Can Coffee Fight Signs of Aging?

Can that steaming cup of espresso in the morning do more than deliver a much-needed pick-me-up? The reported benefits of coffee are still hot topics among experts.

The claim? Joe can reduce cellulite, fight wrinkles and even prevent skin damage. But the truth may be a hard one to swallow among those looking for the one product that will give them a flawless face without piling on the makeup.

“There are many claims out there about the wonders of coffee. Some are based in science, some not,” explains Dr. Jessica Krant, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “The factors that are involved in coffee’s anti-aging armamentarium fall into two categories: caffeine and antioxidants.”

Coffee, specifically the caffeine ingredient that provides religious drinkers their daily jolt to jumpstart their mornings, has been found to provide a major benefit to the body. A 2012 study published in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research concluded that increasing the number of cups of caffeinated coffee could lower one's risks of basal cell carcinoma. But women seem to be using coffee for more than preventing skin cancer.

Visit any department store with cosmetics and you’re likely to find beauty products highlighting caffeine as an ingredient, all promising youthful, glowing skin. And while the idea of becoming more beautiful with caffeine sounds too good to be true, Dr. Krant does say there is some promise.

“Caffeine causes dehydration, causing local fat cells to physically shrink,” she explains. “This may make cellulite appear smoother temporarily because the puffy tissue in between the tight fibrous connective tissue strands gets flatter, so everything looks better. But in reality the cells are still there and will eventually expand again.”

Krant also states that dehydration from caffeine causes bags under eyes to de-puff, making them appear younger and well-rested.

Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Dr. Vicki Rapaport, M.D., agrees that your daily brew could give new life to tired looking skin.

“Coffee is hailed for the antioxidants that are in it,” says Rapaport. “These antioxidants and the caffeine molecule help repair cell damage and are anti-inflammatory, the buzzword of the moment. Drinking it provides anti-inflammatory activity for your cells internally and applying it in creams provides this protection to the skin. It can help reduce the look of fine lines, age spots and saggy skin. It is not all-powerful and won’t turn back the clock miraculously, but it can play a small part in the grand scheme of trying to stay healthy.”

However, Rapaport also notes caffeine as a cellulite and wrinkle buster is not scientifically proven or even a “contender for any real change” among dermatologists.

Savoring coffee all day in hopes of achieving better looking skin can do more harm than good. As a diuretic, too much caffeine can lead to dehydration, preventing your body from holding onto water, resulting in a dry, aged face. In addition, caffeine can trigger redness and inflammation in some people.

Dr. Oscar Hevia, a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of The Hevia Center for Research, believes more analysis is needed before medical experts can recommend drinking coffee regularly just to achieve better looking skin.

“Unfortunately, there have been little to no recent studies to support these claims,” says Hevia. “Additionally, there are very few, if any, studies that have focused on any cosmetic benefits of caffeine consumption specifically.”

Dr. Whitney Bowe, the assistant medical director for cosmetic and laser services at Advanced Dermatology P.C., acknowledges the benefits caffeine may have on the body, but is wary of touting it as a must-have for those seeking smoother, supple skin.

“When applied directly to the skin, caffeine can quickly constrict blood vessels,” says Bowe. “This blood-vessel constricting property also makes caffeine a useful ingredient in eye creams meant to decrease redness and puffiness. Although in a test tube caffeine appears to break down fats, I have yet to see an anti-cellulite cream with caffeine really make a visible difference for my patients.”

Sorry java lovers, it looks like the hunt is still on for the fountain of youth. And while coffee, like with anything else, should be consumed in moderation, it doesn’t mean you  can’t enjoy your favorite beauty products featuring caffeine.

“Should you use a skincare product to reduce dark spots, puffiness and diminish fine lines? Sure, but be aware the results will last temporarily,” advises Beverly Hills-based aesthetician Gina Marí. “Facial and body products containing caffeine are great during the summer when you are heading to the beach and want a quick fix to appear a bit tighter and leaner. (But) only exercise and eating right will make you look and feel your best!”