Are Caffeine Serums Worth the Hype? We Talked to a Derm to Find Out
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Caffeine is a skin-friendly ingredient packed with benefits—here's everything you need to know about this wonder ingredient
That cup of coffee's great for a pick-me-up in the morning, but what can caffeine do for skin? A lot, as it turns out. Marnie Nussbaum, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC, says that because skin absorbs caffeine quickly, it can work wonders on dark circles and puffy eyes.
Caffeine skincare products—and caffeine eye serums, in particular—have been exploding on social media, so Verywell Health asked Nussbaum the most important questions before you add a caffeine serum to your skincare routine.
What to Know About Caffeine Serums
Does caffeine serum work?
Yes, as it turns out—it's not just the latest skincare trend. Caffeine absorbs easily into skin, where it can help to improve circulation, says Nussbaum. Improving circulation offers all sorts of skin benefits, including reducing puffiness and redness.
What does caffeine serum do?
In addition to improving circulation and reducing puffiness, Nussbaum says that caffeine also has antioxidant properties, which can help to protect skin from UV rays, a key in fighting premature aging.
Because caffeine absorbs so quickly, it can also help restore the skin barrier and reduce flakiness.
Is caffeine serum good for skin?
We've already touched on the benefits caffeine products can offer skin, but is it safe to use? Nussbaum confirms that it is, with the caveat that you should discontinue use if you notice any redness or irritation.
While we've already addressed some of the benefits of caffeine serum for eyes, we also asked Nussbaum what caffeine can do for the rest of the skin. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows the blood vessels, so it can offer the same benefits to the rest of the face, largely by reducing redness to smooth and brighten skin.
While caffeine is a key ingredient to look for, most caffeine skincare products include other skin-friendly ingredients in their formulations. Nussbaum calls out other skincare powerhouses like niacinamide, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid as other ingredients to keep in mind while shopping. Many of the products we recommend below include some or all of these in their formulas, which can help with skin tone, fine lines, wrinkles, and texture, according to Nussbaum.
How to Apply Caffeine Serum
You can treat caffeine eye serums like any other serum in your skincare routine, taking care to apply serums before creams, Nussbaum says. She also says that caffeine is safe for everyday use and even recommends it, noting that the effects can wear off without regular use.
The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Depuffing Eye Serum
Buy It: The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Depuffing Eye Serum, $9; sephora.com, ulta.com
Fan-favorite skincare brand The Ordinary made a splash on social media with one of its newest products, The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Depuffing Eye Serum. Reviewers rave that they've seen noticeable results in only a few days of use, reducing under-eye bags and puffiness with only a few drops.
The Ordinary Caffeine Serum uses a potent blend of 5% caffeine and EGCG—Epigallocatechin gallate, a product derived from green tea that can help with inflammation. To use, apply one to two drops in the morning and evening.
L'Oreal Revitalift 2.5% Hyaluronic Acid + Caffeine Under Eye Serum
Buy It: L'Oreal Revitalift 2.5% Hyaluronic Acid + Caffeine Under Eye Serum, $33; amazon.com, ulta.com
The L'Oreal Revitalift 2.5% Hyaluronic Acid + Caffeine Under Eye Serum combines 1% pure caffeine with one of Nussbaum's recommended ingredients: hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid works to enhance moisture retention for more hydrated skin. To use, just spread along the under eye to the temple using the applicator and pat in excess.
Youth to the People Peptides + C Energy Eye Concentrate With Vitamin C and Caffeine
Buy It: Youth to the People 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum, $69; sephora.com
Youth to the People is known for its clean, vegan formulations, and the brand offers two caffeine serums to choose from. The Youth to the People 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum uses caffeine derived from yerba mate and guayusa plus a clinical dose of another one of Nussbaum's favorite ingredients—15% vitamin C to brighten and tighten skin. Instead of targeting just the eyes, this caffeine serum is great for use on the face and neck for reducing redness and hyperpigmentation.
Youth to the People makes another similar product—using both caffeine and vitamin C—with the added benefit of a peptide complex. The Peptides + C Energy Eye Concentrate with Vitamin C and Caffeine ($48) is meant to be used morning and night, like the face serum. The peptides formulation targets the eye area specifically to reduce puffiness and dark circles while blurring fine lines. Youth to the People recommends using both products to reap the full benefits of caffeine.
Typology Eye Serum With 5% Caffeine + 5% Niacinamide
Buy It: Typology Eye Serum With 5% Caffeine + 5% Niacinamide, $24; typology.com
French cosmetics brand Typology also makes a caffeine and niacinamide serum. With high-concentrations of both ingredients, this serum targets dark circles and under-eye bags. To use, just dab one to two drops under and around eyes morning and night. Typology recommends allowing at least four weeks of continued use to see full results. It's also 87% naturally derived and fragrance free for sensitive skin.
Lumify Eye Illuminations Hydra-Gel Brightening Eye Cream
Buy It: Lumify Eye Illuminations Hydra-Gel Brightening Eye Cream, $27; amazon.com
While it's not a serum, the dermatologist and ophthalmologist-developed caffeine eye cream from eye brand Lumify is one that Nussbaum stands behind. Nussbaum notes that serums tends to absorb more quickly because they're thinner, but people who have dry skin might see better results with an under-eye cream.
The Lumify Eye Illuminations Hydra-Gel Brightening Eye Cream features all of Nussbaum's recommended ingredients—caffeine, vitamin C, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid—for a powerhouse blend that targets fine lines, wrinkles, and skin tone and texture. Apply twice a day for brighter, smoother skin. It's free of parabens, sulfates, and fragrances.
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Jaylyn Pruitt is a commerce writer for Verywell Health covering skincare and sleep. She has a Master of Library and Information Science with a concentration in health information.