Insider's Guide to Spas
Padurariu Alexandru


The Beauty of Caffeine

Peggy LaCerra

Legend has it that Cleopatra’s skin glowed from a daily regimen of bathing in milk, but if the Egyptian beauty was alive today we might just find her luxuriating in a warm bath of café au lait . . .

Caffeine is finding its way into a vast array of beauty and grooming products. The ancient plant-derived alkaloid, once enjoyed exclusively as an ingested stimulant, is now being used to increase muscle mass, improve memory, and, most recently, to improve the health and appearance of skin and hair. It can be found in dry and wet shampoos, bubble baths, shower gels, shaving cream, soaps, wrinkle creams, eye gels and creams, dark spot correctors, sun screens, and makeup. And the number of new caffeine-based beauty and grooming aides is increasing almost daily.

Why caffeine?

While research is just beginning to substantiate some of the industry’s remarkable claims, preliminary findings suggest that topically applied caffeine can work to beautify, protect, and even improve the health of hair and skin.

Caffeinated Tresses

Hair loss and thinning is often attributable to testosterone and other androgens. These hormones can act to shrink the size of hair follicles in both men and women. Caffeine acts to counter this androgen-induced miniaturization of hair follicles and directly stimulates hair follicle growth.

In a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2007, research scientist, Tobias Fischer and his colleagues at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Germany found that caffeine increased the length of hairs 33 to 40 percent. He noted that “Hair follicles that were treated with caffeine showed significant growth rate at twenty-four hours, and still showed further significant growth at eight days.”

Caffeine is finding its way into a vast array of beauty and grooming products. The ancient plant-derived alkaloid, once enjoyed exclusively as an ingested stimulant, is now being used to increase muscle mass, improve memory, and, most recently, to improve the health and appearance of skin and hair.

More evidence for caffeine’s beneficial effects on hair thickness and length was garnered in a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2014. German research scientist T.W. Fischer and his colleagues found new growth-promoting effects on human hair follicles at the molecular, cellular, and organ level in both men and women. It’s becoming clear that caffeinated shampoos and hair and scalp treatments may well be the answer for many people hoping to grow more luxurious manes.

Wide-Awake Eyes

Most of us are familiar with the tried-and-true moist chilled tea bag remedy for puffy eyes and dark eye circles. The remedy owes its efficacy to the caffeine and other methyl xanthenes found in the leaves and buds of Camellia sinensi, the plant most commonly used in the production of black tea.

One of the earliest-identified physiological effects of caffeine is its action as a vaso-constrictor. When applied to the delicate skin surrounding the eyes, caffeine improves the circulation of blood through the tiny vessels and reduces inflammation; this in turn, lightens and brightens the entire eye area. A variety of caffeine-infused eye creams and gels are now commercially available providing a much more convenient beauty fix than brewing tea, chilling the bags, and lying prone while the caffeine eradicates the evidence of a late-night of work or celebration.

Stimulating Skincare Solutions

Just as caffeine’s well-established vaso-constrictive property solves the problem of dark eye circles and puffiness, it also smoothes the appearance of skin cellulite. And now more newly identified characteristics of caffeine are being found to provide a range of additional health benefits for skin.

Caffeine actually acts as an effective sunscreen by directly blocking UVB radiation. More importantly, caffeine has been found to reduce the incidence of certain types of skin cancer.

It’s now fairly well established that ingesting caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, and chocolate reduces the incidence of both common basal cell carcinomas, as well as deadly melanoma in humans. In a 2012 study investigating the effects of ingested caffeine over time in women from the Nurses’ Health Study and men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, research scientist F. Song and colleagues at Harvard Medical School found that women and men who ingested the most caffeine had an 18 percent and a 13 percent lower risk of basal cell skin cancer respectively than those women and men who ingested the least. And in a 2015 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Erikka Loftfield and her colleagues reported that drinking at least four cups of coffee per day reduced the incidence of deadly melanoma skin cancers by as much 20 percent. But ingested caffeine has a variety of systemic effects that many of us wish to avoid, so the question is just how efficacious are topical caffeine treatments in reducing the incidence of skin cancers?

Although we’re still awaiting appropriate investigations of the effects of topical caffeine solutions on the incidence of skin cancers in human subjects, a number of animal studies confirm the efficacy of such treatments in the reduced incidence of squamous cell carcinomas. Allan Conney, Professor of Cancer and Leukemia Research at Rutgers University reported a 72 percent tumor formation inhibition in mice treated topically with caffeine. The cancer-inhibiting effect appears to result from caffeine-induced selective increased apoptosis—programmed cell death of only UV-damaged skin cells.

Until the requisite human studies are published, the skincare product industry can’t legally label caffeine-based skincare products as preventative of skin cancer, but it isn’t waiting to make such products readily available to the public—and the public isn’t waiting to purchase and use them.

Beauty Products that Contain Caffeine

Almay Wake Up Blush and Highlighter

BareMinerals READY Eyeshadow 4.0

Bath Buzz Caffeinated Soap

Bath Buzz Caffeinated Lotion

Bath Buzz Caffeinated Body Cream

Bliss FatGirl Soap

Bliss FatGirl Sixpack Tummy-Toning Gel

Bliss FatGirl Hid and Go Sleek Firming and Luminous Tinted Body Spray

Dermalogica Sebum Clearing Masque

Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller

Juara Invigorating Coffee Scrub

Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Eye De-Puffer

La Roche-Posay Rosaliac UV Legere Fortifying Anti-Redness Moisturiser SPF 15

LORAC TANtalizer Award Show Glow Firming Body Bronzer Mousse

Minor Figures Coffee Soap

Minor Figures Coffee Scrub

Organix Awakening Mocha Espresso Shampoo & Conditioner

Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream

Origins GinZing Brightening Eye Cream Shadow (10 colors)

Origins GinZing Energy Boosting Moisturizer

Pacific Shaving Company Caffeinated Shaving Cream

Peter Thomas Roth De-Spot Skin Brightening Corrector

Philosophy Café au Lait Shampoo

Philosophy Café au Lait Shower Gel

Philosophy Café au Lait Bubble Bath

Psssst Volumizing Boost Invisible Texturizing Powder

Shower Shock Caffeinated Soap

Shower Shock Caffeinated Body Wash

Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Under Eye Primer

St. Ives Firm and Glow Moisturizer with Caffeine

Vichy Destock Stomach Ventre

Wash with Joe Invigorating Body Wash




Peggy LaCerra

Peggy LaCerra

Peggy LaCerra, PhD, is an evolutionary neuroscientist and co-author of "The Origin of Minds: Evolution, Uniqueness, and the New Science of Self." She's also the president and CSO of god's lab, inc, makers of God's Speed Energy Products.