Friday, 27 May 2011

Ingredient in focus: Coffee and Caffeine in Skin Care

Image courtesy of CoffeeHouseMystery
 Coffee is an ingredient in skincare that has been creating a bit of a buzz lately (sorry!! I just had to throw that pun out there - Dad is going to be so proud when he reads this!). But seriously, according to Ezine @rticle in 2006 in the US, over 140 skincare products containing caffeine were released, compared with only 21 in 2003. We are all familiar with the effect coffee has, when consumed as a drink - increased alertness, focus and an energy boost - but what can it do for the skin? Caffeine applied to the skin operates in three ways - as an antioxidant, a diuretic and a vasoconstrictor (Ezine @rticle).

Caffeine as a cellulite treatment: Caffeine is often included in creams designed to fight cellulite. I don't think that it has been scientifically proven to work (I don't think any anti-cellulite cream has been scientifically proven!) as there are conflicting results published in the literature. Skincare-news talks about a study from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, where 104 out of 130 women (80%) who used a caffeine solution for 30 days saw a reduction in skin dimpling, their skin appeared tighter and they lost 2 cm off their thighs. But they then go on to quote dermatologist Michelle Rivera, M.D. in The Washingtonian, who stated that there was no research to support that caffeine was actually effective on cellulite. "Caffeine is simply not absorbed by the skin; it's like trying to shove an elephant through the eye of needle," explains Dr. Rivera. However, whilst there might be conflicting results in the literature, there are some fairly decent theories as to why it may work.
Image courtesy of Scott's Coffee House

Firstly, it is well known that caffeine is dehydrating, as it is a diuretic. Well, caffeine also dehydrates fat cells, giving skin the appearance of smoothness, says Linda Wells on Skincare-News.

In addition, according to MoneyWatch, topical application of caffeine can reduce fat content in cells by blocking phosphodiesterase. Phosphodiesterase is an enzyme that inhibits fat breakdown. Therefore, blocking this enzyme allows fat to be broken down.

Finally, caffeine is a bronchodilator - that is, it is a substance that relaxes the muscles in the lungs, allowing increased airflow in. The theory is that if caffeine can relax the muscles in the lungs, it could also relax the fibres around the fat cells that anchor the skin to the underlying muscle. It is thought that perhaps these fibres pull on the skin too much and are what causes the dimpled effect of cellulite. By relaxing these fibres the dimpled effect should be reduced.

Caffeine in eye creams: Another popular skincare product in which caffeine can be found is eye creams as it is thought that caffeine can reduce dark circles under the eyes. Dark circles are thought to be cause by a few different factors including dehydration, allergies, lack of sleep or genetics. Apart from genetics, the factors all cause blood and fluid to pool under the eye area, hence the appearance of dark circles. As caffeine is a diuretic, it assists to drain excess fluid from the under eye are. It is also a vasoconstrictor (causes blood vessels to shrink) and this prevents blood from pooling. So caffeine has the potential to temporarily treat dark circles under the eyes (though it is no match for genetic dark circles).

Caffeine to treat Rosacea: Rosacea is a harmless skin condition characterised by red flushing of the face. Pimples may also be associated with the flushed area. The flushing is due to the fact that the blood vessels in the sufferers face are constantly dilated. As caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, it can stop the vessels from being constantly dilated, thereby reducing the red flushing.

Ajana's Mocha Madness Scrub
I am currently trialling a coffee scrub from Ajana - the Mocha Madness Scrub (see the picture to the left). According to Ajana, the Mocha body scrub is a heady pick me up combination of chocolate and coffee and is perfect heading into winter. Aside from smelling great, coffee is stimulating and is said to have fantastic anti-oxidant properties. Once I have used this a few times I will provide a review - so stay tuned!

All opinions stated in this blog are my own. I have no affiliation with any brand mentioned in this blog and received no remuneration for my comments.