Coffee can treat hyperpigmentation and lighten your skin

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Ever wondered if your morning cup of coffee could do more than just wake you up? New research suggests that coffee compounds might help with skin pigmentation problems like freckles, age spots, and melasma.

What are kahweol and cafestol?

Coffee is rich in various bioactive compounds, including two called kahweol (KW) and cafestol (CFS). These compounds are known for their presence in unfiltered coffee like Turkish or French press coffee. Researchers have been curious about their potential health benefits and have now discovered that they might play a role in skin health.

The study’s goals

Scientists wanted to find out if kahweol and cafestol could affect melanin production in the skin. Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin its colour. Sometimes, melanin production can go into overdrive, leading to dark spots or patches.

Coffee can treat hyperpigmentation and lighten your skin | News by Thaiger
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The researchers used mouse melanoma cells and human melanocytes (skin cells that produce melanin) from different ethnic backgrounds to see how these coffee compounds would work.

Key findings

  • Effect on melanin production: While kahweol and cafestol didn’t significantly affect the melanin inside the cells, they however did reduce the amount of melanin released outside the cells. This suggests they might help reduce dark spots on the skin’s surface.
  • Kahweol vs. cafestol: While kahweol showed stronger effects in mouse cells, cafestol emerged as a more potent inhibitor in human cells, particularly in reducing melanin export. This means that they can prevent the darkening of the skin.

How do they work?

The compounds seem to interfere with the melanin export process rather than stopping melanin production altogether. This unique action can be particularly useful because it targets the visible dark spots without affecting the overall pigmentation.

Impact on human skin cells

The study revealed that cafestol significantly reduced the number of dendrites (branch-like structures in melanocytes that help transport melanin). By shortening these dendrites, cafestol effectively limits the melanin transfer to other skin cells, reducing pigmentation on the skin’s surface.

Coffee can treat hyperpigmentation and lighten your skin | News by Thaiger
Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Safety and practicality

Importantly, kahweol and cafestol didn’t harm keratinocytes, another type of skin cell. This is crucial because healthy keratinocytes are necessary for maintaining overall skin health. The researchers estimated that consuming about 3-4 cups of certain types of coffee could provide enough kahweol and cafestol to achieve similar effects seen in the study.

Potential for skin treatments

Given these findings, cafestol shows promise as a potential treatment for hyperpigmentation disorders. It offers a natural alternative to current treatments, which can sometimes cause side effects like skin irritation. However, more research is needed to understand the molecular mechanisms fully and to test these compounds in real-world settings.

This study opens up exciting possibilities for using coffee compounds in skincare. While more research is needed, kahweol and cafestol could become key ingredients in new treatments for skin pigmentation issues. So, next time you enjoy a cup of unfiltered coffee, you might be sipping on more than just a delicious beverage – you could be helping your skin and your looks as well!


Dr. Nikhil Prasad

Dr. Nikhil Prasad is an independent researcher, medical, pharma and health PR consultant, herbalists and phytochemical specialists and a medical and health writer for numerous international publications and sites including his own sites such as Thailand Medical News. He is based either at Sydney, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai or Bangkok.

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