Trigger warning: you may have to give up that morning cup. We clear the air once and for all—what exactly is the effect of coffee on hormonal acne?
First of all, coffee is acidic and contains high levels of caffeine. The high dosage of acidic caffeine in a regular cup of coffee triggers a stress response in the body, essentially putting the adrenal glands into overdrive, pumping out excessive amounts of stress hormones—and, when those course through your body, they also mess up normal blood sugar levels by increasing the production of insulin. In turn, the excess insulin causes even more oil to be produced, and more oil equals more clogged up pores, which, of course, means more acne.
Also, that coffee-induced insulin surge causes inflammation, making preexisting acne even more red and swollen. In short, the domino effect of all of these factors equals a serious recipe for disaster for anyone with hormonal acne.
Still, take all of this with a grain of salt. According to Dr. Windie Villarica of The Skin Inc. Dermatology and Laser Center, "It's the milk and sugar that acerbates acne. But if you're dependent on coffee to stay up all night or to keep you awake through the day, that's when the effects start to show on your skin." Hear that, kids? Too much is bad, and quitting all the add-ons can be a good thing.
"The main hormone responsible for acne are androgens, specifically testosterone," Dr. Windie goes on. "It increases the size of sebaceous glands and increase sebum production which get colonized by the bacteria, leading to inflammation."
"Now, when you are stressed out (because of deadlines, exams, nights out, breakups…), you produce another hormone called cortisol which can spike up insulin and prostaglandins. The parent hormone of sex hormones is cortisol. Testosterone comes from cortisol too, and prostaglandins are inflammatory. See? It’s all linked together. When you are stressed and you're puyat, what do you usually rely on as a quick pick-me-up? Coffee, right? Then you take it with milk and sugar, and the stress triggers certain behavior that makes you more prone to inflammation. So it’s not so much as the coffee or caffeine, but what you add to it and the behaviors that shift your hormones that make you prone to acne."
Dr. Raissa Francisco-Paison gives us her two cents, too: "In a nutshell, studies have not shown that coffee triggers acne. Yes, it can dehydrate your skin since it is a diuretic but there has not been a scientifically established link to coffee or caffeine being a cause for skin breaking out. What has been shown in recent studies though is that excessive amounts of dairy and high glycemic index foods can trigger acne. So if you have several servings of your daily caramel latte it may be the sugar and milk in it that's triggering your breakouts."
Hmmm, interesting. Will you cut your coffee habit? We just might...or at least we'll try to stick to black.