Your morning cup of joe is doing more than energizing you for the day. It’s also offering your body a host of health benefits. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, caffeine is not only good for skin but coffee may help your body process sugar and decrease your risk of health issues, including Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon cancer. It may even help you live longer.
There’s also some buzz that coffee can contribute to weight loss. That’s partly because when enjoyed plain, coffee is a low-calorie beverage, at about 5 calories per cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
How Caffeine May Help Support Weight Loss
But there’s more to it than that. Coffee may aid your weight loss efforts in the following ways.
It Revs Your Metabolism
“Coffee increases metabolism because its main component, caffeine, is a stimulant that enhances your metabolic thermogenesis, which is the process by which the body generates heat from digested food substances,” says Daniel Boyer, MD, a medical researcher in Des Moines, Iowa, who focuses on molecular biology and pharmacology, among other subjects, and is associated with the Farr Institute.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a fast metabolism means you’ll burn more calories during the day, whether you’re moving or at rest. “This means a faster metabolic rate promotes a quicker weight loss than a slower metabolic rate,” Dr. Boyer says.
It Suppresses Your Appetite
For some people, drinking coffee promotes a feeling of fullness, according to the Mayo Clinic. That could affect your weight, because if you’re not reaching for extra meals and snacks throughout the day, you may consume fewer calories overall. Excess calorie intake is a major contributor to weight gain, Boyer says.
A review published in April 2017 in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that participants who consumed caffeine 30 minutes to 4 hours before mealtime had lower food intake. Other studies haven’t confirmed this link, though, so don’t stake your diet on this effect.
It’s Associated With Reduced Body Fat
A previous study found that people who consumed 250 milliliters (ml) of coffee (about 1 cup) three times per day saw decreased body fat during the four-week study period. Another study, published December 2019 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking four cups of coffee per day led to a 4 percent decrease in body fat over the 24-week study, likely because of coffee’s ability to support metabolism. That said, three to four cups of coffee may be more java than you typically drink.
Coffee consumed before a workout may also boost your body’s fat-burning process, Boyer says. A small study published January 2021 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that a strong dose of caffeine 30 minutes before aerobic exercise (about 200 milligrams [mg] for a 154-pound person, or about what you’d find in a tall Starbucks coffee) increased fat burning.
You may have noticed that while many popular eating plans that limit or eliminate foods or food groups, such as Whole30 (which limits added sugar, alcohol, legumes, dairy, and grains), coffee is rarely off-limits.
Some diets even encourage coffee drinking. The ketogenic diet, for instance, promotes bulletproof coffee, which mixes coffee with butter and a supplement called MCT oil. WW, which uses a point system to track every food you eat each day, lists black coffee as a Zero-Point beverage, meaning there is no limit to how much you can drink.
How to Maximize Coffee’s Weight Loss Potential
If you’re not careful, though, your cup of coffee can easily swerve into unhealthy territory. If you add sweeteners, milk, and other high-calorie ingredients, you could be pushing 300 to 500 calories per drink.
“Black coffee is certainly preferred if weight loss is the goal, but certain additives may be okay,” says Kristin Gillespie, RDN, a nutrition support dietitian for Option Care Health and an adviser for Exercise With Style in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “Sugar-free sweeteners, such as stevia and Truvia, and small amounts of low-fat milk should not interfere with your weight loss goals.” She says to avoid adding sugar and cream (including half-and-half) to keep calories in check.
As for the fancy coffee drinks, like Peppermint Mochas and Pumpkin Spice Lattes — avoid them! “Those drinks are probably the worst thing for those seeking to lose weight,” Gillespie says. “They are packed with calories and sugar, often containing several hundred calories in just one drink.”
Are There Health Risks Associated With Drinking Coffee?
Before you start guzzling coffee all day long, keep in mind that while there is some scientific evidence to support coffee’s effect on your waistline, you don’t want to go overboard. Coffee can lead to trouble sleeping, even if you drink it up to six hours before bed, research has shown. That ultimately can affect your weight, because poor sleep increases hunger and appetite by altering the hormones ghrelin, which influences hunger, and leptin, which affects feelings of fullness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Too much caffeine can also introduce other health issues, such as nervousness, nausea, and increased blood pressure, per the Mayo Clinic. A good rule of thumb is not to exceed 400 mg of caffeine (about four cups of coffee) per day.
And make sure your last cup is about six hours before bedtime (or earlier if you’re more sensitive to coffee’s effects) to keep it from messing with your sleep, Boyer says.
Caffeine in Skin Care: Does It Actually Work?
Caffeine is not just for mornings anymore.
This simple yet effective ingredient is gaining traction in the beauty world, thanks to its popularity on TikTok and celebrity endorsers who say caffeine-infused skin-care products are a quick, affordable way to give your face a little pick-me-up.
Why Caffeine Is Added to Skin-Care Products
While it may sound too good to be true, those caffeine skin-care devotees may be onto something.
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it makes your blood vessels get smaller and tighten, says Jeffrey Hsu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and codirector of Oak Dermatology in Chicago.
“When used in skin care, caffeine reduces blood flow to the skin and makes it look brighter and tighter,” Dr. Hsu says. “It’s often seen as an anti-aging or wrinkle-smoothing ingredient in face care, eye care, and even body care.”
The key to making skin-care products work is proper formulation. In particular, when the right amount of caffeine is used, it can be an effective ingredient to freshen up your skin, eliminate dark under-eye circles, and reduce puffiness in your face.
Several studies, like one published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, show that caffeine molecules are small enough to pass through the top layers of your skin, so it can really dig in and do its job intradermally, explains Hsu.
But it’s worth noting that just because a product claims it contains caffeine, it doesn’t mean it will automatically give you the benefits you’re looking for, he says.
“In order for caffeine to be effective as mentioned, it must be applied in highly concentrated doses,” says Hsu. “I always recommend patients to go with medical-grade skin-care products, as they are backed by controlled studies that prove the products’ formulations, ingredient transparency, and efficacy.”
When evaluating skin-care labels, marketing jargon like “clinically proven” and “pro grade” are not necessarily synonymous with “medical grade,” adds Hsu. “Medical-grade products are dispensed at a physician’s office or a med spa that has a medical director overseeing their operations.”
Potential Benefits of Caffeine Skin-Care Products
Caffeine primarily works through circulation, so it’s fast acting, protective against oxidative stress, and anti-inflammatory for the skin, says Ife Rodney, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics in Fulton, Maryland.
Caffeine may also help protect against photodamage, like fine lines and wrinkles after sun exposure. “Studies show caffeine helps when it’s applied after exposure to UVA and UVB rays,” Dr. Rodney says. “You will get that immediate lift and oxidative-stress protection, but it can wane over time. Skin-care products should include other active ingredients that can help repair your skin.”
Some other ingredients that are great for skin include aloe, tea tree oil, shea butter, vitamin C, and jojoba oil, says Rodney. “These all have antioxidants, which slow oxidative stress and may even help restore damaged cells,” she explains.
Speaking of sun-soaked skin, a growing body of research in animals suggests that caffeine may have anticarcinogenic properties, says Hsu.
“In one study done with mice, for example, caffeine applied topically promoted apoptosis, or cell death, in cells damaged by sunburn,” he says, referencing a paper published in December 2021 in the Journal of Biology, Medicine and Biochemistry. “Researchers concluded that topical caffeine results in actual cell death of squamous cell carcinoma and benign skin tumors.” Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer. Of course, large-scale clinical trials are needed to know whether humans would see the same anti-cancer effects.
Are There Any Downsides to Using Caffeine in Skin Care?
The main downside is that the skin benefits of caffeine work for only a short period of time, similar to drinking a cup of coffee, says Rodney. “Caffeine is a temporary solution and will not cure wrinkles or under-eye bags,” she says. “You should still invest in other skin-care items that work well with this product and target your specific skin issue long term.” Examples include a cleanser with salicylic acid, serums with vitamin C and niacinamide, moisturizers with ceramides, and a broad-spectrum sunscreen, Rodney suggests.
Caffeine can also irritate your skin, causing redness from the increased blood flow. If you have sensitive skin or a caffeine sensitivity, you may want to get started by testing out this ingredient in small doses on a limited part of your skin.
“I suggest doing a small patch test, the size of a dime behind the ear or on the jawline,” says Hsu. “Do it a couple times and see how the skin reacts before using it.”
Caffeine Skin-Care Products Dermatologists Love
One of the most popular skin-care products is Inkey Caffeine Eye Cream, Actress Gemma Chan and musician Alanna Haim reportedly swear by the staple for reducing puffy eyes in the morning. It contains a popular anti-aging peptide called Matrixyl 3000, which is known to enhance anti-wrinkle performance, though more research is needed to determine how well it can permeate through your skin, one paper suggests.
But that’s not the only product you’ll find caffeine in — the ingredient has cropped up in serums, body scrubs, and even cellulite treatments. The following are some of the items dermatologists recommend.
1. Biossance Squalane + Caffeine Toning Body Cream
Per Rodney, this product mixes caffeine with plant-based derivatives, which are active ingredients that help soothe skin, speed cell turnover, or provide added hydration. She notes that it also contains squalene, which research suggests helps hydrate the skin.
Biossance Squalane + Caffeine Toning Body Cream, $2
2. InterFuse Treatment Cream EYE
This medical-grade buy contains Kakadu plum extract, which is chock-full of antioxidants to help combat free radicals, which break down collagen, an effect that contributes to signs of premature aging by causing fine lines and wrinkles, says Hsu. A recent study found that Kakadu plum extract
retains high antioxidant activity even after it’s added to a cream.
InterFuse Treatment Cream EYE, $110
3. The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + ECGC Depuffing Eye Serum
Rodney likes this product because the caffeine is derived from green tea, which contains more antioxidants than caffeine derived from coffee. “Antioxidants are great for repairing the delicate skin that’s under the eyes,” she says. Rodney notes that it also contains hyaluronic acid, to help keep the skin under your eyes plump and well hydrated. Research supports the idea that hyaluronic acid can help rejuvenate skin and stimulate the production of collagen, which keeps skin firm and bouncy.
The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + ECGC Depuffing Eye Serum, $7.50
4. ZO Skin Health Cellulite Control Cream
In addition to caffeine, this medical-grade product, which Hsu recommends, contains plankton extract to hydrate the skin. One review suggests that marine-based ingredients, like algae, may have a range of skin-supporting benefits, from reducing pigmentation to reducing wrinkles.
ZO Skin Health Cellulite Control cream, $98
Caffeine is growing in popularity as a vital skin-care ingredient, and for good reason. It temporarily constricts blood vessels to reduce puffiness and give your skin a fresh, taut appearance, not unlike your favorite Instagram filter.
While its effects are notable, they are temporary. Your best bet may be to use products that combine caffeine with ingredients that promote skin repair over the long haul, like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, or marine algae.
Remember, caffeine applied to your skin can still be absorbed into your bloodstream. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, be sure to use it with caution and check in with your dermatologist to see if it’s the right fit for your skin-care needs.