Can Coffee Make Hormonal Acne Worse?
Americano, flat white, iced caramel macchiato with two pumps of vanilla syrup and a shot of espresso - we all have our coffee preferences. It’s one of the most popular drinks in the world, enjoyed by millions of people every day. So, you may think it’s harmless, but if you’re dealing with persistent breakouts, it might be time to reconsider this stimulating beverage. There are a number of ways coffee can negatively impact your skin health and lead to a variety of skin problems, including acne. There are also some actions you can take to lessen its effect.
Before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight. One of the main reasons coffee is so problematic is because it’s something most people consume every single day, sometimes multiple times each day. That adds up. As with almost anything, moderation is key, and drinking coffee on occasion is unlikely to drastically impact your body, hormones, and skin. So, if you’re on vacation in Italy, or just wanting to treat yourself, go for it.
That said, if you’re a daily coffee drinker, it’s probably worth considering cutting back. At this stage, you’re probably finding reasons to write off the idea that a coffee-free lifestyle is possible – because without it you feel sleepy, get headaches, feel constipated. Remember, coffee is a drug. Most of us who drink it are completely reliant on its benefits, so, like drugs, we continue consuming it without even realizing that our bodies aren’t designed to need this external source to feel awake, clear-headed, or “regular.” And, like drugs, withdrawal is real. But once you get through that phase, your body and skin will thank you. Here’s why.
Coffee is a stimulant. This means it increases cortisol and is part of the reason you feel energized after just a few sips. However, there’s a downside to increasing cortisol this way. Your adrenal glands naturally produce cortisol, but coffee encourages your adrenals to produce a bunch of extra cortisol all at once. Over time, this pattern can burn out your adrenals, leading to adrenal fatigue. Since your adrenals naturally produce more cortisol in the morning, drinking that cup of Joe right when you wake up worsens this effect. Adrenal fatigue not only causes symptoms like fatigue, irritability, and inflammation, but also makes it tough for the adrenals to produce progesterone. We need enough progesterone to maintain balance with estrogen and prevent certain androgens from increasing oil production, clogging pores, and causing acne.
Coffee is a prooxidant (the opposite of an antioxidant). Our bodies go through a process called oxidation, where molecules break down into intermediate compounds so they can be processed by the body. These unpaired atoms, known as free radicals, are extremely unstable, but once they’re paired up with antioxidants, they’re made stable again. This is why antioxidants are so important. Bad estrogen metabolites act like free radicals in the body because they’re also very unstable. “Oxidative stress,” where there are too many unstable molecules and not enough antioxidants to get rid of them, can cause cell damage, inflammation, and, in the case of bad estrogen metabolites, hormonal imbalances. In its green bean form, coffee is actually loaded with antioxidants, but once it’s roasted for consumption, it becomes a prooxidant, encouraging oxidative stress.
Coffee contains additives. We’re not only talking about artificial sweeteners and creamers. Adding those extra ingredients into your daily coffee can have a major impact on your hormone and skin health. However, most plain, black coffee is still filled with tons of extra “junk” in the form of chemicals. These chemicals come from pesticides used to produce coffee beans, plastic from coffee machines, and bleached coffee filters. Did you know that chemicals like formaldehyde are used decaffeinate coffee? The list goes on and on. What we know is that a lot of these chemicals are classified as xenoestrogens – synthetic estrogens that disguise themselves as estrogen, but actually wreak havoc on your body and skin. They increase estrogen levels, worsening estrogen dominance and hormonal acne.
Coffee hampers liver function. The health of your skin is extremely reliant on a properly functioning liver. The liver is where all the toxins that you consume are processed, so they can be eliminated from the body. These toxins include xenoestrogens. If your liver isn’t functioning properly, these toxins and synthetic hormones recirculate back into the bloodstream causing countless health-related issues like inflammation, digestive problems, and hormonal imbalances, all of which show up on your skin.
Coffee is a diuretic. Even though coffee is made with water, it doesn't hydrate your body. In fact, for every cup of coffee you drink, you lose about a cup of water. If you’re not consistently replacing that water, your body’s composition of water can quickly deplete from its intended 60-80%. Even if your liver is in tip-top shape, without water, your body can’t flush out any of its toxins, including harmful excess hormones, which then recirculate through the body and, you guessed it, show up on your skin.
Coffee stimulates stomach acid production. When consumed on an empty stomach (a typical morning routine for many), coffee stimulates your limited supply of digestive juices and stomach acids, making it more difficult to digest foods later in the day. Poor digestion can inhibit the estrogen detoxification process and make it difficult for excess estrogens to leave the body. Digestive problems can also cause an overproduction of cortisol, which we know can cause low progesterone and relatively high estrogen.
Now, if we’re being realistic, going cold turkey on coffee is probably not going to happen for most people, and that’s okay. Limiting your consumption is a great place to start. There are also things you can do to reduce its impact on your body, hormones, and skin, like having it with food a couple of hours after waking up, drinking plenty of water, and choosing organic options without artificial additives.
If you are looking to switch to something that has less side effects, but still want to put some pep in your step, tea is a great option. Matcha is a type of green tea that has about as much caffeine as an espresso, but the added benefit of numerous antioxidants (in some cases, twice as many as regular green tea). It also contains an amino acid called l-theanine, which helps your body absorb the caffeine more slowly. It’s also believed to have a calming effect. If the flavour isn’t for you, or you’re wanting to reduce your caffeine take even further, there are loads of other antioxidant-packed teas that contain less than half the amount of caffeine in coffee.
Caffeine Ranges for an 8oz Cup of Various Forms of Coffe & Tea
Drip Coffee: 95-200mg
Decaf Coffee: 2-12mg
Oolong Tea: 50-75mg
Black Tea: 26-40mg
Green Tea: 15-70mg
Finally, if you are looking to kick caffeine entirely, but still want a cozy warm beverage in the morning, try white herbal teas or warm lemon water. When mixed with ginger, cinnamon, and a bit of honey, lemon water works wonders in reducing inflammation, regulating blood sugar, and supporting your immune system.
Warm Lemon Water with Ginger, Cinnamon, and Honey
• ¼ cup honey, or to taste
• 1 lemon, juiced
• 1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger root
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 3 ½ cups boiling water
1) Place honey, lemon juice, ginger, and cinnamon in a teapot or 4-cup glass measuring beaker with spout. Pour boiling water over mixture; stir until honey is dissolved.
2) Cover the teapot and let steep for 5 minutes. The ginger should sink to the bottom but may be strained while pouring into a mug.
From adrenal fatigue to oxidative stress, drinking coffee regularly can definitely make hormonal imbalances and acne worse, so the best option for long-lasting acne-free skin is to limit your intake or switch to drinks with less caffeine or more health benefits, like tea. That said, it’s easier said than done. It also takes time for your body to bounce back to health, including your adrenals, liver, and hormones. BALANCE is designed to not only help support healthy estrogen for better estrogen-progesterone balance, but also support healthy liver functioning, so harmful toxins and hormones can properly make their way out of the body. This added supplementation can go a long way in speeding up the hormone balancing process you can finally achieve acne-free skin that lasts.