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  • If you are living with eczema, you may have heard people talk about how various foods or beverages, like coffee, affect their symptoms.
  • Limited research and anecdotal stories sometimes offer conflicting information about the risks and benefits of coffee.
  • Some connections may exist between coffee and eczema, but more research is needed.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition associated with dry skin, scaly patches, blisters, and rashes. Though treatment and skin care routines can help, you may have also tried different lifestyle adjustments, like dietary changes, to help prevent or reduce the severity of flares.

You may have heard people suggest that drinking coffee can trigger eczema flares, whereas topically applied caffeine may help improve symptoms.

You also may have heard some people talk about the benefits of caffeine for atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, according to the National Eczema Association (NEA).

Though data is limited, this article reviews what is known about the relationship between coffee, caffeine, and eczema.

There is very limited evidence to suggest that your morning coffee habit may cause your eczema symptoms to flare or get worse.

A study from 2003 noted coffee as one of the foods that can trigger eczema, though this research is older and more studies on the topic are needed to confirm this conclusion.

It’s also easy to find anecdotal stories online of people who experienced changing eczema symptoms when eliminating coffee from their diets.

Still, organizations such as the NEA do not specifically list coffee as a known trigger food or an item to exclude or include in a diet.

Let’s consider the reasons why coffee could play a role in causing inflammation.

Coffee contains mycotoxins

Mycotoxins, as the name implies, are toxic chemicals found in mold. The toxins can cause potential health concerns, such as kidney damage or increased cancer risk, at high levels.

According to a 2013 study, several other studies have shown that coffee beans contain traceable amounts of mycotoxins. This means you consume these toxins with every cup of coffee you drink.

In recent years, some people have used this information to promote the idea that drinking coffee is bad for eczema — and in general — because of the negative health implications of drinking mycotoxins.

Despite these claims, it is important to note that people consume safe levels of mycotoxins in several different foods throughout their day, according to 2008 research from Japan. Plus, your liver will filter out the small amounts of toxins so that you should feel no ill effects from drinking coffee.

Coffee releases stress hormones

Some people have pointed out that drinking coffee can trigger your adrenal gland to release cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Some research from 2017 supports the idea that coffee can increase a person’s stress level.

Stress is a known trigger of eczema flares. This means it is possible that if coffee raises your stress level, it may trigger a flare.

However, as the researchers pointed out, the study was small in size and several factors, including your body size and metabolism rate, can affect how coffee affects your stress levels.

In other words, coffee may have a negative impact for some people yet cause no reactions in others.

What this all means

If you experience worsening symptoms or frequent flares, you may want to try eliminating coffee from your diet. That said, the research linking coffee to eczema flares is limited, so removing coffee from your diet may not have any effect on your symptoms.

Limited research supports the use of coffee to help with inflammation. Studies that do exist tend to look specifically at the role of caffeine, independent of coffee.

For example, in a 2019 review of studies, researchers looked at the role of caffeine for the treatment of atopic dermatitis (a form of eczema) and psoriasis. Their results indicated that caffeine can help reduce inflammation, which can help eczema symptoms improve.

However, it is unclear if the people receiving treatment applied the caffeine topically or ingested it. The researchers also did not directly note the use of coffee or examination of coffee’s effects.

Caffeine may be an effective form of treatment for eczema. Researchers have shown evidence dating back several decades that topically applied caffeine along with hydrocortisone can help reduce eczema symptoms.

A 2019 review of studies also noted that caffeine can have a positive effect on treating eczema.

However, it is unclear if a person will gain the benefits only from topical application of caffeine or if consuming it directly through coffee or other sources would also work. Ultimately, more research needs to be done on this topic.

What this all means

Limited evidence suggests that topical creams or ointments that contain caffeine may help with improving eczema symptoms. However, it is not clear if consuming caffeine, such as from coffee, will have any effect on your symptoms.

The research on how coffee may impact eczema is very limited. While anecdotal stories are widely available, very little scientific study supports either the risks or benefits of coffee on eczema symptoms.

Some research indicates that caffeine, at least when applied topically, can help improve eczema symptoms. It is not clear if consuming it in coffee or from other sources will have the same effect.