The Link Between Coffee & Acne

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Self reports from people with acne point the finger at coffee as a trigger, but currently not enough is known to say for sure. Typical add-ins -- like milk, chocolate and foods high in refined carbohydrates -- might play a role in acne, however. Talk to your health care provider if you suspect your diet is triggering your acne or making it worse. Keeping a food diary can help you track potential triggers.

Coffee Cited in Some Self Reports

No studies have shown that coffee triggers or aggravates acne. But a study published in the November 2006 issue of the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal examined patients' perceptions of factors that have an effect on their acne. The patients were untreated at the time of the study and between the ages of 13 and 42. Many patients believed coffee, tea, chocolate, nuts, eggs, fatty or fried food and cakes exacerbated their acne.

Sugary Coffee Drinks

There is a link between high-glycemic foods and acne. High-glycemic foods are composed of carbohydrates that the body absorbs rapidly. In turn, such foods spike insulin and may have a negative effect on a hormone called insulin-like growth factor. Clinical data suggests that a high-glycemic diet contributes to acne formation. Therefore, in theory, drinking sugary coffee drinks may pose a problem. Results of a related study, published in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that following a low-glycemic diet for 12 weeks decreases acne lesions and improves acne.

Chocolate-Flavored Coffee

Chocolate is a common additive in flavored coffee, and there is a correlation between chocolate and acne, at least in males, reports a study published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Researchers assessed the effect of coffee on acne in males between the ages of 18 and 35 in a double-blind trial. They found a link between the amount of chocolate consumed and the number of acne lesions. The authors concluded that in some individuals, chocolate appears to exacerbate acne.

Milk in Coffee

Milk is another common component of coffee used to enhance flavor that is linked to acne. In teenage boys, scientists found a link between the amount of skim milk consumed and acne, according to the results published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. A separate study found a link between acne severity and milk consumption in teenage girls. The results were published in the May 2006 edition of the Dermatology Online Journal.