Caffeine's mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use

Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(1):8-14. doi: 10.1159/000343174. Epub 2012 Oct 11.


Caffeine is being increasingly used in cosmetics due to its high biological activity and ability to penetrate the skin barrier. This alkaloid is frequently used as a hydrophilic model substance in human and animal skin penetration as well as different synthetic membrane using Franz diffusion cell experiments. The commercially available topical formulations of caffeine normally contain 3% caffeine. As for a cosmetic purpose, caffeine is used as an active compound in anti-cellulite products because it prevents excessive accumulation of fat in cells. This alkaloid stimulates the degradation of fats during lipolysis through inhibition of the phosphodiesterase activity. Caffeine has potent antioxidant properties. It helps protect cells against the UV radiation and slows down the process of photoaging of the skin. Moreover, caffeine contained in cosmetics increases the microcirculation of blood in the skin and also stimulates the growth of hair through inhibition of the 5-α-reductase activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Blood Vessels / drug effects
  • Blood Vessels / physiology
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Caffeine / therapeutic use
  • Cosmetics / pharmacology*
  • Cosmetics / therapeutic use
  • Hair / drug effects
  • Hair / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Lipodystrophy / drug therapy
  • Microcirculation / drug effects
  • Skin Absorption / drug effects


  • Antioxidants
  • Cosmetics
  • Caffeine