Are you one of the billions of people that enjoys a cup of coffee every morning? Yes, that’s right, we pour about 1.4 billion cups of coffee a day worldwide, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO). That’s a lot of coffee! If you’re a coffee drinker, there’s no doubt you’re well aware of the benefits of this beverage. Your morning cup of joe helps you feel more awake, alert, and focused. Plus, research has determined that the polyphenols in coffee can provide numerous health benefits, from reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease to decreasing chronic inflammation.
But did you know that coffee may also offer several benefits when applied to the skin? Ingredients like Coffea arabica seed oil, Coffea robusta seed extract, and coffee berry extract can be found in a variety of skin care products. If you’re not ready to invest in a new skin care product, it is said that you can reap all of the benefits of coffee by simply using leftover grounds. This is why DIY coffee face mask recipes have popped up all over the internet, claiming to help with acne, acne scars, dry skin, dark spots, dark circles, puffiness, and more. But do coffee face masks really live up to these claims? We’ve evaluated the science and determined the truth about coffee face masks, so keep reading to find out!
Top 4 ways coffee can benefit your skin
Before we dive into the top 4 ways coffee can benefit your skin, we wanted to reveal some interesting coffee facts. For instance, what we typically refer to as coffee “beans” are actually the seeds of berries from certain Coffea species. The two most commonly grown types of coffee are Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta. Brazil grows the most coffee in the world, producing about one-third of the world’s supply. Lastly, the original cup of coffee is said to have been produced by a monk way back in 800 A.D. Keep those coffee facts in the back of your mind for the next time you head to trivia night, and read on to learn the top 4 ways coffee can benefit your skin.
1. Coffee helps to tighten + firm skin
It’s obvious that the cognitive benefits that come from drinking a cup of coffee, such as increased alertness and focus, are due to the natural caffeine in coffee. According to the USDA, an average eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee from ground beans contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. As a natural stimulant, caffeine causes vasoconstriction (constriction of the blood vessels) and stimulates blood flow when applied to the skin. Vasoconstriction can tighten and firm the skin due to the removal of excess fluids and possible stimulation of the lymphatic drainage system. This function also aids in reducing the amount of blood that accumulates under the eyes (a major factor that contributes to dark circles). Due to these effects, you may be able to use a DIY coffee face mask for puffiness and to help reduce the appearance of dark circles underneath the eyes.
2. Coffee is packed with antioxidants
When you think of antioxidant beverages, green tea is probably the first one to come to mind, right? Well, it turns out that an average cup of coffee may contain more polyphenol antioxidants than green tea, black tea, herbal tea, and cocoa! The main antioxidants in coffee are caffeine, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and polyphenols.
Antioxidants limit oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous because they are highly reactive and will try to become more stable by ripping electrons off all nearby molecules. This is problematic because free radicals can react with important cellular structures, like DNA, proteins, carbohydrates, or the cell membrane. Altogether, the damage to cells caused by free radicals is known as oxidative stress, which manifests as fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.
In addition to helping the skin combat free radicals, chlorogenic acid (CGA) is known to provide anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. This is why it may be beneficial to use a coffee face mask for acne. Blemishes form due to excess sebum and bacteria clogging pores, followed by inflammation and swelling. CGA may help to reduce inflammation and fight off bacteria, which can help acne heal faster.
3. B vitamins in coffee promote healthier skin
While not a big contributor of vitamins and minerals to your diet, coffee does contain a decent amount of B vitamins. For example, one eight-ounce cup of regular coffee contains about 11% DV (Daily Value) riboflavin (vitamin B2), 6% DV pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and 2% DV niacin (vitamin B3). Each of these B vitamins benefits the skin in a unique way, for example, riboflavin promotes healthy cell turnover and pantothenic acid may help improve skin hydration. Thanks to these B vitamins, a coffee face mask may help promote healthier, brighter skin.
4. Coffee grounds exfoliate the skin
A final way that coffee can benefit the skin is through exfoliation. As per the American Academy of Dermatology, exfoliation is defined as “the process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin”. There are two primary forms of exfoliation: mechanical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation. Mechanical exfoliation utilizes an abrasive surface or substance to physically remove dead skin cells, while chemical exfoliation involves using chemical agents to break up dead skin cells, allowing them to be washed away more easily. Coffee grounds are mechanical exfoliators that can lift off dead skin cells, making skin feel smooth and look brighter.
The problem with DIY coffee face masks
The problem with DIY coffee face masks is that coffee grounds may be too abrasive for the skin. According to skin care expert Paula Begoun, coffee grounds will cause micro-tears in the skin, resulting in redness, irritation, and damage to the skin’s surface. However, there are some dermatologists that promote the use of coffee grounds for mechanical exfoliation. When deciding whether or not a DIY coffee face mask is right for you, you must determine if you skin is healthy enough for exfoliation. Generally, damaged skin does not need exfoliation — it needs time to heal. If your skin is extremely dry or you have a skin condition such as rosacea or eczema, consult with a doctor before exfoliating with a DIY coffee face mask.
It’s also important to consider the skin care products you already use before exfoliating with a DIY coffee face mask. This is because some medications and over-the-counter products may cause your skin to be more sensitive or peel, such as prescription retinoid creams or products containing retinol or benzoyl peroxide. Exfoliating with a DIY coffee face mask while using these products may worsen dry skin or even cause acne breakouts.
DIY coffee face mask recipes
The best part of a DIY coffee face mask recipe is the first step: brew a delicious cup of coffee and drink it! Next, spread the leftover warm coffee grounds onto your face, avoiding the eyes. It is recommended to gently massage the coffee grounds into your skin to enhance exfoliation. You can leave the coffee face mask on for up to 20 minutes, then rinse off with cool water.
Many DIY coffee face mask recipes suggest mixing coffee grounds with at least one other ingredient so that a paste is formed. For example, you can add ingredients like bananas, coconut oil, honey, shea butter, or plain yogurt to the coffee grounds in order to create a coffee face mask.
It is typically recommended to exfoliate with a DIY coffee face mask between one and three times per week. You can try a coffee face mask either in the morning or at night. Morning exfoliation can help slough away dead skin cells that have built up while you were sleeping. Nighttime exfoliation can provide a deeper cleanse, removing makeup, oil, and other impurities that may have settled on your skin during the day. After exfoliating with a DIY coffee face mask, it’s important to apply a gentle moisturizer, serum, or facial oil to rehydrate the skin and rebuild the barrier.
Final thoughts on DIY coffee face masks
As you have read, the caffeine and other natural antioxidants in coffee have proven benefits when applied to the skin. However, since most DIY recipes involve using coffee grounds, which may be too abrasive for the skin, we do not recommend trying a DIY coffee face mask. Plus, there are numerous skin care products on the market today that contain caffeine and/or coffee extracts, which will provide you with all of the coffee benefits without the risk of irritation from coffee grounds.
References: StreetDirectory.com “Coffee Consumption around the World”, Wikipedia “Coffee”, GoodHousekeeping.com “21 Surprising Coffee Facts That Will Perk Up Your Afternoon”, Healthline.com “Does Coffee Have Any Benefits for Your Skin?”, DrAxe.com “Coffee Nutrition Facts — Good for the Brain, Heart & Liver?” 2018, PaulasChoice.com “10 Skincare Home Remedies to Avoid”, AAD “How to safely exfoliate at home”