Caffeine is not just for mornings anymore.
This simple yet effective ingredient is gaining traction in the beauty world, thanks to its popularity on TikTok and celebrity endorsers who say caffeine-infused skin-care products are a quick, affordable way to give your face a little pick-me-up.
Why Caffeine Is Added to Skin-Care Products
While it may sound too good to be true, those caffeine skin-care devotees may be onto something.
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it makes your blood vessels get smaller and tighten, says Jeffrey Hsu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and codirector of Oak Dermatology in Chicago.
“When used in skin care, caffeine reduces blood flow to the skin and makes it look brighter and tighter,” Dr. Hsu says. “It’s often seen as an anti-aging or wrinkle-smoothing ingredient in face care, eye care, and even body care.”
The key to making skin-care products work is proper formulation. In particular, when the right amount of caffeine is used, it can be an effective ingredient to freshen up your skin, eliminate dark under-eye circles, and reduce puffiness in your face.
Several studies, like one published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, show that caffeine molecules are small enough to pass through the top layers of your skin, so it can really dig in and do its job intradermally, explains Hsu.
But it’s worth noting that just because a product claims it contains caffeine, it doesn’t mean it will automatically give you the benefits you’re looking for, he says.
“In order for caffeine to be effective as mentioned, it must be applied in highly concentrated doses,” says Hsu. “I always recommend patients to go with medical-grade skin-care products, as they are backed by controlled studies that prove the products’ formulations, ingredient transparency, and efficacy.”
When evaluating skin-care labels, marketing jargon like “clinically proven” and “pro grade” are not necessarily synonymous with “medical grade,” adds Hsu. “Medical-grade products are dispensed at a physician’s office or a med spa that has a medical director overseeing their operations.”