Updated: Nov 20
For most people, it’s the first choice they make when they start their day. Whether you’re reaching for a hot cup of joe or a steaming mug of tea, your beverage choice sets the stage for a productive morning. What many people don’t realize is that both coffee and tea have their own unique set of health benefits—not just for your body, but for your skin health, too. And those benefits may be available in tea- and coffee-infused topical skin care products as well.
Taste preferences aside, which is the better choice for your morning routine? Here are some of the pros and cons of the two most popular morning pick-me-ups—whether you’re sipping away or using one as a topical treatment.
Antioxidants—whether natural or man-made substances—function as cell protectors. When ingested or absorbed through the skin, antioxidants are said to protect against free radicals (unstable molecules that have been linked to everything from cancer to cataracts). Let’s compare the antioxidants in tea versus those in coffee.
Tea Contains Catechins
A class of flavonoids acting as antioxidants, catechins are what makes tea so good for the body. These antioxidant powers have been shown to naturally reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation and combat free radicals. Those are the same free radicals that cause your skin to age, so green tea can actually help you keep your skin looking young, bright and fresh.
Coffee Is Rich in Phenolic Acids
Though tea tends to get all the credit, coffee also contains plenty of antioxidants. The ones found in coffee are known as phenolic acids (caffeic, p-coumaric and ferulic). These are a group of antioxidants that increase resistance of LDL to oxidation, thus reducing your risk of heart disease (as it’s not just the presence of the bad LDL cholesterol that causes heart disease, but the oxidation of it).
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), more than 95 percent of adults consume caffeine on a regular basis—largely from coffee and tea. Though caffeine is mildly addictive, it is approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for safe, daily consumption. However, as with all things, caffeine is best enjoyed in moderation. The FDA recommends limiting your intake to 400 mg of caffeine per day. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest:
The average cup of coffee has between 50 and 200 mg of caffeine (decaf has 2–25 mg).The average cup of tea contains around 25–100 mg of caffeine (herbal teas have none).
Once you exceed four or five cups of either drink, you might experience symptoms like jitteriness, migraines, nervousness, frequent urination and more severe effects. Some people experience physical dependence (caffeine, though legal, is still a drug) and a vicious cycle of insomnia and fatigue. This is because caffeine can interfere with the compound in your body that helps you fall (and stay) asleep.
However, caffeine in moderation isn’t all bad. Studies such as “A comparison of the effects of caffeine following abstinence and normal caffeine use” show that caffeine intake can help increase well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability.
General Health Effects
Two of the most popular beverages around the world, coffee and tea can both have positive and negative effects on your health. While many effects are related to caffeine (see above section), this section compares some of the other components.
Tea’s Effect on the Body
Tea is one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world and is also one of the most versatile drinks for improving your personal wellness. And we’re talking big improvements; multiple studies suggest that green tea may be effective at preventing Alzheimer’s, as well as reducing the risk of breast cancer in women.
However, the tannins in tea may make it more difficult to absorb iron—so you may want to consider taking an iron supplement or consuming tea in between meals (as opposed to with your meal) if you are anemic or iron deficient. (Talk to your doctor before adding a supplement to your routine.) The tannins and caffeine in tea can also stain your teeth and dry out your mouth, so be sure to drink plenty of water and brush your teeth shortly after finishing your cup.
Coffee’s Effect on the Body
Let’s be honest: Many of us are just using coffee to give us that extra jolt of energy that we need to have a productive morning. However, the benefits of drinking coffee stretch far beyond an extra push to help you get through a busy work day. According to a study in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, coffee can also protect against diseases such as type two diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver and neurodigestive diseases.
On the flip side, coffee may also inhibit iron absorption, due to phenolic acids (the antioxidants mentioned above). Coffee can also dry out your mouth and stain your teeth, so the same considerations for tea apply to coffee as well.
Skin Care Benefits
Though coffee and tea both taste great, they are powerful ingredients in many topical skin care products. You may find tea extract, coffee extract and caffeine in eye creams, body scrubs, face masks, and a variety of other anti-aging products.
Tea’s Skin Benefits
Because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich and cancer-fighting properties, green tea extract is used in many skin care products. According to the study “Practical Uses of Botanicals in Skin Care,” green tea may have anti-aging effects when used topically, as it can decrease inflammation and protect against free radicals—both of which are known to speed up the aging process. Additionally, other teas like white, red and black are rich in inflammation-fighting, anti-aging components.
Coffee’s Skin Benefits
More and more, skin products are using extract from the fruit of the coffee plant. That’s because, according to a study in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, coffee extract is said to increase blood flow and decrease inflammation, making your skin look bright, young and beautiful. Additionally, a recent study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that coffee ground extracts may be useful for reducing wrinkles, preventing water loss and slowing down collagen loss when used topically.