Coffee is a source of nutrients and antioxidants that may benefit the skin, scalp, and hair. A person can use it to exfoliate, treat acne, increase blood flow, and balance pH levels.
In this article, we describe eight ways to use coffee on the scalp, hair, and skin. We also provide research that helps to clarify the potential benefits.
Coffee grounds make a great exfoliant. The grounds do not dissolve in water, which makes them good at scrubbing away dead skin cells.
Caffeic acid also has antimicrobial properties, which means that it may help protect the skin against germs. Confirming these findings will require more studies in humans.
To make a simple exfoliating scrub, combine:
- one-quarter cup fresh coffee grounds
- one-quarter cup brown sugar
- enough lemon juice for the desired consistency
Scrub the mixture into the skin once every few days after washing the body. Let the scrub sit on the skin for a few minutes, then rinse it off.
Coffee may benefit people with puffy, inflamed eyes.
Caffeine stimulates blood flow and widens, or dilates, the blood vessels. This increases blood flow, which can help the skin to naturally tighten. The result may be a reduction in the buildup of fluid under the eyes.
Other compounds in coffee, such as chlorogenic acids, may also reduce inflammation around the eyes.
Try dabbing around the eyes with a paste of very finely-ground coffee and the liquid from the coffee itself.
Coffee contains antioxidants, such as polyphenols. These may help to protect against ultraviolet (UV) rays and some signs of aging linked to sun exposure.
Authors of a study from 2015 concluded that participants with the highest consumption of polyphenols, from coffee or other sources, had fewer UV age spots on their faces. The participants were Japanese women aged 30–60 years. Confirming these findings will require further research.
Drinking coffee or applying it to the skin are simple ways to deliver these antioxidants to the body.
Coffee may also help reduce the appearance of cellulite on the skin.
However, from this study, it is not possible to say whether the caffeine, another substance, or a combination produced the results.
A person could try using fresh, wet coffee grounds to scrub and exfoliate areas of cellulite. The exfoliation may also help smooth the skin and stimulate blood flow.
The antioxidants, stimulants, and chlorogenic acids in coffee may make it an effective acne-fighting facial scrub.
Acne occurs when oil, dead skin cells, and other substances clog pores, which can become infected by bacteria, resulting in inflammation.
Scrubbing the face with coffee grounds can help to clear away dead skin cells and unclog the pores.
The chlorogenic acids in coffee may also reduce inflammation and protect against some strains of bacteria.
Coffee may be very effective at cleansing the feet and smoothing and softening the skin.
The grounds can help scrape away dead skin cells from the soles of the feet, and the stimulating effects of caffeine may help to increase blood flow and circulation in the area.
To make a foot bath:
- Brew a few large cups of coffee
- Add both the coffee and the used grounds to a small bucket or tub.
- Allow the coffee to cool, so it does not burn the skin
- Soak the feet in the coffee, and use the grounds to scrub away dead skin cells.
The scalp and hair are naturally acidic. Scientists measure the acidity of a substance using the pH scale.
The lower the pH value, the more acidic a substance is. A pH value of under 7.0 is considered acidic, while a pH above 7.0 is basic, or alkaline. Hair fibers have a pH of 3.67, while the scalp has a pH of 5.5.
Using hair products that have a higher pH value than the hair may result in dullness, frizziness, and damage.
Coffee is naturally acidic. The American Dental Association gives a pH value of 5.11 to the medium roast of a major brand.
Applying coffee to the hair can be a great way to help rebalance the pH levels of the hair and scalp.
Try rinsing the hair with cold, brewed coffee or rubbing coffee grounds into the scalp. This can also help to scrub away dead skin cells from the scalp.
People with brown hair looking to add a little depth to their natural color may want to try a coffee treatment.
To darken the hair with coffee:
- Brew a few large cups of strong coffee and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Add the coffee to large basin. Have a clean cup and a hair elastic or shower cap handy.
- Lean head-first over the basin.
- Using the cup, scoop up the coffee and pour it onto the head so that all the hair is thoroughly soaked.
- Wring the hair out gently, then arrange it in a bun or use the shower cap.
- Leave the coffee to soak for anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
- Rinse the hair in the shower.
- For a darker color, repeat the process.
Coffee contains a variety of compounds that may benefit the skin, scalp, and hair.
High-quality, freshly ground beans may be more effective than packaged or instant coffee. However, results can vary, and it may help to try a few different types to see which works best.
Anyone unsure about using coffee on their skin should contact a dermatologist beforehand.