How To Identify, Treat, & Prevent Acne Breakouts From Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that has been shown to have various beneficial effects on the human body in numerous studies. For example, it has been shown to increase energy levels, improve memory, and even lower the risk of developing diabetes. 

On the other hand, caffeine may have adverse side effects that are not common knowledge. Acne breakouts are one such side effect. Although caffeine is not directly responsible for acne, it can cause your body to produce more sebum. 

Sebum is an oily substance that combines with dead skin cells and clogs pores on the skin’s surface. Acne breakouts can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, depending on the severity of the problem. 

Apart from that, eating well and exercising regularly will help to increase your metabolism. Below we will discuss the various mechanisms and triggers that cause caffeine to be a contributing factor to acne, and what can you do to mitigate the negative side effects so you can stay energized and have clear skin.

1: Caffeine Is a Stimulant That Can Cause Acne

It is possible to develop acne after consuming any type of stimulant, and caffeine is no different. Therefore, if you want clear skin, you should avoid drinking caffeine. 

Beyond its ability to improve and disappear acne scars, caffeine is so addictive that if you stop drinking it regularly, the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine will lower your stress levels, which will, in turn, lower sebum oil production, which is one of the primary causes of acne. 

Caffeine can be found in various beverages, including coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. High caffeine intake can also cause heartburn, which can aggravate the skin around your face and neck, where most acne cases are found, further exacerbating the problem. 

However many cups of coffee you drink per day, it is best to consume them first thing in the morning before noon because caffeine consumed after this time can interfere with your sleep cycle, causing breakouts due to stress levels being raised while our bodies are sleeping at night.

2: Increased Blood Flow in the Skin’s Oil Glands

Because caffeine increases blood flow to the skin’s oil glands, it can exacerbate acne symptoms. Pimples form beneath the skin’s surface due to increased blood flow, which causes an increase in sebum production and an enlargement of hair follicles that have become clogged with dead cells due to this increase in blood flow. 

As a result, the oil glands are stimulated from the caffeine to produce even more sebum, which is precisely what the acne-causing bacteria feed on. So caffeine can make it worse by increasing inflammation in the skin’s pores rather than improving acne. 

Not only do you notice this effect on your face, but you also notice acne appearing more frequently on your back and chest due to coffee consumption. This is because caffeine increases the production of hormones known as androgens, which cause the sebum (oil) glands to secrete even more oil than they would otherwise. 

When oil flows more freely, pores become clogged with dead cells, traps bacteria beneath them, resulting in pimples. The consumption of caffeinated beverages also increases blood circulation in the skin’s oil glands, which stimulates the expansion or reproduction of blocked hair follicles that contain excess keratin material. 

Because of the chemical disturbances caused by the bacteria, the extra white blood cells are attracted to these areas and accumulate there. The result is acne swelling and redness of the skin caused by inflammatory reactions in the skin.

3: Caffeine Can Lead to Dehydration

Dehydration is harmful because it dries out the skin, resulting in dry patches and possibly contributing to acne. Nowadays, caffeine consumption is frequently associated with dehydration. Because caffeine increases the amount of water that your body excretes through urine, it can cause dehydration. 

This means that after consuming a caffeinated product, you will have less fluid in your system than usual. So what is it about us that we do not drink enough water? The body will make up for this by drawing moisture from other parts of the body. This includes our skin, which can become dry and irritated, causing us to break out more frequently than we would otherwise. 

Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means it aids in weight loss. However, this does not imply that you should eliminate caffeine from your diet entirely, as there are numerous benefits such as improved mood, increased mental alertness, and increased energy levels – all of which contribute to an improvement in acne symptoms – to consider. 

Furthermore, the consumption of caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee or tea regularly is not always detrimental to those who suffer from acne, as doing so does not cause people to break out any more than if they consume decaffeinated beverages (coffee beans contain oils called lipids which can clog pores).

4: Caffeine is a Diuretic

Any type of diuretic has the potential to deplete the water content of your skin, resulting in dryness and a loss of elasticity. Additionally, caffeine increases sweating and increases heart rate, which is one of the reasons that drinking caffeinated beverages can cause acne breakouts in some people. 

Caffeine, for example, causes your body to produce more sebum when you consume it. Sebum is an oily secretion produced by the skin that serves to protect it from bacteria and infection. When there is an imbalance between oil production and water loss, it can result in clogged pores, leading to acne breakouts. 

The cause of this is not only dehydration, as previously stated, but also fluids passing through your system too quickly, resulting in the body being unable to absorb nutrients. Therefore, caffeinated beverages should be consumed in moderation, especially if you are attempting to lose weight as a result. 

In addition, caffeine should be consumed in the morning rather than in the afternoon or evening because it can make you feel tired if consumed too late in the day. 

The use of this method will help you avoid drinking caffeinated beverages before bed, which can disrupt your sleep. Alternatives to regular caffeine-containing beverages include drinking decaffeinated coffee or tea instead of common caffeine-containing beverages.

5: Caffeine Increases Insulin Levels

When caffeine is present in the body, insulin levels rise, causing glucose to be taken up by the cells. As a result, the testicles and adrenal glands produce more testosterone due to this stimulation of testosterone production. Furthermore, high insulin levels can result in acne breakouts due to the proliferation of the bacteria that causes acne. 

This occurs due to the clogging of pores and the release of a chemical known as IGF-I, which stimulates sebum production in the skin. Sebum is a thick, oily secretion produced by the skin. 

Acne can develop if you have excessive sebum on your skin or are produced at a higher rate due to blocked pores due to the bacteria that causes acne, taking advantage of this environment and feeding on the oils to survive. 

This results in breakouts on the face, neck, chest, and back, with more oil glands than other parts of the body (acne vulgaris). 

The production of sebum is necessary for the health of your skin; however, an excess of sebum and clogged pores can cause acne. Furthermore, it can clog pores, resulting in the development of blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.

6: Coffee Has Been Linked to Increased Levels of Inflammation

When large amounts of coffee are consumed, this is a common side effect that can occur. The use of topical creams or oral medications by dermatologists to treat their patients’ inflammation and reduce the visible effects of inflammation on the skin’s surface can be beneficial in the fight against inflammation and reducing the visible impact of inflammation on the skin’s surface. 

Although there is no concrete evidence to support the notion that caffeine causes acne, we know that excessive caffeine has been linked to increased levels of inflammation in the body, which has been shown to contribute to acne breakouts. 

It is possible that caffeine is not a direct cause of acne; however, it can increase your chances of developing an inflammatory breakout due to the large number of stimulants you consume over a prolonged period. 

The notion that caffeine causes acne has not been proven. Still, we do know that consuming excessive amounts of caffeine have been linked to increased levels of inflammation in the body, which has been shown to contribute in some cases to breakouts.

7: Caffeine Stimulates The Release of Cortisol

Many people experience acne as a result of high cortisol levels in their bodies. It is a stress hormone that causes the skin to secrete sebum, which mixes with dead skin cells and clogs pores, resulting in acne lesions. 

When caffeine is consumed, it stimulates cortisol release through two primary pathways: blocking adenosine receptors (which inhibits the negative feedback loop) and increasing circulating epinephrine levels, resulting in increased cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands in response to elevated blood pressure sugar levels caused by caffeine-induced glucose surges. 

Because of this acne breakouts are likely in individuals that are constantly under psychological stress due to elevated cortisol levels, and consume high-glycemic-index foods or allergens that cause inflammation.

This inflammation can lead to acne lesions on the face, neck, back, and chest. Cortisol is primarily responsible for controlling immune responses by activating anti-inflammatory cytokines when necessary. Therefore, although caffeine does not directly cause acne, it can exacerbate existing cases by raising cortisol levels in response to stress.


Now that you know caffeine can cause acne, you need to be careful about your intake of this stimulant. However, you should also remember that the interactions between any medications and other substances are always a possibility. 

The best way to avoid these complications is by consulting with a medical professional first instead of trying to self-diagnose or treat yourself without the correct information. 

If you notice an outbreak of pimples after consuming caffeinated products, then it is time for you to stop those drinks from affecting your skin negatively! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Quitting Coffee Improve my Skin?

Yes, quitting caffeine will improve your skin. Caffeine can cause pimples and enlarged pores because it stimulates oil production in the body, which feeds acne-causing bacteria on our face.

Does Coffee Age Your Face?

Yes, coffee can cause the face age due to its caffeine content. Caffeine is a stimulant, which causes the skin to swell up and stretch out over time. This can cause sagging in your face later on down the line.

How Much Caffeine is Too Much?

Caffeine should be limited to 200- 300mg per day, but this can vary per individual. Try to keep no more than 200mg of caffeine per day.

Originally Published: November 22, 2021

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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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