04/27/2009 12:25 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Take a Caffeinated Shower

Looking for an extra boost in the shower to wake you up? How about a caffeinated shower?

You read that right. I had to do a double-take myself when I read about this in an airplane magazine. It's called Shower Shock (aptly titled) and the product claims to contain approximately 12 servings (yes, that'd be 12 showers) per 4-ounce bar.

The hilarious part of the sales pitch: 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving, which is the equivalent of two mugs of coffee. According to the product label, caffeine can be absorbed through the skin and for maximum effect, "build up a good Shower Shock lather across your entire body before rinsing!"

Is this a joke? No, I don't think so, at $6.99 per bar. But how true is it? Can you really get a jolt from caffeinated soap?

Not so fast. We've watched caffeine turn up in all kinds of products lately, from water to lip balm, cosmetics and beauty products. I don't blame manufacturers for trying to sell caffeine in whatever they can put it in--after all, it's arguably the world's most popular drug. It will never go out of style. But don't be fooled by gimmicks like this. Some facts to consider:

  • The effectiveness of such products has not been proven, and they are likely to have little stimulatory effect on the central nervous system.
  • Caffeine is not readily absorbed through the skin and even if it could be, soap is probably not the best delivery device.
  • The soap itself is likely to keep much of the caffeine from coming in direct contact with the skin by holding the chemical in suspension.
  • The water and soap will dilute the caffeine, and generally soap is washed off the skin after less than a few minutes, or even seconds.
  • As a comparison, most drugs delivered through the skin (called "transdermal drug delivery") is done with substances with active doses under 1-2 milligrams. Far from the case here with caffeinated soap.

So are there any benefits to this soap?

Well I bet the peppermint oil in the soap will give you a nice little wakeup call when it hits your nose and eyes. Perhaps the peppermint oil is adding to the placebo effect of the caffeine.

And let's not forget that caffeine is a strong antioxidant, so assuming you get some of that caffeine into the upper layers of your skin, it can help you ward off those free radicals that contribute to aging. A beauty bar, just as soap should be.

Not, I'm sorry to report, a substitute for your morning cup of Joe.

What will they think of next...

Oh, I guess they already have. How about a caffeine necklace (a necklace with a caffeine molecule pendant)? Or sunflower seeds imbued with the powers of caffeine, taurine, lysine, and ginseng (just like an energy drink)? And just how do they get those ingredients into the seeds? A topic for another day. Let me sleep on that.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD, FAASM

The Sleep Doctor

This article on sleep is also available at Dr. Breus's official blog, The Insomnia Blog.