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Caffeine in cosmetics: the benefits that you didn’t know about.

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

We are all accustomed to seeing caffeine as a powerful beverage that wakes us up, improves our concentration and enhances our mood. This is all true, since it is a mild stimulant of the central nervous system, that affects the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin.[1] However, what biological functions does this captivating alkaloid have in relation to our personal beauty routine?

One of the principal applications of caffeine is its function as an active compound in anti-cellulite products; as a matter of fact, it can stimulate the degradation of fats during lipolysis through inhibition of the phosphodiesterase activity.

Figure 1. Lipolysis pathway. Cr. Author

More accurately, the biological activities of caffeine are:

  • To affect the secretion of catecholamine, increasing the concentration of cAMP in cells;

  • To inhibit α adrenergic receptors, preventing an excessive accumulation of fats;

  • To inhibit PDE activity, thus increasing the cAMP levels in adipocytes;

  • To improve the microcirculation in blood vessels, stimulating the draining lymph systems in fatty tissues.[2]

Secondly, caffeine has potent antioxidant properties that lead to a protective effect against UVB radiation, which is responsible for photoaging of the skin, expansion and cracking of skin blood vessels and formation of wrinkles. In extreme cases, exposure to UVB radiation can lead to melanoma, a dangerous cancer of the skin.[4]

The beneficial antioxidant properties of caffeine are:

  • To improve the synthesis of procollagen, giving skin elasticity and reducing photoaging of the skin;

  • To reduce the formation of free radicals in skin cells, in fact caffeine is an effective scavenger of hydroxyl and alkoxyl radicals;[3]

  • To stop the UV-damaged cells of skin that cause cellular divisions and apoptosis before they begin to transform into cancer cells.[4]

In addition, caffeine stimulates the growth of hair through inhibition of the 5-α-reductase activity, an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is responsible for baldness.


Furthermore, caffeine has the ability to inhibit PDE activity, that consequently stimulates cellular metabolism and it also reduces smooth muscle tension near the hair follicle, causing an easier delivery of nutrients.


Caffeine arouses capillary vessel microcirculation in the skin of the head, contributing to the nurturing of hair roots.[5]

In conclusion, all of these properties make caffeine an important biological active compound that satisfies different needs: starting from anti-cellulite products to help women, continuing with hair product that help people who suffer from hair loss and finishing with the common necessity of all people to protect the skin from the UV radiation.

Therefore, caffeine should not only be part of our life as a warm coffee in the morning, but even in our personal care routine.


1. Herman, Andrzej & Herman, A.P., “Caffeine’s Mechanisms of Action and Its Cosmetic Use.”, Skin Pharmacology and Physiology., 2013, vol. 26, pag. 8-14, doi:10.1159/000343174.

2. Rawlings AV, “Cellulite and its treatment.”, International journal of cosmetic science, 2006, vol. 28(3), pag 175-190, doi:10.1111/j.1467-2494.2006.00318.

3. León-Carmona, Jorge Rafael, Annia Galano, “Is caffeine a good scavenger of oxygenated free radicals?.”, The journal of physical chemistry, 2011, vol. 115(15), pag. 4538-4546, doi:10.1021/jp201383y.

4. Heffernan, Timothy P., “ATR-Chk1 pathway inhibition promotes apoptosis after UV treatment in primary human keratinocytes: potential basis for the UV protective effects of caffeine.”, The Journal of investigative dermatology, 2009, vol. 129(7), pag.1805-1815, doi:10.1038/jid.2008.435.

5. Otberg N, Patzelt A, Rasulev U, Hagemeister T, Linscheid M, Sinkgraven R, Sterry W, Lademann J, “The role of hair follicles in the percutaneous absorption of caffeine”, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 2008; vol 65(4), pag 488–492, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2007.03065.x.

Image credits: Pexels

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