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The Truth About Caffeine

cup of coffee
June 29, 2016 Reviewed by Marta 3 Comments

A Truth In Aging community member emailed with “disturbing information.” She had found research that concluded that caffeine inhibits collagen formation and was now faced with the ultimate dilemma – give up her morning cuppa vital kick starter or willfully contribute to her own aging. What to do?

The study was conducted in 2014 and it is quickly obvious that coffee is not this bunch of researchers cup of tea. They grudgingly admit that it has antioxidant properties, but go on to say that coffee kills off cells and therefore inhibits the wound healing process. Now I have heard claims that say just the opposite, but I’ll come back to those later.

The study claims to be “the first report about caffeine-induced inhibition of collagen synthesis in human skin fibroblasts." There is an enzyme called prolidase that plays a role in collagen synthesis and caffeine inhibits it, hence having an adverse effect on our collagen production. Adding some hyaluronic acid in the hopes it would counteract the effect of the caffeine did not prove helpful.

It should be noted that the experiment was dose dependent and conducted on cells in a petri dish, not actual humans. I am not sure I know how incubation of a cell for 24 hours in 5 mM of caffeine would translate to human coffee consumption. However, I did find two scientific sources for the consumption of coffee by the average American as 4mgs or 15mgs. According to one source, the average cup of coffee has just under 200 mM to be consumed by the whole body, but a single cell. So, my guess is that you’d have to drink an inhuman amount of coffee to replicate this study in real life.

This was the same for other studies. The doses of caffeine studied before they impaired wound healing or adversely affected collagen and bone density were over 300mgs. It would take an awful lot of double espressos to reach that equivalent.

Against all this, caffeine is used more and more in skincare. So it must be doing something right. Right? I thought it worth revisiting some research to make sure all of these anti-aging creams aren’t just clouds in my coffee.  One of the reasons that accounts for caffeine’s popularity in skincare is that it penetrates the skin barrier easily. Commercially available topical formulations of caffeine apparently contain around 3 percent caffeine.

There’s research that caffeine applied topically after UV exposure resulted in a significant decrease in UV-induced skin roughness and damage (although it should be noted that cosmetic firm, Shiseido, had a hand in this one). Topical caffeine might also have a sunscreen effect. A  few years ago, a Rutgers study showed that caffeine guards against certain skin cancers at the molecular level by inhibiting a protein enzyme in the skin known as ATR.

Caffeine is also structurally similar to uric acid, a known antioxidant that is present in our blood at relatively high concentrations. There are supposed to be 1,000 antioxidants in unprocessed coffee beans and hundreds more develop during the roasting process. According to Fox News, Americans eat so few vegetables and fruit that drinking coffee is often the primary source of antioxidants in a typical diet. Now, that factoid is an eye opener.

Caffeine shows up in anti-cellulite products because it prevents excessive accumulation of fat in cells. As an alkaloid, it stimulates the degradation of fats by inhibiting phosphodiesterase (a kind of enzyme). Studies tend to support this theory, but the effects on cellulite seem to be short-lived. It also increases microcirculation of blood in the skin and stimulates the growth of hair through inhibition of the 5-α-reductase activity.

So enjoy your joe while browsing these anti-aging products that come with a decent shot of caffeine.


IS Clinical Serum ($150 in the shop)


Your Best Face Boost ($65 in the shop)


La Vie Celeste Eclairage ($98 in the shop)


Truth Vitality True Volume Conditioner ($35 in the shop)


Truth Vitality True Volume Shampoo ($29 in the shop)


Medik8 Redness Corrector ($88 in the shop)


Deciem Grow Gorgeous Hair ($50)

Dr. Dennis Gross Retinol & Ferulic Eye Serum ($68 in the shop)


  • July 3, 2016

    by wendy

    what a relief i love my morning coffee kick starter. A use for the used coffee grounds is to mix it with some melted coconut oil, blend in some fresh rosemary, lemon and use it as a scrub on your legs. Apparently good for helping to break up cellulite.

  • June 30, 2016

    by Patrice

    Thank you for providing some context around yet another isolated research finding! I spent my life involved in clinical trial execution, so when articles come out with conflicting risk/benefit results for everyday habits like drinking coffee, it can really be maddening!

  • June 30, 2016

    by River

    Thank you for your research!! I cannot live without my coffee!!!

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