kicking the coffee habit for clear skin

kicking the coffee habit for clear skin

kicking the coffee habit for clear skin

coffee substitutes

for most of us, getting and maintaining clear skin requires a lifestyle change - and one of the most difficult acne-aggravating habits to quit is drinking coffee. delicious as it is, coffee can affect the skin in many ways: it contains organic acids that spike blood sugar and cortisol (the stress hormone) levels - increasing systemic inflammation (including in the skin!) and increasing oil production.

coffee-drinking (and the over-consumption of any caffeinated beverages) can also disrupt sleep - and we all know how important beauty rest is for resetting our hormones and allowing our bodies to heal efficiently.

cutting out coffee doesn’t have to be painful. really! so we’ve compiled a list of coffee substitutes - both caffeinated and caffeine-free - to help make the transition a yummy adventure!

let’s start with the CAFFEINATED options:


chai is blend of indian spices (cardamom, clove, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper), black tea, and is traditionally brewed with sugar and cow’s milk (but we opt for more skin-safe dairy substitutes like almond or hemp milk and sweeteners like stevia).

depending on how much effort you’re down for, you can buy pre-brewed chai blends that you add your milk substitute to or brew the chai yourself at home. you can also try oregon chai's "slightly sweet" chai blend, mixed with unsweetened almond milk. the economy of this particular pairing is remarkable - for less than the cost of two starbucks “chai lattes,” you have a healthier, less sugary, skin-safe chai to last a whole week!

i like to cook chai at home on the stove. my favorite loose-leaf chai blend is from rishi tea. i just follow the instructions on the container and use hemp milk (which i find is the creamiest dairy-substitute). rishi has a bunch of chai blends, including caffeine-free and green-tea based ones. one of our clients loves david rio's dairy-free power chai - which you just mix with your favorite dairy substitute (she uses califia farms almond milk - so good!)


yerba mate

if you need the mega-energy boost of coffee, yerba mate will do the trick! yerba mate is made from the leaves and twigs of a nutrient-rich plant indigenous to south america. traditionally, mate is drunk from a hollowed-out gourd using a silver filtering straw called a bombilla, but you can brew it gringo-style in a cup and sip it sans straw. mate has a somewhat bitter, cereal or grainy flavor that is definitely unique, but the steady alertness you get from drinking it can’t be beat. there are many good sources for yerba mate, one i brand i like is: guayaki.

image by content pixie on unsplash


good ole’ tea has always been my favorite source of caffeine. if you think that you don’t like tea, it might be because you just haven’t tried good, quality tea or found the right kind for you. there are so many types of tea (white, green, oolong, black, pu-erh, powdered, bagged, loose-leaf, flavored) and different production methods (like japanese steamed green teas vs chinese pan-fired greens). it might take some exploration to discover which tea charms your palate most!

remember, green tea is anti-inflammatory (so if inflammation is an issue with your skin, green tea would be a great daily addition to your diet) and black tea has the highest caffeine content.

i have a couple favorite sources for quality loose-leaf tea: rishi tea (out of milwaukee) and red blossom in SF right on grant street are both sources of exceptional tea. and bagged tea: itoen (from japan) and the bay area's mighty leaf, numi, and david rio all have good bagged selections.



crio bru

is made from roasted and ground cocoa beans and is brewed just like traditional coffee. it has a rich flavor and aroma to trick your brain into thinking that you are drinking coffee with the added bonus of making your house smell like chocolate.. and you get to use a french press to make it! yes please. find this at rainbow or online at

caffeine-free coffee substitutes:

for those of us who like the flavor and warmth of coffee, but don’t necessarily need the caffeine, there are always barlely and chicory drinks like:


dandy blend:

is an herbal blend that seriously tastes like coffee. over the holidays liesse accidentally picked up her step dad's cup (thinking it was her tea) and almost had a heart attack when she tasted coffee (she hasn't had any coffee since starting her journey to clear skin). he laughed and said, "don't worry, it's dandy blend!" it tasted so good that liesse was definitely fooled. p.s. she didn't break out after ;) *pro tip from sS'er DR: put your dandy blend in a tupperware container in the fridge to keep it from clumping.


is a blend of rye, barley, chicory and beet sugar that was developed in poland during the 1960's communist rule (when coffee was hard to come by). it's a personal favorite of mine - very dark and smooth, definitely-coffee-esque. i sweeten mine with yacon syrup, a sweetening agent extracted from the tuberous roots of the yacón plant indigenous to the andes mountains. you can buy inka in the bulk section of rainbow grocery.

roastaroma tea:

is actually made by celestial seasonings, so you can find it anywhere (even safeway!). a blend of roasted barley, roasted chicory, roasted carob, cinnamon, allspice and chinese star anise. it smells divine and has a full bodied flavor; it's one of kim's favorites.


touts itself as the being the "america's #1 coffee alternative" and offers all manner of herbal blends. rainbow grocery and co-op on folsom and 13th street is a great place to explore all of these new and "weird" things, by way of their bulk section. you can take just a scoop or two of these newfangled blends and try them out, without being committed to an entire package. this helps to make it easier, and less scary, to try all these new things :) ....

and last but not least: cafes that serve non-soy, non- dairy milk alternatives.

since we don't always have time (or the equipment!) to make our hot beverages at work or at home, it's good idea to start a list of places you can go that you know offer non-dairy and non-soy milk alternatives. we've started a little list here, but

please leave a comment or let us know if you've found a cafe that offers soy and animal milk alternatives and we’ll add it to the list!

  • whole foods market cafes serve pretty much any type of milk: almond, hemp, whatever.
  • muddy waters at 16th and 24th on valencia offers almond milk.
  • coffee to the people on masonic (near haight) offers hemp and almond milk.
  • progressive grounds cafe on bryant and 21st offers almond milk.
  • some pete's coffees are starting to carry almond milk. if your local one doesn't, just let them know you want it and they'll likely get it for you!
  • and the almighty starbucks actually has coconut milk now as an option for fruit smoothies and teas
cheers to you and your acne-safe morning cup!

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