The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG not only set a benchmark but also put caffeine serums at the forefront of the beauty industry. Just as your espresso shot jolts you awake, serums infused with caffeine could be that ‘wake-up call’ for your complexion, targeting everything from puffiness to aging signs. Ahead, we’ll take a closer look at caffeine serums to find out whether or not they’re just hype or actually competing with the famous retinol and vitamin C.
How do caffeine serums work?
You’ve probably spotted caffeine serums on the shelf of beauty stores or across the glossy pages of your favorite beauty magazines.
But what’s all the buzz about?
According to research, the protective role of caﬀeine serums includes “decreasing fat cells by dehydrating such cells, decreasing dark circles around the eyes by vasoconstricting and draining excess lymphatic ﬂuid or blood, and decreasing cellulite appearance.”
Yes, that’s a lot to unpack. Here we go.
Reduce dark circles and puffiness
First off, caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it tightens up your blood vessels. Now, you might ask why that’s something to celebrate. Well, dark circles and puffiness are often due to dilated blood vessels or excess fluid. Caffeine constricts those blood vessels, which in turn reduces facial puffiness and swelling, particularly around the eyes and cheeks.
Increase blood circulation
It turns out caffeine can remove waste products from the skin tissues. It does that by increasing blood circulation so more oxygen and nutrients can reach the cells. We know this sounds a bit counterintuitive, as we’ve just said caffeine constricts blood vessels. However, this constriction can also lead to a rebound effect where blood vessels dilate afterward, which improves blood flow. This can be especially beneficial for those dealing with puffiness, dullness, congestion, or breakouts.
Caffeine wears another hat in the skincare world, and that is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants are the skin’s personal defenders that fight off external stressors like UV and pollution. They protect against skin cancer, ward off dark spots caused by sun damage and even slow down aging signs. It’s actually been proved a couple of times that caffeine-based topical products protect against photoaging and inhibit skin cancer caused by harmful UV radiation. However, they are more effective as a preventive measure rather than a treatment for sun damage.
Caffeine is often added to anti-cellulite products because it dissolves excessive accumulation of fat cells. Specifically, it stimulates enzymes that break down fats. Still, caffeine won’t miraculously reduce cellulite overnight. According to Byrdie, “it exclusively targets subdermal fat and does not affect fat deposits around internal organs.”
Soothe redness and inflammation
Indeed, most caffeine serums are really soothing. When they’re applied on red, swollen, or inflamed skin, they reduce blood flow to the area and so alleviate inflammation and other discomfort. Besides, caffeine is a natural anti-inflammatory and really knows how to calm your skin.
Promote collagen production for firm skin
While you shouldn’t rely solely on caffeine serums to keep your skin firm (retinol is much better), it’s worth considering having one in your anti-aging routine. Caffeine has been found to promote the production of collagen, which is the protein that gives skin elasticity. Caffeine serums usually play well with retinol (caffeine in the morning, retinol at night) to provide a well-rounded solution to aging signs.
Restore skin barrier function
Several studies suggest that topical caffeine can improve the function of the epidermal barrier, which is basically the top layer of the skin that holds water in. Starting in the second week, 0.5% caffeine led to meaningful effects on the skin barrier function.
Benefits of caffeine serums
- Reduce puffiness and swelling
- Target dark circles and under-eye bags
- Soothe inflammation and redness
- Protect against UV damage and premature skin aging
- Increase collagen production
- Improve fine lines and wrinkles
- Tighten and smoothen the skin
- Break down fats under the skin
- Restore the protective barrier
Are caffeine serums safe?
Overall, caffeine serums with concentrations of up to 3% are considered safe, not toxic, and easily absorbed into the skin. Moreover, caffeine does not get absorbed into the bloodstream and does not damage liver cells. It works well on all types of skin, even on sensitive and acne-prone.
Guide to using caffeine serums
There aren’t many restrictions when it comes to adding caffeine serums into your routine. They can be used at any time of the day and work well along with all other ingredients. We suggest using caffeine serums as a pre-workout skincare product to enhance performance. Since caffeine boosts circulation, it can help deliver the active ingredients faster into your skin cells. It usually takes a few weeks to see results on swelling and redness, while for signs of aging and firmness can take up to three months. So make sure you use caffeine serums for more extended periods of time.
- Seleem, M., Abulfadl, Y.S., Hoffy, N. et al. Promising role of topical caffeine mesoporous gel in collagen resynthesis and UV protection through proline assessment. Futur J Pharm Sci 8, 27 (2022).
- Herman A, Herman AP. Caffeine’s mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(1):8-14. doi: 10.1159/000343174. Epub 2012 Oct 11. PMID: 23075568.
- Seleem, Mae & Abulfadl, Y. & Hoffy, NadaEl & Lotfy, Nancy & Ewida, Heba. (2022). Promising role of topical caffeine mesoporous gel in collagen resynthesis and UV protection through proline assessment. Future Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 8. 10.1186/s43094-022-00417-5.
- Escalante G, Bryan P, Rodriguez J. Effects of a topical lotion containing aminophylline, caffeine, yohimbe, l-carnitine, and gotu kola on thigh circumference, skinfold thickness, and fat mass in sedentary females. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019 Aug;18(4):1037-1043. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12801. Epub 2018 Nov 19. PMID: 30456780; PMCID: PMC7379994.
- The Comparison of the Effects of Caffeine Topical 0.25% and 0.5% as Anti-wrinkle Therapy, Susanti Rosmala Dewi, Aris Cahyono, Anggana Rafika P., and Prasetyadi Mawardi, Department of Dermatovenereology Medical Faculty of Sebelas Maret University, Dr. Moewardi General Hospital, Surakarta