Nowadays, you'd be just as likely to come across coffee in one of your creams as to pour cream in your coffee.  In 2006, over 140 skincare products containing caffeine were launched in the United States, as compared to just 21 in 2003.  It is becoming an increasingly popular trend for cosmetics to feature this beloved stimulant in their formulas. Facial firming products and cellulite busters alike are juiced with caffeine.  What's with this caffeine high?


You might think of caffeine as a mysterious pick-me-up, both necessary and addictive for daily functioning.  It is in fact natural and generally deemed safe, though the FDA waffled over its possible health concerns for years.  Caffeine is a heterocyclic compound found in the leaves, beans, and fruit of over 60 plant species.  In the past few years, studies have shown that caffeine is capable of many wonders, from lowering the risks of Parkinson's disease to staving off baldness.  Good news for the 90% of the population who consume it every day!


You don't have to stand in line at Starbucks to reap some of caffeine's benefits.  Applying caffeine to the skin is effective in three ways: as a vascoconstrictor, a diuretic, and an antioxidant.  Its firming and tightening properties make it a desirable additive to any anti-aging product.  Because of caffeine's ability to constrict the veins, it can be used to reduce dark circles and puffiness around the eyes.  Both Anthony Logistics for Men Eye Cream and Replenix Retinol Plus Smoothing Serum 10X tout caffeine to tighten and smooth the under-eye area.


When used in cellulite treatments, caffeine has a dehydrating effect on fat cells, triggering the evacuation of sodium and water and the intake of potassium.  As a result, skin on the thighs and buttocks usually appears more even (and less like cottage cheese).  These effects have been proven in multiple studies conducted by anti-cellulite compound manufacturers, though independent research is lacking.  Products such as Bliss Fat Girl Slim and Revitol Cellulite Solution promise to reduce the appearance of unwanted lumps and bumps based on the targeted delivery of caffeine.


Though surface effects on cellulite and troubled skin in the eye region might be immediate, the results achieved by virtue of caffeine are not permanent.  Sorry, but it won't actually dissolve those fatty deposits culpable for dimpled skin. More importantly, certain dermatologists contend that no product currently on the market packs in enough caffeine to induce a noticeable difference in skin.  With its slow process of skin absorption (at a rate of 2 micrograms per square centimeter over the course of an hour), even a sufficient amount of caffeine might not penetrate quickly enough to produce a reaction.


It is certainly dubious to assume that caffeine can enter the bloodstream via topical application, as certain cosmetics imply.  Fresh's V-Tonic Bath Spheres advertise caffeine-packed cola nut extract, while Payot Homme Energizing Care makes men think they are getting an extra boost with their cleansing ritual.  A soap, catchily called Shower Shock, features 2,400 milligrams of caffeine (as compared to 200 milligrams in a average cup of coffee).  Even if caffeine might make its way into the bloodstream in trace amounts, this quantity would hardly be adequate to affect a person's alertness.  If the presence of caffeine in rinse-off products somehow helps jump-start your day, that's grande (bad joke), but just know that you've fallen prey to subliminal advertising or a suggestive smell.


Coffee-based shampoo treatments have also been cropping up in recent years due to studies linking caffeine extract to topical hair loss prevention.  Caffeine is believed to protect against testosterone, which shortens the hair shaft's growth phase and the hair root's lifespan.  German hair care specialist Alpecin Cosmetic has been marketing its After Shampoo Liquid for years as a hair loss remedy containing a caffeine-derived active complex.  Ironically, excessive oral intake of caffeine substances can increase levels of DHT in the body, stimulating production of testosterone and resulting in hair loss.


There have also been promising studies with mice suggesting that coffee can be used to kill off cancer cells in skin.  Not only does it function as a suncreen, but caffeine also causes apoptosis (programmed cell death) in UVB-damaged skin cells and tumors.  Click here to watch a video about the science behind this finding.  Though these results haven't been confirmed for human skin, sunscreens have firmly latched onto caffeine for its sun-blocking power.  Origins Have a Nice Day Super-Charged Moisture Cream and Lotion SPF 15 and Kiehl's Facial Fuel SPF 15 sport caffeine for its antioxidant and anti-redness benefits.  Perhaps caffeine's potential for sun protection might be its greatest gift of all, dually combatting cell damage caused by free radicals and triggering cell death in DNA-damaged tissue.


Lately, the caffeine craze seems to be everywhere.  The miscellaneous benefits of caffeine are just as numerous as the options for putting it on your skin.  It makes you wonder why you can't just rub some good old-fashioned ground coffee beans all over your body.