How Does Green Tea Help Your Skin?
Green tea is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the world. In a number of Eastern Asian countries, drinking green tea is a societal tradition that plays an integral part in connecting people together.
But green tea is so much more than just a yummy hot tea. Did you also know that it is also used by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners? In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is believed that green tea can help to improve longevity, lower cholesterol, and even prevent cancer! And, as far as our skin is concerned, it can also help to mitigate inflammation.
But how exactly does it help our skin? And what else can it do? What is it about green tea that makes it a favorite of Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners? Let’s take a look:
Green Tea Compared to Other Types of Tea
Green tea, or Lu Cha as it is known in Chinese, is made from the Camellia sinensis plant. This evergreen plant originated in China and requires a rich and moist environment in order to grow.
The Camellia sinensis plant is actually used to make a variety of teas from Black to Oolong. So the real magic happens after cultivation! The tea leaves undergo different levels of the oxidation process, which utilizes high temperature that brown the leaves. As a result of these differences, you get different types of tea. Green tea is obtained through less oxidation of fresh leaves compared to oolong tea and black tea, which are partially and highly oxidized, respectively.
This differentiation helps green tea to retain the most polyphenolic components (aka the kind of chemical that, in theory, may protect against some common health problems and possibly certain effects of aging,) of all types of tea. This is why green tea is the most ubiquitous used tea ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Polyphenols and How They Benefit the Skin
As we mentioned earlier, polyphenols are a type of antioxidant molecule found in green tea that has beneficial antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic properties. These properties make green tea powerful in treating various skin disorders. The polyphenols found in tea have been shown to improve sebum secretion and tackle acne vulgaris from a large number of scientific studies.
It is hypothesized that green tea helps to prevent acne by eliminating the sebocytes (cells that make oil) to prevent forming acne on the skin. Additionally, both topical and orally ingested tea polyphenols are proven to improve lipid production.
Science Behind Green Tea’s Skincare Effects
The polyphenols in teas are also comprised of flavonols, flavonoids, and catechins. Among them, catechins are the most abundant and the most potent compounds that contribute to the healing and repairing effects. Green tea extract contains 30%-42% catechins and this high concentration of catechins is partly what makes green tea so potent and powerful!
In total, there are four types of catechins - C, EC, ECG, and EGCG. The last one, Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is the most prolific as it has been proven to have substantial health effects on the skin. It is an effective compound for protecting the skin from free radicals and helping to reduce potential inflammation.
Research conducted in 2013 showed that EGCG significantly decreased lipogenesis in sebocytes, which is the metabolic formation of fat in the skin. In addition, research indicated that EGCG showed no major side effects.
In short, this compound is capable of preventing the growth of acne and de-escalating the inflammation caused by acne. Green tea also contains 2%-4% of flavonoids which are shown to have the ability to protect skin from ultraviolet radiation, which is the main contributor to skin cancer and also damages the DNA of skin cells.
Triggers of acne from Western medicine and TCM perspectives
As we can see, the main target of green tea in Traditional Chinese Medicine is acne. According to research from Brandenburg Medical School in Germany, there are four main factors that trigger acne:
- Increased sebum production by the sebaceous glands.
- Altered keratinization within pilosebaceous follicles.
- The proliferation of bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).
- Inflammation around pilosebaceous follicles.
On the contrary, but also similarly, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, acne is considered to be an outcome of:
- Excess heat in the system (generated by lung organ system/ stomach system/ menstrual system).
- Toxins in the body (food consumption, etc.).
- Stagnation in the system (blood stagnation - painful, stubborn acne / fluid stagnation - cysts).
Green Tea - the Best Natural Solution for Acne
Many Western medical treatments are developed in order to help clear up acne. Different types of treatments include using estrogen, retinoids, and anti-androgen. They do a fine job in fighting acne, but they have also shown a handful of side effects. That’s why it is a good idea to seek a natural, herbal alternative. Green tea is the ideal option for us. It’s not only extremely efficacious and powerful, but the best part about it is also that green tea poses a minimal threat for irritants or side effects to our skin and body.