Most of us wouldn’t dream of starting our day without a hot cup of coffee. But the benefits of coffee may go beyond just your morning pick-me-up. It may have surprising benefits for your skin.
But coffee isn’t a do-all miracle ingredient, either. Let’s take a look at what the science says and what coffee can, and can’t, do for your skin.
Coffee Contains Antioxidants and Helps Fight Aging
Antioxidants help protect your skin from free radical damage, and coffee just happens to be packed with antioxidants.
This is good news for your skin, as antioxidants fight aging.
Some studies have shown that coffee (specifically coffee oil) has similar effects on the skin as the anti-aging skin care ingredient hyaluronic acid. Coffee seed oil increases collagen and elastin, making the skin look and feel firmer.
Coffee can also help keep the skin hydrated by reducing trans epidermal water loss, (a fancy way of saying moisture that evaporates from the skin).
And these qualities aren’t just coming from the roasted bean. Extracts made from coffee silverskin (a solid by-product of roasting coffee beans) were shown to have antifungal and antimicrobial qualities, in addition to being a good source of antioxidants.
Coffee May Protect Your Skin From UV Rays
OK, so you probably don’t have a supply of coffee silverskin just sitting in your kitchen. But I bet you have coffee grounds left over from your morning pot. Spent coffee grounds also have skin care benefits.
Several studies have shown spent coffee ground extract helps protect the skin against damage from UV-B rays. So, when included in skin care preparations, coffee extract may help protect your skin against wrinkle formation and sun damage.
Interestingly, drinking coffee may also help protect the skin from the sun.
Coffee-drinkers are less likely to develop skin cancer, especially melanoma.
This isn’t a substitute for sunscreen, though. You’ll still need to use sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburn and the aging effects of the sun. This is especially true if you’re using medications that cause sun sensitivity.
Your Spent Coffee Grounds Do Have Some Skin Care Benefits
Will the coffee grounds left over from your morning cup of java give you the same results as coffee extract? Probably not. Coffee extract is much more potent than what’s left behind in your filter.
But those spent grounds can be used in DIY treatments and can have benefits for your skin. Obviously, the grounds can be incorporated into handmade scrubs to help smooth and soften the skin naturally. It’s especially good for rough, dry places like elbows, knees, and feet.
The caffeine in coffee grounds can also improve the look of the skin, albeit temporarily. Caffeine constricts the skin, making it look firmer and tighter (again, temporary). This tightening effect can help fight puffy eyes, and can make cellulite look less obvious in the short-term.
Coffee Scrubs Won’t Clear Up Acne and May Actually Hurt Your Skin
Hang on, coffee lovers.
It may smell amazing and leave your skin super soft, but—contrary to what a plethora of online videos say—coffee is definitely not going to clear up your acne.
Scrubs, even all-natural ones, won’t clear acne themselves. You see, while scrubs can remove the surface layer of dead skin, they don’t penetrate the pore. And it’s inside the pore where acne blemishes start.
Acne isn’t caused by oil or dirt on the skin’s surface. Instead, it’s a blockage deeper inside the pore (technically called the pilosebaceous unit). This—along with a proliferation of acne-causing bacteria—and inflammation causes those pimples we all know and hate.
Truly, the best choice for clearing acne are proven over-the-counter products (if your breakouts are mild) or prescription topical acne treatments or oral medications (for moderate to severe acne). They may not be DIY or trendy, but they work, and you’ll be happier with the end results.
Try These DIY Skin Care Treatments With Your Spent Coffee Grounds
For a fast and fun DIY treatment to smooth and soften your skin, don’t toss those spent coffee grounds. Whip up some of these recipes instead.
Be careful if you have sensitive skin, though. Coffee grounds can be fairly harsh on delicate skin, so you may want to skip the DIY coffee ground scrub if your skin is sensitive.
And, no matter your skin type, don’t scrub too aggressively with the coffee treatment. You definitely don’t want to irritate your skin. Redness, stinging, and sensitivity are all signs that you’re overdoing the scrub.
These treatments should be made fresh each time, and discard any leftovers. It probably goes without saying, but make sure your grounds are cool enough to handle so you don’t burn yourself.
Exfoliating Facial Mask
Mix 1/4 teaspoon spent coffee grounds (finely ground) with 1 tablespoon of another breakfast staple, yogurt. The yogurt flavor isn’t particularly important, but plain or vanilla works especially nice with the natural coffee scent.
Gently massage over your face and neck and let set five minutes. Rinse well with warm water to reveal bright, soft skin. Use it no more than once or twice per week.
Coffee and Sugar Body Polish
Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar (white or brown), 2 tablespoons spent coffee grounds, and 1/4 cup sweet almond oil.
In the shower, massage over your entire body. Pay attention to those rough and dry areas like elbows and knees. Rinse well. Doesn’t your skin feel silky smooth?
The oils in this recipe can make your shower floor or tub slippery, so please take care.
Exfoliating Foot Scrub
Feet need a little extra TLC, and can handle a more aggressive scrubbing than other areas of the body. Try mixing 1/4 cup each of spent coffee grounds, Dead Sea salt or Epsom salts and olive oil. Use this as a scrub to give your feet a nice treat.
Dry lips? Mix a small amount of spent coffee grounds with a dab coconut oil. Massage the mixture lightly over the lips and remove with a damp washcloth.
Reduce Puffy Eyes
A teaspoon of spent grounds in a dampened paper towel and laid over the eyes for 20 minutes or so will help reduce puffiness.
Choi HS, Park ED, Park Y, Han SH, Hong KB, Suh HJ. “Topical Application of Spent Coffee Ground Extracts Protects Skin from Ultraviolet B-induced Photoaging in Hairless Mice.” Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences. 2016 Jun; 15(6):779-90.
Iriondo-DeHond A, Martorell P, Genovés S, Ramón D, Stamatakis K, Fresno M, Molina A, Del Castillo MD. “Coffee Silverskin Extract Protects against Accelerated Aging Caused by Oxidative Agents.” Molecules. 2016 Jun 1;21(6).
Rodrigues F, Matias R, Ferreira M, Amaral MN, Oliveira MB. “In Vitro and In Vivo Comparative Study of Cosmetic Ingredients Coffee SilverSkin and Hyaluronic Acid.” Experimental Dermatology. 2016 July; 25(7):572-4