You know about (and love) the caffeine in your morning joe. And you may have heard caffeine is a common ingredient in some medicines—mostly headache relievers. But caffeine in shaving cream?
“We took our cues from women’s cosmetics,” says Stan Ades, co-founder of Pacific Shaving Company. Pacific makes a line of eco-friendly shaving creams that—along with the usual aloe and shea butter—also include caffeine.
Ades says eye creams have for years included the stimulant, and he thought it made a lot of sense to use it in a shaving cream. But no, it’s not to give you a little extra kick in the a.m. “Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor—meaning it constricts blood vessels,” Ades explains. That constriction tones your skin and reduces the redness and irritation caused by shaving, he says.
“Caffeine may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Cindy Jones, Ph.D., a biochemist and owner of the Sagescript Institute, a Colorado-based cosmetic consulting company.
Jones—who also owns a skincare line called Colorado Aromatics—backs up Ades’ statements about caffeine’s vessel-shrinking, blood-flow increasing abilities. She says caffeine may also combat puffiness. That’s why it’s a popular ingredient in eye creams, she adds.
For all these reasons, caffeine is popping up in other skin care products—from lotions to hair-loss treatments. (Pacific also makes a caffeinated aftershave.)
“I think it’s a new trend in cosmetics that has been growing the last few years,” Jones says. Asked about any potential drawbacks, she says there’s always a risk of overdoing it. “Caffeine molecules are small enough to be absorbed into your blood through your skin,” she explains.
While that’s not worrying in itself—the caffeine in your coffee ends up in your bloodstream within minutes—Jones says slathering on all sorts of skin products that include caffeine could potentially speed up your heart rate or mess with your sleep.
“I don’t know if that’s the case, but I’d like to see more research on its use as a topical ingredient,” she says.
For now, products that contain caffeine tend to make a big deal of it. So there’s not much risk you’re spreading all sorts of caffeinated lotions and potions on your skin without realizing it.
“There’s 50 milligrams of caffeine in the whole tube, which is about how much you’d get in a cup of coffee,” Ades says of his company’s shaving cream.
So no, the little you’d use for your morning shave isn’t going to keep you up that night—especially if you’re accustomed to knocking back three or four (or ten) cups of coffee during the day.
“You would have to be really sensitive to caffeine to feel anything,” Ades says.