When we think about caffeine, our mind jumps straight to our morning cup of coffee. But there are other ways to reap this ingredient's benefits, as well, especially when it comes to skin care. "Caffeine, often ingested for its stimulant effects, can affect the skin as well, both when it is ingested and when it is applied topically," explains Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and the chief medical correspondent for Certain Dri. "Coffee is rich in antioxidants, including caffeine, which can help to fight free-radical damage—and account for some of its reported health benefits." When caffeine is formulated into the products you apply to your skin, it acts as a vasoconstrictor (meaning it shrinks blood vessels) and reduces redness and puffiness, adds Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. Ahead, we took a deeper dive into the benefits of caffeine-infused beauty products—and how the ingredient impacts your skin in the long run.
Caffeine can reduce under-eye circles.
Caffeine can reduce inflammation, swelling, and potential damage from harmful UV rays, but Dr. Garshick says that the ingredient can also help minimize pesky under-eye dark circles. "Caffeine-containing eye creams help to reduce puffiness and brighten the appearance in the under-eyes by constricting the small blood vessels in the area. Generally, they must be used regularly to see the benefits," she notes; she suggests a product like Vichy Idealia Eyes ($31, dermstore.com) for its blend of volcanic water, caffeine, and anti-inflammatory properties to reduce dark circles. Dr. Mariwalla agrees, and likes the No7 Radiance+ Roll & Glow Eye Cream ($13.59, ulta.com) around the eye area, too; the vitamin C- and caffeine-rich product also helps with dullness.
It can help combat cellulite, too.
"Caffeine has been thought to improve the appearance of cellulite. It reduces the accumulation of fat in cells by causing its breakdown by blocking phosphodiesterase activity, vasoconstricting the blood vessels, and reducing swelling, which can make the skin appear tighter and firmer," Dr. Garshick explains. While she notes that there are in-office treatments—like Cellutone—available to combat this condition, you also have other options thanks to caffeine-laden products, like Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream ($45, sephora.com). "[It] helps to tighten the appearance of the skin and reduce the appearance of cellulite using caffeine-rich Guarana extract, which is thought to have five times the amount of caffeine when compared to coffee," notes Dr. Garshick.
Caffeine can stimulate the scalp and body, overall.
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, caffeine has been shown to boost hair growth, making it a star ingredient in the products we use to wash our strands. A two-in-one shampoo with caffeine—like this Dove variety ($6, target.com)—leaves the scalp feeling refreshed and invigorated, Dr. Garshick says. From the hairline down, count on facial and body scrubs to support the microcirculation of blood, which lends skin a brighter appearance. "St. Ives Energizing Coconut and Coffee Scrub ($3.89, target.com) is a great option for those who are looking for a topical formulation of caffeine and are seeking out a coffee scent. It acts as a physical exfoliator to help eliminate dead skin cells while leaving the skin looking refreshed," Dr. Garshick advises. "Since it is a deeper exfoliant, it should not be used every day."