Do Caffeinated Skin Care Products Work?

How your morning pick-me-up can perk up your skin, too
Skin care products on a wood table next to a bowl of brown powder

When you need a morning jolt, a cup of joe typically does the trick. Can applying caffeinated creams and serums do the same for sleepy skin?

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Aesthetician Lori Scarso explains why beauty enthusiasts are abuzz about skin care products featuring caffeine and outlines what exactly they can (and can’t) do for your skin.

Is caffeine good for your skin?

Caffeine has become a popular ingredient in skin care products ranging from under-eye serums to face masks to anti-cellulite creams and beyond. While marketing claims it can “wake up” your skin, here’s what that really means.

1. Protects skin from damage

Caffeine is an antioxidant, which is known to protect skin from damage caused by free radicals — molecules that break down your collagen and cause fine lines, wrinkles and otherwise saggy, sallow skin.

“Antioxidants are huge in skin care right now,” Scarso says. “You get free radical damage from pollution and UV rays, but applying antioxidants is good for your skin because it can help stop some of that damage.”

2. Brightens the skin

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it makes the blood vessels constrict, or tighten. That, in turn, reduces blood flow to the skin and makes your skin look brighter and smoother — like a real-life Instagram filter for your face!

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3. De-puffs under-eye bags

Wake up with a huge hangover? Just didn’t get enough sleep last night? A caffeinated product may be just the trick to reduce the appearance of those dark circles and under-eye bags that come with general exhaustion.

That’s because it can help with microcirculation, which constricts the blood vessels and helps temporarily reduce discoloration in the skin. Say buh-bye — at least in the short-term — to those dark circles under your eyes. (A warning, though: “If you have under-eye bags due to genetics, caffeine is not going to help,” Scarso says.)

4. Soothes inflammation

When applied to the skin, caffeine’s anti-inflammatory properties help reduce redness and soothe skin inflamed by sun exposure (but try not to subject yourself to sun damage to begin with!)

5. Reduces the look of stretch marks and cellulite

Caffeinated creams become particularly popular in the summer, Scarso says, when people are preparing to bare it at the beach. That’s because they can be a quick fix to temporarily lessen the appearance of skin dimpled with cellulite and streaked with stretch marks.

“Caffeine is known to stimulate enzymes that break down fats, so it can temporarily dehydrate fat cells,” Scarso explains. “That results in a smoother and more firm appearance for a little while.”

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When using cellulite creams or stretch mark reduction products, the best way to apply them is to massage them into your skin. The massaging motion teams up with the caffeine itself to help stimulate those enzymes.

Caffeine’s benefits are short-term

Just like a cup of coffee only keeps you perked up for a few hours, so too do topical caffeinated products only provide benefits for a little while. That means they don’t cure wrinkles, fine lines, under-eye bags and puffiness — just temporarily change their appearance.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, think of it as a Polyjuice potion for pores: As soon as the product wears off, your face returns to its standard state. “It might change the appearance of your skin in the moment, while you’re using it, but it’s not a treatment,” Scarso says.

When to use caffeinated skin care products

Caffeinated skin care products are typically safe to use at any time, though if you’re using them for temporary tightening, brightening and the like, it’s best to use them in the morning because remember: As the product wears off, so too will its benefits.

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