5 Ways to Avoid Breaking Out From Coffee

“Do I seriously have to give up coffee in order to get clear skin?”

This is easily one of the most common questions I get regarding acne and diet, and luckily the answer is no.

The idea of giving up coffee in order to achieve clear skin terrified me when I started this journey.  I don’t know about you, but I need my morning cup of joe in order to center myself for the day and win the morning.

Fortunately, you don’t have to completely give up coffee.  While it’s true that coffee can trigger stress hormones that cause acne, it’s also loaded with antioxidants that can help prevent breakouts.  With a few quick tips, you can make sure your coffee is GoodGlow-approved.

1. Use An Acne-Friendly Creamer

Not only is dairy creamer bad for acne, but so is most non-dairy alternatives.

Dairy is loaded with hormones, including IGF-1 and insulin, which contribute to every major root cause of acne:

  • Excess oil production
  • Clog pores
  • Overproduction of skin cells
  • Inflammation

Related: If you’d like to learn more about dairy and acne, read my article here.

Not all people have problems with dairy, but when it comes to acne, it’s one of the single worst food groups.

You might think that soy milk or almond milk is a better alternative, but unfortunately, most milk alternatives are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar, and anti-nutrients, especially in the case of soy.

Organic, unsweetened coconut cream and coconut milk are the two safest alternatives for acne-prone skin:

  • Low in carbs and sugar
  • Low in omega-6 fatty acids
  • High in magnesium and zinc
  • Free of dairy hormones and antinutrients

With that being said, some people can handle dairy just fine.  If you can, I’d recommend going with a heavy cream or grass-fed butter in place of milk.  Ideally use dairy products that are raw, unpasteurized, organic, and grass-fed.

2. Go Sugar-Free

Think your latte or mocha is low in sugar?  Think again.  A vanilla latte has 35g of sugar in it.  An iced mocha has 30g.  To put it into perspective, a handful of blackberries has around 5g of sugar, and even an apple has 15g of sugar.  These drinks come with all the sugar and none of the nutrients and fiber that make fruit skin-friendly foods.

Sugar is bad for your skin because it leads to a spike in the hormone insulin, which can trigger excess skin oil production, clog pores, and create inflammation.

Related: If you’d like to learn more about sugar and acne, read my article here.

The solution is to avoid putting sugar in your coffee or ordering sugar-filled coffee drinks.  I know this might sound like an impossible task if you’re used to having sugar in your morning cup of joe, but trust me, it can make all the difference.

If you’re drinking coffee for its health and energy benefits, adding sugar is the last thing you want to do.  It’ll make you more tired and less energized.

Instead, try adding cinnamon, ghee butter, coconut oil, or, as a last resort, a tiny bit of raw honey.

3. Choose the Right Beans

Some coffee beans are loaded with mold and are low in all the antioxidants that make coffee good for you in the first place. Pesticides and damaged soil can alter the makeup of coffee beans considerably.

For these reasons, going with a high-quality coffee bean is essential. Here’s what I look for:

  • Organic (certified organic or passive organic is fine)
  • Tested and confirmed to be mold-free
  • Fresh – you don’t want moldy coffee sitting on your shelves for months.  If you can, grind your own beans with a grinder

I don’t recommend getting coffee at most commercial coffee places. Instead, I recommend picking up your own high-quality beans at a local grocery store or roaster and grinding them at home.

Alternatively, you can buy coffee from a reputable online brand. My favorite options are the BUBS Origin Blend Dark Roast and the BUBS Origin Blend Medium Roast.

BUBS has some of the highest quality, reasonably-priced coffee beans available on the market. The beans come from fair trade and organic certified farms in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras, and are tested and certified as mold-free. These USDA certified organic beans also do not contain any added flavorings that might trigger breakouts. Importantly, they also have bold, rich flavor profiles that any coffee lover will enjoy.

Both the medium and dark roast options come in both whole and ground beans. However, I suggest buying whole beans if possible to maintain freshness.

While you may have your own preferences for medium versus dark roasts, keep in mind that darker roasts will have less caffeine, which can be better for those with acne-prone skin (more on that below).

Best Medium Roast Coffee:
Bubs Naturals – Origin Blend Medium Roast

These USDA certified organic and mold-free coffee beans are high-quality and safe for those prone to breakouts. They’re also made without added flavorings, and have a bold, rich taste.

GoodGlow Score

4.9 /5 5/5 Product Rating

USDA Certified Organic and Mold-Free

The coffee beans come from organic farms and are tested and confirmed to be mold-free.


Fair Trade

These beans are ethically sourced from Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.


Free of Flavorings

The beans are made without flavorings that may trigger breakouts.


Whole and Ground Beans

The company offers both ground and whole beans (although I recommend sticking with whole beans for freshness).

Best Dark Roast Coffee:
Bubs Naturals – Origin Blend Dark Roast

These coffee beans are USDA certified organic and tested for mold. They have a comparably lower caffeine content when compared to lighter roasts, making them ideal for acne-prone skin.

GoodGlow Score

4.9 /5 5/5 Product Rating

USDA Certified Organic and Mold-Free

The coffee beans come from organic farms and are tested for mold.

Fair Trade

These beans are ethically sourced from Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.


Free of Flavorings

Both the whole and ground beans are free of added flavorings that may trigger breakouts.

Clinically Proven

Lower Caffeine

This dark roast has a lower caffeine concentration compared to lighter roasts, making it ideal for acne-prone skin.

4. Cut The Caffeine

Caffeine can trigger massive amounts of cortisol to be released into the body. Cortisol is the fight-or-flight hormone and is usually triggered under stressful circumstances. Cortisol weakens the skin, promotes inflammation, and delays wound healing. Caffeine can also trigger the release of other hormones (like insulin) that cause acne.

A single 8oz cup of coffee has 95mg of caffeine, which is twice the amount of black tea (47mg) and 3x as much as green tea (29g).  And let’s be honest, if you’re like me, do you ever drink just one cup of coffee?

With all that caffeine, it’s not unlikely that coffee is triggering your body’s stress response.

The solution?

Half-caf, decaf, or darker roasts.

I like to use a mix of decaf and regular coffee in order to naturally limit my caffeine.  Instead of 16oz of fully-caffeinated coffee, I’ll go for 3/4 decaf and 1/4 regular caffeine.  That way I’m still getting 50mg or so of caffeine, but it’s not nearly as intense.

Alternatively, you can go with darker roasts too, as they usually contain less caffeine than lighter roasts (and more of that savory flavor).

5. Spice It Up

Acne-friendly coffee doesn’t have to be boring.  In fact, adding a few spices, herbs, and ingredients can make your regular old coffee a skin-clearing superfood:

  • Virgin coconut oil & grass-fed ghee butter: these two skin-friendly fats turn regular old black coffee into a delicious fuel source.  Coconut oil is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal.  Ghee butter contains fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Turmeric: Turmeric is fantastic for decreasing inflammation and clearing up acne breakouts
  • Cinamon: cinnamon has been shown to lower insulin resistance and adds flavor to your coffee without adding sugar

Originally Published: March 21, 2023

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood
Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook!

I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health.

I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on.

This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it.

As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”.

After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts.

In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy.

Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself.

After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅

While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently.

To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision. Read more of Sam's articles.

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