With claims it can help everything from acne to aging skin, what make green tea so special?

Dr Zara Kassam, PhD

It’s not just a drink anymore, green tea is increasingly found in skincare products. Dr Zara Kassam PhD finds out why.

Green tea has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments from digestive problems to depression, but it’s also been revered for its beauty enhancing properties for generations.

It’s an antioxidant which has the added benefits of being antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and as a result various claims have been made about it ranging from its anti-aging and wound healing abilities to its anti-acne properties.

What is it about green tea that makes it so special? It has a powerful set of key components of that include:

  • Catechins – Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) – Powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals, protect skin from sun damage, fight wrinkles and keeps the skin youthful. They are known to increases the skin’s defence and self-healing abilities.
  • Amino acids (L-theanine) – Another powerful antioxidant, which can provide nourishment to stressed skin.
  • Alkaloids (Caffeine, Theobromine and Theophylline), used to protect the skin, fight wrinkles and tighten aging skin.
  • Chlorophyll – Known to promote red blood cell production, which means it, also helps to promote oxygen delivery to skin.
  • Phenolic acids – Which exhibit antimicrobial activity.
  • Aluminium – Acts as a protective agent against harmful UV rays.
  • Essential oils – Work as an anti-filtering agent that activates the lymph to improve drainage and eliminate toxins.
  • Vitamins (A, C, and E) – neutralise free radicals that attack cutaneous cells and therefore fight against skin ageing.

 

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This combination of plant or phyto-nutrients not only make it an extraordinary health-boosting beverage, but also a treasured beauty-enhancing ingredient for the skin. The abundance of polyphenols (plant sourced antioxidants) in green tea make it a means it effectively mops up the ‘free radicals’- the damaged molecules in our cells that are known to prematurely age us.

The catechins provide acne management by helping to eliminate acne-causing bacteria as well reducing inflammation and decreasing the amount of sebum production. They’re also showing promising signs in reducing scars and stretch marks, according to a study by researchers at Manchester University.

And then there’s the photo-protection. Some research suggests it has the potential to protect skin from sun-damage or photo-damage especially from UVB rays that are responsible for burning the skin and are associated with skin cancers. Other studies on cells in a laboratory even hint at its ability to inhibit the spread of melanoma or skin cancer.   Studies using topical preparations of green tea extracts have shown significant protective effects against UV-induced skin damage and creams and lotions have scientifically demonstrated better photo-protective properties than their oral-ingested counterparts.

Other research indicates that green tea when either drunk or applied topically helps reduce sebum or oil production and inflammation in the skin which in turn help keep acne under control.

So does that mean you can clear your cupboard and start bathing in green tea to solve your skin woes? No. Many of the studies are on cell-lines in a lab or animals, so it’s early days but it does appear to be promising.

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Does it need to come in a product from a shop bought product? Formulators have isolated and extracted the the best bits to put into their products and combined them in ways that allow the active ingredients to work efficiently, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try out your own green tea products to see if they make any difference.

Here are some tips and tricks to incorporate green tea into your home skin care routine:

  1. Green tea mask 1 – Cut open a green tea teabag, empty it into a little bowl, mix the content of the tea bag with some honey (as long as you have no allergy to bee products). Apply the paste onto the affected areas; leave on for 15-30 minutes. The anti-inflammatory properties will smooth the skin and reduce inflammation.
  2. Green tea face mask 2. This will leave you with smooth glowing skin. All you need is a teaspoon of green tea powder, add water and mix till a mask like consistency is reached; apply to your face, leave on for 15 minutes and then wash of with warm water.
  3. Make your own green tea toner; boil a few fresh green tea leaves in a quarter cup of purified water, ensuring that the pot is covered with a lid. When it’s cooled apply the mixture to your face using a cotton pad twice a day. As for storage; store the mixture in the fridge for up to a week.

 

Let us know if you see any benefits.

 

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