What’s your pick me up in the morning? Are you carefully brewing a cup of coffee or grabbing a latte on the run on your way to work? Or perhaps you’re more of a tea aficionado? Reaching for a cup of green tea first thing in the morning is a great start to the day, not only for heart health. Your skin will be thanking you, too, especially if you start adding green tea to your daily skincare routine.
Green Tea as a Skincare Ingredient
If you’re following skincare news, you could be forgiven for getting a little confused. Manufacturers release new products almost every week, praising the miraculous capacities of the latest trending active ingredient.
Cut through the noise, and you will see that there are several skincare hero ingredients that may not be getting much fanfare. But that doesn’t mean they don’t work as hard, if not harder than those ingredients hogging the headlines. Green tea is one of those unsung heroes of skincare.
It is natural, biodegradable, and a true multitasker. What’s more, the benefits of green tea have been thoroughly researched and are scientifically proven. Plus, if that is not enough to convince you, take a look at its long and rich history.
Asian cultures have used green tea medicinally for over 4,000 years, both as a medicinal tea and in topical applications. Green tea in skincare can trace its origins to China, but knowledge of its benefits has since spread across Asia and beyond. As the skincare and skin science communities have been looking for more natural formulations, green tea has provided many of the answers to researchers’ questions.
How Does Green Tea Work in Skincare?
Green tea extract is a botanical derived from the tea plant Camellia sinensis. The active components of the plant are found in the leaves and buds of the plant. These active compounds are known as polyphenols or catechins.
Green tea contains a specific polyphenol called epigallocatechin-3-gallate – or EGCG. This compound is what makes green tea so effective as part of your skincare routine. It’s one of the best-studied plant compounds, and its benefits have been proven for both oral and topical applications.
Benefits of Green Tea For Your Skin
We’ve already mentioned that green tea is a multitasker. It can act as a protector for your skin, but it also has corrective properties. Plus, it’s available in a wide range of skincare formulations, including cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and masks. This makes it easier to find the perfect product to include in your skincare routine.
Green tea has three main benefits:
- It is a powerful antioxidant.
- It has anti-inflammatory purposes.
- It reduces oiliness and helps control acne.
1. Antioxidant Benefits
As an antioxidant, green tea helps fight and control free radicals from environmental stressors your skin is exposed to almost daily. UV radiation is one of the most common stressors, with air pollution, and exposure to tobacco smoke following closely behind.
If left to their own devices, free radicals can break down collagen, one of the skin’s main building blocks. This breakdown results in premature signs of aging showing. These include wrinkles and other blemishes, dark spots, lines, and loose, saggy skin. Green tea helps neutralize free radicals and limit the amount of damage they can cause.
Whilst they do protect your skin from sun damage, antioxidants like green tea can’t replace your sunscreen. However, layered under your sunscreen they can help it last longer and protect your skin more effectively.
2. Anti-inflammatory Benefits
The anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea make it the perfect active ingredient in skincare to reduce redness and irritation caused by cosmetical procedures and conditions like rosacea or acne. Green tea-based products help calm your skin and promote healing.
When it comes to preventing skin aging, green tea has an even bigger role to play. As dermatologists and skin scientists are starting to understand the mechanisms of aging better, they have been able to show a connection between visible signs of aging and low grade, chronic inflammation in our bodies.
Without wanting to complicate things, it’s worth looking at this connection a little more closely. This area is currently on the cutting edge of skin science, and new insights are becoming available regularly. As humans age, our body’s ability to manage specific types of inflammation is reduced, resulting in a degree of chronic inflammation called inflammaging. It’s important to understand that acute inflammation, for example following a trauma, is a useful immune response, whereas chronic inflammation, such as inflammaging, becomes problematic.
Scientists believe that inflammaging contributes to several age-related chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. More recent studies suggest that the human microbiome, such as bacteria and fungi, has a major influence over this process.
As the skin is our largest organ, it is naturally home to a large part of the human microbiome. Should the balance of organisms in the microbiome become disturbed, this imbalance may contribute to inflammaging. Oxidative stress also contributes to inflammaging. As a result, ensuring that our skin is healthy is about more than looking ageless. Skin health has a direct influence on our overall health by promoting or preventing inflammaging.
More studies are required to help dermatologists understand the connection better. But there is information emerging that shows that a healthy skin barrier may help systematically reduce inflammation beyond our skin.
What does it all mean for your skincare routine? Whilst more research is needed to establish the skin’s importance in reducing inflammation throughout our bodies, we know that reducing visible inflammation of the outer layer of the skin has far-reaching benefits.
3. Reduces Oiliness and Controls Acne
When it comes to managing acne, green tea-based skincare combines its capacities as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory with its ability to control sebum production.
Sebum is not all bad. It is an oily substance produced by the body’s sebaceous glands. Its main job is to moisturize your skin and hair. Sebum production is controlled by a group of hormones called androgens. If your androgen levels are normal, you generally don’t even notice their presence.
However, as soon as androgen levels are high or fluctuate continuously, sebum production tends to increase. This starts the vicious cycle of acne as excess sebum blocks pores and allows bacteria to grow faster.
Remember EGCG, the plant compound that makes green tea so effective as a skincare ingredient? EGCG is your secret weapon to re-balance this process: as an anti-androgenic, this compound reduces the amount of sebum that is excreted into the skin. This means acne outbreaks become less frequent and may even stop.
At the same time, EGCG “knows” where to apply its sebum-regulating powers and where to leave your skin alone. Most people with oily skin have oily zones on their face, whereas the rest of their skin is normal. EGCG regulates the oily zones without taking necessary oils away from the rest of the skin.
4. Additional Benefits
The benefits of green tea in skincare don’t end here. One study showed that green tea may prevent disorders caused by UVB light, including melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, and photoaging.
Other studies showed positive effects of topical green tea and green tea supplements for androgenetic alopecia, candidiasis, keloids, and atopic dermatitis, to name just a few.
Integrating Green Tea Into Your Skincare Routine
Some of the best green tea skincare products show their true potential when you combine them with other antioxidants. They work synergistically, basically making each other stronger and more stable.
Take vitamin C, for example. We’ve written about this powerful antioxidant before [please link to previous post]. Vitamin C can help preserve EGCG, the active compound in green tea. In turn, EGCG has the potential to enhance the antioxidant effect of vitamin C and E. If you are using them in separate products, they can be applied directly on top of each other.
One 12-week clinical trial tested the efficacy of this combination on 31 females. During week 12 of the trial, ultrasound measurements proved increased skin density compared to measurements taken at the beginning. This is an indicator of thicker epidermal (skin surface) and dermal (deeper) tissue, both of which are associated with youthful, healthy skin. The trial’s participants also reported fewer fine lines and wrinkles as well as improved skin tone and texture.
Green tea skincare also works well when applied below your sunscreen. Its antioxidant properties can help extend the sunscreen’s effectiveness and deliver an additional layer of protection. One thing green tea can’t do is replace your sunscreen.
Another winning companion ingredient for green tea extract is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is known mostly for its moisturizing properties. Because of this, it can help EGCG penetrate deeper into the skin and work harder for you.
Marie’s Favorite Green Tea Products
Because green tea polyphenols work so well when combined with other active ingredients, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that two of Marie’s favorite products are combos.
Recommended product: Aliquote Skin SensiCalm Lotion. This serum combines the benefits of green tea and hyaluronic acid.
Recommended product: Aliquote MicroPeel Solution. This toner partners green tea with glycolic acid to help smooth fine lines and improve skin tone. Glycolic acid boosts your skin’s hydration levels and gives it a plumper appearance.
Any Side Effects?
Unless you have a hypersensitivity or allergy to green tea, there are no known side effects. Green tea-based skincare is generally suitable for all skin types, which is another major benefit of this antioxidant.
Of course, if your skin is super sensitive, it’s always a good idea to test a new product on your forearm. Spread a coin-sized amount on the inside of your arm and wait 24 hours to see if you develop a reaction. We recommend this test especially for anyone with extremely dry or compromised skin.
Drinking green tea is also considered safe according to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). However, it’s worth noting that like any true tea green tea contains caffeine. If you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine but would still like to benefit from green tea, consider sticking to topical applications like lotions and serums. Alternatively, starting slowly, for example by enjoying one cup of green tea a day, might also work for you.
When To Use Green Tea Skincare
Green tea in skincare combines so well with other products and active ingredients that there are no restrictions to its use. You can incorporate this ingredient into your daily morning or evening routine and reap the benefits.
Green tea has been used for several thousand years as a medicinal tea and an ingredient in ointments. Within Asian cultures, it’s one of the best-known ingredients. By now, its benefits are well established and well researched within western cultures as well.
At the same time, scientists continue to make discoveries emphasizing the potential of this active ingredient. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers, combined with the ability to control acne make it a powerful skincare ingredient for anyone suffering from the effects of early skin aging or struggling to control conditions like acne or rosacea.
What’s more, green tea-based skincare products combine easily with other antioxidants. By combining them, both products can work more efficiently. This makes green tea skincare easy to integrate into your existing skincare routine at any time of the day. Add to that the absence of side effects, and it becomes clear why this multitasker continues to be such a popular skincare choice.