Can Energy Drinks Cause Acne? Unraveling the Truth

May 8, 2024

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As a medical professional, one of the most common questions I get from my patients, especially teens and young adults, is whether certain foods or drinks can trigger or worsen their acne. In particular, many are curious about the potential link between popular energy drinks like Celsius and breakouts.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll dive deep into the science to uncover the truth about whether Celsius and other energy drinks can cause or aggravate acne. We’ll examine the key ingredients, review the latest research, and provide practical tips for maintaining clear, healthy skin.

So if you’ve ever wondered “Does Celsius give you acne,” “Can Celsius make you break out,” or “Why does Celsius cause acne” for some people, read on as we unravel this common skincare concern.

What is Acne and What Causes It?

Before we examine the potential acne-triggering effects of energy drinks, let’s first review what acne is and what causes those pesky pimples to appear.

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. It’s characterized by whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules, nodules, and cysts that commonly appear on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders.

While acne is most common among teenagers due to hormonal changes during puberty, it can affect people of all ages. In fact, adult acne is on the rise, with up to 15% of women affected.

So what causes acne to develop? There are four main factors:

  1. Excess oil (sebum) production
  2. Hair follicles clogged by oil and dead skin cells
  3. Bacteria
  4. Inflammation

Normally, oil glands (sebaceous glands) beneath the skin secrete the right amount of sebum to keep skin lubricated and healthy. But when the body produces an excess of sebum and dead skin cells, they can build up in the hair follicles and form a soft plug. This creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.

The plug may cause the follicle wall to bulge and produce a whitehead. Or, the plug may be open to the surface and darken, causing a blackhead. Pimples are raised red spots with a white center that develop when blocked hair follicles become inflamed or infected with bacteria. Blockages and inflammation deep inside hair follicles produce cyst-like lumps beneath the surface of your skin.

Certain factors can trigger or aggravate acne:

  • Hormonal changes (puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause)
  • Certain medications (corticosteroids, testosterone, lithium)
  • Diet (sugary, high-glycemic foods)
  • Stress
  • Genetics/family history

So now that we understand the basics of acne causes and triggers, let’s examine how energy drinks may play a role.


Energy drinks have surged in popularity in recent years, especially among teens and young adults. In fact, over 30% of teens aged 12-17 regularly consume energy drinks. While these beverages may provide a quick boost of energy and focus, some dermatologists and skincare experts caution that certain ingredients could aggravate acne-prone skin.

So what is it about energy drinks that could potentially trigger breakouts? Let’s take a closer look at some of the common ingredients:

Sugar and High-Glycemic Carbs

One of the main culprits is sugar. Many energy drinks are loaded with sugar or high-glycemic carbohydrates that can quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels. This matters for acne because those rapid spikes can boost inflammation and sebum production, creating an ideal breeding ground for acne bacteria.

In fact, a growing body of research has linked high-glycemic diets and sugar intake to increased acne severity. One study found that frequently consuming sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit drinks (≥7 times per week) was associated with a higher risk of moderate-to-severe acne, especially when sugar intake from these drinks exceeded 100g per day.

While some energy drinks like Celsius are sugar-free, many popular brands pack in a shocking amount of sugar:

Energy DrinkSugar Content
Red Bull (8.4 oz)27g
Monster Energy (16 oz)54g
Rockstar (16 oz)62g
Full Throttle (16 oz)55g
NOS (16 oz)54g

To put that in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 24g of added sugar per day for women and 36g for men. So just one energy drink can easily exceed that daily limit.


Another potential acne trigger in energy drinks is caffeine. Most energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine to provide that energizing boost and improved focus. However, excessive caffeine intake can indirectly contribute to breakouts.

Here’s how: Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase stress hormones like cortisol when consumed in high doses. Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to increased inflammation and sebum production, which can clog pores and aggravate acne.

Caffeine can also disrupt sleep quality and duration, especially when consumed later in the day. Poor sleep is another factor that can raise stress hormones and insulin levels, worsening acne breakouts.

The amount of caffeine in energy drinks varies widely, but some can contain extremely high doses:

Energy DrinkCaffeine Content
5-Hour Energy (1.93 oz)200mg
Redline Xtreme (8 oz)316mg
Spike Hardcore Energy (16 oz)350mg
Bang (16 oz)300mg
Reign (16 oz)300mg
Celsius (12 oz)200-300mg

For reference, a typical 8 oz cup of coffee contains about 80-100mg of caffeine. The FDA recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine per day for healthy adults. Some energy drinks can provide nearly that amount in a single can.

B Vitamins

Many energy drinks also contain high amounts of B vitamins like B6, B12, and B3 (niacin). While B vitamins play important roles in energy metabolism and are essential nutrients, excessive amounts of certain B vitamins have been linked to acne in some people.

In particular, high doses of B12 have been shown to alter the skin microbiome and promote inflammation, which can lead to breakouts. One study found that vitamin B12 supplementation was associated with an increased risk of acne in a subset of individuals.

Biotin, or vitamin B7, is another common ingredient in energy drinks that’s known to cause acne flare-ups in some people when consumed in excess. Even many hair, skin and nail supplements containing high doses of biotin have been linked to severe breakouts in acne-prone individuals.

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is also found in many energy drinks and has been reported to cause skin flushing, tingling and redness in some people when consumed in high amounts. While this “niacin flush” is generally harmless, it can be uncomfortable and may contribute to skin sensitivity.

Here’s how some popular energy drinks stack up in terms of B vitamin content:

Energy DrinkB3 (Niacin)B6B12
Celsius100% DV250% DV1000% DV
Monster Energy200% DV200% DV200% DV
Red Bull100% DV250% DV80% DV
Rockstar200% DV200% DV200% DV
Bang25% DV25% DV25% DV

As you can see, many energy drinks provide well over 100% of the recommended daily value (DV) for these B vitamins, with some like Celsius packing in over 1000% of the DV for vitamin B12 in a single can.

Other Ingredients

In addition to sugar, caffeine and B vitamins, energy drinks often contain other ingredients that could potentially irritate the skin or trigger inflammation in certain people:

  • Guarana: A plant that’s naturally high in caffeine and often added to energy drinks for an extra boost. It may further increase the caffeine content beyond what’s listed on the label.
  • Taurine: An amino acid that’s thought to enhance athletic performance. While generally safe, there’s some concern that excessive taurine could deplete vitamin B6, which helps regulate hormones that affect acne.
  • Ginseng: An herbal supplement believed to fight fatigue and boost energy. Some animal studies suggest it has anti-inflammatory effects, but more research is needed in humans with acne-prone skin.
  • Carnitine: An amino acid involved in energy metabolism. Preliminary research suggests it may alter skin bacteria and increase sebum production in some people when applied topically. The effects of oral supplementation on acne is unknown.
  • Artificial colors and flavors: Some people with sensitive skin may react to artificial dyes and flavoring agents, leading to inflammation and breakouts.
  • Preservatives: Ingredients like sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and EDTA are used to extend shelf life and prevent spoilage. But some individuals may be sensitive to these additives.

Of course, the acne-triggering effects of these ingredients can vary widely from person to person. Those with already acne-prone skin, sensitive skin, insulin resistance, or hormonal imbalances may be more susceptible to energy drink-related breakouts.


What Does the Research Say?

So far we’ve examined the potential mechanisms and ingredients by which energy drinks could contribute to acne. But what does the scientific research actually show? Can drinking Celsius or other energy drinks really cause breakouts?

Unfortunately, there haven’t been many high-quality studies directly examining the link between energy drink consumption and acne severity. Most of the evidence is limited to case reports, observational studies, and expert opinions.

However, there is a growing body of research suggesting that certain dietary factors like high-glycemic foods and dairy products can influence acne development and severity. And since many energy drinks are high in sugar and other potentially acne-triggering ingredients, it’s plausible that frequent consumption could aggravate acne in some people.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the relevant studies:

  • A 2019 cross-sectional study of 1,167 adolescents and young adults found that frequently consuming sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit drinks (≥7 times per week) was associated with a higher risk of moderate-to-severe acne, especially when sugar intake from these drinks exceeded 100g per day.
  • A 2017 case report described a 16-year-old boy who developed severe acne after consuming 4-5 cans of Monster Energy daily for several months. His acne resolved after discontinuing the energy drinks.
  • A 2021 review article in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology concluded that the high glycemic load, caffeine, and dairy content of common acne-promoting foods and beverages (like energy drinks) may contribute to acne pathogenesis by increasing inflammation, sebum production, and altering the skin microbiome. However, the authors noted that more research is needed to establish a definitive causal link.
  • A small 2021 study found that young adult males who consumed energy drinks had significantly higher levels of sebum production and acne lesions compared to non-consumers. However, this study only included 50 participants and didn’t control for other factors that could influence acne severity.
  • In a 2010 study, researchers found that consuming a high-glycemic diet was associated with a 30% increased risk of acne compared to a low-glycemic diet. While this study didn’t look at energy drinks specifically, many are high in sugar and could contribute to a high-glycemic load.

So while the research linking energy drinks and acne is still limited and mostly observational, the available evidence does suggest that certain ingredients like sugar, caffeine and B vitamins could potentially aggravate acne in some people, especially when consumed in excess.

Can Celsius Cause Acne?

Now let’s address the question on many of my patients’ minds: Can Celsius energy drinks in particular cause acne or make breakouts worse?

Celsius is a popular energy drink brand that’s marketed as a “fitness drink” to boost metabolism and help burn body fat. It comes in a variety of flavors and contains a blend of caffeine, guarana, B vitamins, taurine, ginseng, and other herbal extracts.

Unlike many other energy drinks, Celsius is sugar-free and gets its sweetness from sucralose (Splenda) and erythritol. This may be good news for acne-prone individuals looking to avoid added sugars.

However, Celsius is still very high in caffeine, with 200-300mg per 12 oz can depending on the variety. That’s about 2-3 times the amount in a typical cup of coffee. As we discussed earlier, excessive caffeine intake can indirectly contribute to acne by increasing stress hormones and disrupting sleep.

Celsius also contains extremely high doses of certain B vitamins, providing over 1000% of the recommended daily value of vitamin B12 and 250% of B6. Some people may be sensitive to such high amounts of B vitamins, leading to inflammatory breakouts.

The other herbal ingredients in Celsius like guarana, taurine and ginseng may also cause problems for some acne-prone individuals. Guarana is a natural source of caffeine that may further ramp up the stimulant content. And while the research is still limited, some experts speculate that excessive taurine and ginseng could theoretically influence acne development by altering sebum production or skin bacteria, especially in sensitive individuals.

Anecdotally, some acne sufferers have reported that their breakouts got significantly worse when regularly drinking Celsius, and cutting it out led to major improvements in their skin within a few weeks. Of course, these individual accounts don’t prove causation, but they do suggest that Celsius could be an acne trigger for some people.

Personally, I have had a few patients who were struggling with stubborn breakouts and found that their acne cleared up dramatically after eliminating daily Celsius consumption. One memorable case was a 23-year-old female patient who came to me with painful, cystic acne along her jawline and cheeks. We tried several topical treatments and oral medications, but nothing seemed to make a dent.

Upon further questioning, she revealed that she had been drinking 2-3 cans of Celsius every day for the past 6 months in an effort to lose weight. I recommended that she cut out the Celsius completely and replace it with water or unsweetened green tea. Within a month, her skin had cleared up almost entirely. She was amazed at the difference and hadn’t realized that her beloved energy drink could be the culprit behind her acne.

Of course, not everyone who drinks Celsius will get acne, and some may be able to enjoy it in moderation without any skin issues. But for my patients who are already acne-prone, I generally recommend limiting or avoiding Celsius and other energy drinks, especially on a daily basis. The high caffeine and B vitamin content in particular may be problematic for some individuals.

The Bottom Line

So, can energy drinks like Celsius cause acne? Based on the available evidence, it’s certainly plausible that the high sugar content (in some brands), excessive caffeine, and mega-doses of B vitamins could aggravate acne in susceptible individuals, especially when consumed regularly.

However, the research directly linking energy drinks and acne severity is still quite limited. Much of the evidence is observational or anecdotal, and randomized controlled trials are needed to prove a definitive causal relationship.

That said, I believe there is enough preliminary data and biological rationale to warrant caution, particularly for my acne-prone patients. Regularly consuming large amounts of sugar, caffeine and B vitamins from any source may promote inflammation, sebum production, and hormonal imbalances that could trigger or worsen breakouts over time.

So while enjoying an energy drink like Celsius occasionally is unlikely to cause major acne issues for most people, I wouldn’t recommend it as a daily habit for those struggling with persistent breakouts. The high caffeine and B vitamin content in particular may be problematic for acne-prone skin when consumed in excess.

If you do choose to enjoy energy drinks, here are some tips to minimize the potential acne-triggering effects:

  1. Choose sugar-free, low-glycemic options: Opt for energy drinks that are sweetened with natural sugar substitutes like stevia or erythritol instead of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
  2. Limit your intake: Stick to no more than 1 energy drink per day, and avoid drinking them on an empty stomach which can spike blood sugar and insulin levels.
  3. Don’t consume them late in the day: The high caffeine content can interfere with sleep quality and duration, indirectly worsening acne. Aim to stop all caffeinated beverages at least 6 hours before bedtime.
  4. Stay hydrated with water: Energy drinks can be dehydrating due to the caffeine content. Make sure to drink plenty of plain water throughout the day to support healthy skin.
  5. Monitor your skin: Pay attention to whether you notice more breakouts when regularly consuming energy drinks. If so, try eliminating them for at least 2-3 weeks to see if your acne improves.
  6. Address other acne triggers: Energy drinks are just one potential piece of the acne puzzle. Make sure you’re also following a consistent skincare routine, managing stress, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding other common triggers like dairy and greasy foods.

If you’re struggling with severe or persistent acne, it’s always best to consult with a board-certified dermatologist who can help identify your unique triggers and create a personalized treatment plan. While eliminating energy drinks may help, some people need prescription-strength topical or oral medications to get their acne under control.


The Future of Energy Drinks and Acne Research

While the current research on the link between energy drinks and acne is limited, I hope that more high-quality studies will be conducted in the future to better understand this potential connection.

Some questions that future research could address:

  • Is there a dose-response relationship between energy drink intake and acne severity? In other words, does regularly consuming larger amounts of energy drinks lead to worse breakouts compared to smaller or less frequent intakes?
  • Which specific ingredients in energy drinks (e.g. sugar, caffeine, B vitamins) are most likely to trigger acne in susceptible individuals? And at what doses do these effects occur?
  • Are certain individuals (e.g. those with insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, or genetic predispositions) more likely to experience acne flare-ups in response to energy drink consumption?
  • Can eliminating or reducing energy drink intake lead to clinically significant improvements in acne severity over time, and how long do these effects take to occur?
  • Are there any potential interactions between energy drinks and common acne medications (e.g. antibiotics, retinoids, hormonal therapies) that could impact treatment efficacy?

Answering these questions will require well-designed clinical trials that control for other potential confounding factors and include large, diverse samples of acne patients followed over an extended period of time. In the meantime, the available evidence suggests that it may be prudent for acne-prone individuals to limit energy drink consumption as part of a holistic skincare approach.

Key Takeaways

To sum up, here are the key points to remember about energy drinks and acne:

  • Many energy drinks are high in sugar, caffeine, and B vitamins which could potentially trigger inflammatory responses and sebum production in acne-prone skin.
  • The research directly linking energy drinks to acne severity is still limited, but a growing body of evidence suggests that dietary factors like high-glycemic foods and beverages can influence acne development.
  • Some acne patients have anecdotally reported significant improvements in their breakouts after cutting out energy drinks like Celsius.
  • While drinking energy drinks occasionally is unlikely to cause acne issues for most people, regularly consuming them in large amounts may be problematic for those who are already susceptible to breakouts.
  • If you struggle with acne, it’s best to limit energy drink intake, choose sugar-free options, and monitor your skin’s response. Consult with a dermatologist if you have severe or persistent breakouts that don’t improve with dietary changes.

At the end of the day, everyone’s skin is unique and what triggers acne for one person may have no effect on someone else. The key is to pay attention to your own body’s responses and make informed choices that support your skin health goals.

While more research is needed to fully unravel the link between energy drinks and acne, the available evidence suggests that it may be wise to approach these beverages with caution if you’re prone to breakouts. Your skin will thank you!


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