Caffeine can now be found in hundreds of cosmetic and skin-care items. Some manufacturers claim their products can take away under-eye puffiness or dark circles; others promise to smooth away cellulite. Sounds good, but do they work? ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, got the lowdown on what caffeinated products can and can’t do for you from a group of experts and researchers, including dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
* The claims: Bella Luccè claims that its Bali Kopi Coffee Scrub, $25.50, will exfoliate and smooth lumpy skin; OPI claims its Cappuccino Massage and Espresso Scrub Kit, $23, will stimulate cell turnover.
* Experts say: You’ll see softer, smoother skin, thanks to the exfoliating capabilities of the coffee grounds, but you don’t get enough penetration to tighten skin.
* Bottom line: Though store-bought exfoliators work, don’t toss out your own coffee grounds! Recycle them as a home-made scrub. Just add a little olive oil to make a paste.
Cellulite creams and gels
* The claims: Bliss Love Handler, $36, Revitol Cellulite Solution, $40, and Clarins Super Restorative Redefining Body Care, $88, stimulate skin and improve firmness, reducing the appearance of cellulite.
* Experts say: To see a payoff, caffeine must be able to penetrate the skin cells, and some preliminary evidence is intriguing.
* Bottom line: These products are effective only as long as they are being used, and it generally takes four to five weeks to see any difference.
* The claims: Products such as Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Eye Roller, $13, Kiehl’s Eye Alert, $21, and Lancôme High Potency Daily Moisturizing Eye Treatment, $36, reduce dark circles and puffiness.
* Experts say: If puffiness is the result of water retention, a caffeinated eye cream might help dehydrate the area. As for those dark circles, the deeper they are, the less likely it is that they will disappear. Caffeine’s ability to constrict blood vessels can help, but it only works on the skin’s outermost layer.
* Bottom line: Don’t expect miracles, but you will probably get an immediate tingling or cooling sensation, and you might notice that bags look less severe and under-eye circles might appear a bit lighter over time.
* The claims: Products such as Murad Environmental Defense Kit, $82, and Topix Replenix Cream CF, $63, are supposed to protect skin against premature aging and reduce redness.
* Experts say: Caffeine might improve the look of your skin and protect it from sun damage, but you should still use sunscreen. Recent studies have found that caffeine might also help sunscreens and antioxidant ingredients in skin creams work longer and more effectively. And there are no known negative effects of applying caffeine to your skin.
* Bottom line: Applying a skin cream containing caffeine every morning before you head out into the sun might not be a bad idea—but those creams are super pricey!
A special thanks to the July 2009 issue of ShopSmart, for the insider shopping tips.