Beauty brew: Caffeine skin care

Give your skin a java jolt with coffee-based skin-care products.

Dec 06, 2008
By
Flannery Dean
Photography
Norbert Mayer
Beauty brew: Caffeine skin care

Caffeine's kick isn't limited to your morning latte anymore. Besides caffeinated water, gum, beer and even doughnuts, now you can get your java fix in your beauty regimen, thanks to a host of new coffee-based skin-care products. Coffee leaves, beans and berries are all being used to target a variety of skin concerns - recent research by The State University of New Jersey even confirms that the topical application of caffeine can slay skin cancer cells caused by sun damage. "Caffeine has three great properties," says Dr. Leslie Baumann, professor of dermatology at the University of Miami. "It's an antioxidant, it shrinks blood vessels and it dehydrates fat cells." Here's how coffee can wake up your skin from head to toe.

Smooth moves
Coffee features heavily in the spa traditions of Indonesia, where the beans are ground and used as an exfoliating body scrub, says Yoshiko Roth, founder of New York-based Juara Skincare. But because it contains caffeine, coffee is also a diuretic, which means that it can pull fluid from the skin, helping to decrease the appearance of cellulite. "Caffeine is a member of a group of compounds known as methylxanthines," says Dr. Lydia Evans, a consulting dermatologist for L'Oréal Paris. "These compounds stimulate enzymes that break down fat cells. They also promote the movement of fluid out of the cells, which decreases their size and produces a tightening effect." Still, keep in mind that caffeine's effects on dimpled skin are only temporary, says Dr. Yves Hébert, a Montreal-based physician specializing in aesthetic medicine. "Most creams for the treatment of cellulite now contain caffeine, but cellulite returns once you stop using them."

Eye contact
If you rely on coffee to help you wake up, now you can use it to look more awake too. Caffeine-based products can help reduce under-eye shadows and puffiness. "Dark circles around the eyes are a result of thin skin and leaky blood vessels," says Lizz Starr, executive director of global product development for Origins. "Eyearea irritation-caused by fatigue, dehydration or pollution-causes the vessels to become leakier and the area to fill with fluid." Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor (it tightens blood vessels), which means that it can reduce swelling, and, according to Dr. Deborah Sarnoff, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at New York University's School of Medicine, its diuretic action may also contribute to a depuffing effect. "[Some] data supports caffeine's ability to pull water out of the tissue."

Berry good
The latest buzz in skin care revolves around the coffee berry, the ruby-red fruit of the coffee plant. "Coffee-berry extract is a free-radical scavenger that is more potent than green tea and vitamins C and E," says Dr. Marc DuPéré, a Toronto-based cosmetic plastic surgeon and consultant for Revaléskin, a new skin-care line based on the ingredi ent. "All skin issues-wrinkles, sun spots, loss of elasticity-are caused by free radicals, so attack these and you improve the overall look of your skin." Baumann agrees that the coffee berry is a potent antioxidant but advises that it should be used with caution on acne-prone skin. "It can lead to breakouts," she says. "I like it as an anti-aging day and night cream in conjunction with retinol."

Although skin-care companies are touting coffee's multiple benefits, some dermatologists say that more research is needed to uncover the full spectrum of its applications. "More evidence-based medicine is required to elucidate just where it's most helpful in skin care," explains Dr. Lisa Kellett of DLK on Avenue in Toronto. But, according to Roth, we won't have to wait very long. "Every year, more and more bene ficial properties [of the coffee plant] are being discovered," she says. Clearly, this caffeine fix is here to stay.

View caffeine skin care products here!


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