Does Coffee Cause Rosacea?

Your morning cup of coffee notoriously has all kinds of benefits and risks associated with it, but can it trigger rosacea flares? We take a closer look at what coffee does to the body and ask why it might be associated with rosacea.

Let’s get one thing straight first: coffee does not cause rosacea!

What causes one person to develop rosacea and not another is very hard to pinpoint; it seems to be a complex interplay between inherited physiological traits, biological sex, hormones, skin sensitivity, and environmental factors. But if you’re prone to rosacea, you are likely to experience the symptoms of the condition, whether you ever touch a cup of coffee or not.

But while coffee doesn’t cause rosacea, can it have an effect on those already living with the condition? It seems a simpler question to answer, but even that turns out to be complicated...

One thing is sure: a hot cup of coffee is definitely a significant trigger for many rosacea sufferers. Enough people have associated their morning cuppa with a flare for this to have become part of rosacea lore across the globe.

Why is this? Well, caffeine can dilate the blood vessels, causing a flushed, hot face, as in a rosacea flare, so it's long been assumed that caffeine can trigger a rosacea flush. Rosacea information leaflets and sites routinely recommend avoiding caffeine in general and coffee in particular, as a way of managing rosacea flares.

However, a recent study showed that women who drank a lot of coffee actually had a lower incidence of rosacea than those who rarely touched it! And conversely, drinking an extra hot cup of water is just as likely to provoke a rosacea attack than a caffeinated drink.

So what’s going on?

Well, it seems likely that the heat of your beverage is more significant than what it actually is. 

It could also be that drinking a large quantity of coffee has a prophylactic effect, and those who drink a minimal amount of coffee are more at risk of it triggering flares than those who drank four or so cups a day.

And finally, it is likely that people have different tolerances for caffeine, even if they’re living with the same condition. Just as some rosacea-sufferers can tolerate a few glasses of white wine, while others are sensitive to the merest sip of alcohol, there may be some who find coffee a trigger for them, even if drunk at lower temperatures. 

In conclusion, if you want to drink coffee, drink it at a lower heat, around room temperature rather than piping hot. And if you’re already a heavy coffee drinker, and know that it doesn’t affect your rosacea, there’s no reason to stop! It’s always worth keeping a trigger diary if you want to keep track of your symptoms and what might be causing them, but it does look as if coffee is off the bad list for most rosacea sufferers!

For more information about rosacea and how to manage it, see our blogs on Rosacea Awareness, and What Foods Trigger Rosacea?

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