. Caffeine ingestion increases the insulin response to an oral-glucose-tolerance test in obese men before and after weight loss. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jul;80(1):22-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15213023 ^
  14. Inheritable stimulatory effects of caffeine on steroidogenic acute regulatory protein expression and cortisol production in human adrenocortical cells. Chem Biol Interact. 2012 Jan 5;195(1):68-75. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22100783 ^
  15. Acute caffeine ingestion and glucose tolerance in women with or without gestational diabetes mellitus. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2009 Apr;31(4):304-12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19497149 ^
  16. Glucose homeostasis remains altered by acute caffeine ingestion following 2 weeks of daily caffeine consumption in previously non-caffeine-consuming males. Br J Nutr. 2007 Sep;98(3):556-62. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17524180 ^
  17. Consumption of caffeinated coffee and a high carbohydrate meal affects postprandial metabolism of a subsequent oral glucose tolerance test in young, healthy males. Br J Nutr. 2010 Mar;103(6):833-41. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19889241 ^
  18. Caffeine free for optimum health. http://pacificfit.net/nutritional-supplements/coffee/#Anchor-Caffeine-49575 ^
  19. Vitamins and minerals that affect the immune system.  United States Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.hiv.va.gov/patient/diet/vitamin-mineral-chart.asp ^
  20. Inhibition of food iron absorption by coffee. Am J Clin Nutr March 1983 vol. 37 no. 3 416-420. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/37/3/416.abstract ^
  21. Ten reasons to quit your coffee! http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/06/13/ten-reasons-to-quit-your-coffee/#close ^
  22. An investigation into Fusarium spp. associated with coffee and banana plants as potential pathogens of robusta coffee. African Journal of Ecology, Volume 45, Issue Supplement s1, pages 91–95, March 2007. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2028.2007.00744.x/abstract ^
  23. Incidence of microflora and of ochratoxin A in green coffee beans (Coffea arabica). Food Addit Contam. 2003 Dec;20(12):1127-31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14726276 ^
  24. The occurrence of ochratoxin A in coffee. Food Chem Toxicol. 1995 May;33(5):341-55. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7759018 ^
  25. Why bad coffee makes you weak. http://www.bulletproofexec.com/why-bad-coffee-makes-you-weak/ ^
  26. http://www.thefragrantleaf.com/caffeine-and-tea ^

{ 96 Comments }

  1. Anne says

    I am suffering from acne, and browsing through the internet to find things that I consume which I should avoid like foods that contain gluten..then I accidentally saw this page which is about acne and coffee :((((( I already finished my cup of coffee this morming, this makes me really sad st the same time opened my awareness..because even I take anti acne supplement and vitamins that helps my skin i still have breakouts…I already stopped consuming it before, my pimples heal up faster but not drinking coffee makes me very low energetic in terms of work and makes me a lot more sleepy so I have been drinking coffee again and now HUHUHU 😭 I guess I should stop again…thank you for the info. I hope my skin will be acne free soon…and I hope better skin to everyone! Godbless

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Anne! If you’re tired all the time when you don’t drink coffee, that could just be caffeine dependence (which is temporary), or it could point to a deeper issue such as adrenal fatigue. If that’s the case, drinking coffee can just stress out your adrenals even more, when what they really may require is more rest, more mineral and nutrient support, that kind of thing. We did manage to function for hundreds of thousands of years without caffeine! We also had much less stressful lives way back when, too, so there’s that. Ever try supplementing magnesium?

  2. Francina says

    I’ve battled with acne, bacterial overgrowth and bloating for years. I stopped drinking coffee a little over 2 weeks ago and I’m feeling so much better from my upset and bloated stomach. Yesterday I had an aha moment when I realized how clear my skin has been getting as well. Not one zit in sight! I took to the web to research my suspicions. This article blew me away and it’s spot on. Thank you so much for discussing the effects of coffee something my doctors never shared with me. I really appreciate it and will pass on to others.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Francina! That’s amazing that coffee had this direct and noticeable of an effect on your skin. Way to go, I’m glad you figured this out! :)

  3. Jaymie Wilson says

    So i replaced coffee with yerba mate and i take alot of it before class cause it helps me relax, focus, and just feel really good. Im starting to notice alot of new forehead pimples now and just on the forehead. I want to know is yerba mate a safe replacement for coffee for people with acne, it has awesome benefits for my mood but not my forehead it seems :(

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Jaymie! Not an easy question to answer without knowing more details. For instance, did anything stressful happen recently? Is school stressing you out? How much yerba mate are you drinking? What’s your diet look like?

      It’s possible that your body just doesn’t like caffeine. For example, I have a genetic mutation that tends to make me feel jittery on larger amounts of caffeine. Doesn’t mean you have one, but it’s also worth testing herbal teas (non-caffeinated) and more sleep instead of going the caffeine route! Caffeine can also tax your adrenals over time, especially if it becomes a crutch for not getting enough sleep and/or rest.

  4. Stacey says

    My weekly treat is one long black high quality decaf coffee at my local barista with almond milk. Delicious. It’s a treat I follow the diet very well besides this one treat.

  5. Kelly A. says

    Until two years ago I never had a problem with acne I went to my husband and of course his answer is “its your hormones” while I suspected coffee as the culprit. After reading this article I understand that we were both right! I plan on changing my whole diet. Any advice on how to get my husband to stop asking me for coffee in the am? Lol. Great job!

    • Rachel says

      I forgot to mention that I read this is a great option for exfoliation. Is exfoliation essential? I have oily skin and painful bumps so I really want something gentle. Thanks

      • Devin Mooers says

        Yaaah I’m not a big fan of exfoliation. Tends to irritate the skin, and can worsen acne/bumps. Face care routine we use: rinse with cool or warm water, but not too hot (or just briefly in the shower), pat dry with a towel, and apply argan oil if necessary to moisturize. Done!

    • Devin Mooers says

      No idea on this, sorry! We generally advise against using topical treatments of all kinds because they prevent you from really digging deep and figuring out / fixing your own root causes of acne. BTW looks like you’re from Seattle from your email – I grew up there. Awesome.

  6. Kat says

    thank you SO much for this article. A few weeks ago I had a niggle that coffee was making my face flare up, I went off it and it looked better quickly, I fell back in to the coffee trap and my face has flared up again which is why I went on search for info – this is kinda the final nail in the coffee coffin. thanks!

    • Devin Mooers says

      You’re very welcome! :) I can tolerate high-quality decaf okay (YMMV on that), but caf coffee still drives my stress levels through the roof and, yeah, just not good.

  7. Rita Mohacsi says

    I never have had acne but I’ve always been a nervous type.
    I have this weird looking spots that look like chickenpox but no doctor knows what it is but I think it’s nerves causing it and I may try to give up coffee. The worst thing is I have a spot on my four head which looks like a burn about the size of a quarter and now I have one on my elbow I would be interested in any help you might be able to give me.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Rita! Unfortunately we can’t help you with a diagnosis, but if you have an intuition that giving up coffee might help your skin problem (and especially if you’re already a nervous type!), I think it’s a great idea to avoid it for awhile and see how you feel / how your skin is affected.

      • Janet Clark says

        It sounds like shingles, a mild case, to me. I have this with the same symptom as a result of chicken pox as a child (and btw if you think that’s an old people’s disease, I started having shingles at age 12). It might give you a clue as to where to look for information. Stress causes flareups. If you’ve had it more than once, it can cause nerve damage, but initially, it can be very itchy. The good news is that there is now a vaccine for it.

  8. beautiful s says

    I had acne right up until I was 30 years old and then I realized my acne was caused by 2 reasons:

    (1) Spicy foods – they caused me to break out. Spicy food creates inflammation in the gut—from an upset stomach and this inflammation can also be seen on the skin with acne.

    (2) Using the wrong products. I was using really harsh acne products, but my skin is sensitive! I tried all of them, and the best products for my sensitive skin were Citrus Clear’s Sensitive Wash. Its strong enough to take the old off my face, but doesnt strip it. It also have that Vitamin A Retinol thing, which is great for clearing oil.

    Try both of them !

  9. asdf says

    i’m 14 years old. I’ve been drinking and addicted to coffee since I was around 12, i guess. I have pimples all over my face (worsttttt) . I’ve used diff. products, but none worked. I hope getting rid of coffee will help me bring back my self-esteem. hays. Btw, thanks for this article! ^^

    • Sonia Carlson says

      I hope it helps too! :) If you want other diet-based strategies, check out some of our other blog posts, like this one on dairy.

  10. freya says

    wow this was such an interesting article. It’s ashame if it’s true because i love coffee and i used to have two a day at least. but ive already stopped drinking coffee for a week ( before i found this article) and have not really seen an improvement, how soon would you think i would see an improvement. i only stopped drinking coffee because my friend had told me it affects acne and recently my acne has been worse even though i hadn’t been drinking more coffee than normal.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Freya,

      Good for you for giving up coffee for a week!! Most dietary changes don’t produce overnight results, and even a week isn’t long enough in a lot of cases. Your body (and adrenals) need time to recover from a caffeine habit, so I think a month’s not too long to wait to see results. That said, coffee isn’t the only culprit for most people’s acne. You might get faster results if you try some other diet changes / supplements at the same time – I recommend reading our articles on milk and vitamin D next if you haven’t already!

  11. Jay says

    The one main cause of coffee causing spots/acne isn’t even in your article… D’oh!!! Coffee is sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers, and how does your body get rid of these chemicals… through the skin! All these chemicals being filtered through the skin causes the pores to get blocked with excess sebum and hey presto, spot city! I used to get really big cysts on my scalp for years, and when i read up on coffee i decided to pack it in for a couple of months and the spots went away… and they didn’t come back!! I haven’t drank coffee since. I have maybe drank coffee twice in the last 4 years, and both times i could feel my scalp getting itchy for like a week afterwards, and when i touched my hair with my hand, my hand looked oily!! Im telling you folks, if your anything like me, just stick to a cup of tea and your acne should clear up in no time :)

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Thanks for pointing that out, Jay – those chemicals are everywhere in our food (and drink) supply, and it’s definitely wise to avoid them as much as possible. Really glad to hear that cutting out coffee worked for you! (Are you opting for organically grown teas, then?)

  12. Olena says

    Oh no.. Your article has convinced me to give up coffee – and I absolutely adore the taste.. Grrr.. But the truth is the truth.

    Thanks!

  13. Bal says

    Fantastic article. I’m facing the same issue and have been since late 2012. I used to be perfectly fine drinking coffee, but now I break out on my face with any kind of caffeine. Thank you for providing this information. Very useful advice.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Bal! Huh, I wonder what changed? Funny how the body does that sometimes – one day it can tolerate X food, and the next it starts to trigger acne. Pretty mysterious thing, sometimes!

  14. katie says

    I just want to add weight to this article that coffee intake and face/chest/back acne breakouts go together for me. Even one cup a day or several times a week is too much. My partner noticed the pattern first, then I tested it out for myself by not having coffee for a few weeks and then drinking it again for a few weeks. I tried this multiple times to confirm because I love coffee and didn’t want to believe it.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Dang, sorry to hear that, Katie! Well, I’m glad you figured this out anyway. Better to know, that way you can decide whether it’s worth it to ya or not. Have you tried decaf? Does it have the same effect?

  15. Louise says

    Hi there, thanks very much for this article, I really appreciate the clarity and lack of ‘health’/cleanliving lifestyle buzzwords! Yes, there is a terrible desperation for the acne sufferer, a sense that one has to quit every substance related to pleasure. We can’t drink booze, or coffee, or eat sweets, or dairy without getting severely punished. How many mornings have I woken up, checking on how much my scars have faded overnight only to find fresh lesions coming up to replace the healed ones before getting to work with the concealer in order to face another day. Coffee, for me, was the final piece of the puzzle. I know so many pre-menopausal women (ie in between children / menopause, early 40’s) who have terrible acne, and they go on synethic testosterone blocking hormones (contraceptive pill) to control it, when the answer is right there on their plate or in their glass. Thanks again Devin, you’re an excellent health writer and you have a new fan.

    • Olena says

      Totally! Diet is usually the BIGGEST contributing factor, especially in adult acne. The good news is that at least us acne-prone skinned people have the kind of skin that shows us when we ingest things we shouldn’t..

      Imagine those people who eat all the dairy, sugar, coffee etc. who never change their lifestyle or diet because their skin is somehow more resilient.. They’re messing themselves up from within without realizing and without having to reevaluate the way we always do.

      Best,
      Olena (former Acne sufferer)

Like what you read? Have something to share? Leave a comment below! Your ideas are much appreciated, though we can't answer every individual question. :)

- Devin and Sonia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Need to get rid of acne ASAP?

Get instant access to our comprehensive guide to getting rid of acne permanently, through intelligent diet and lifestyle changes. Learn how to get clear skin ASAP, by getting a copy of our e-book.

Get our complete solution