The subject of green tea and skin goes far back in history. Tea in China was documented as far back as the T’ang dynasty in 650 AD, where it was being cultivated throughout the China provinces and was used as a medicinal brew.
Did you know that water is the most consumed beverage in the world? And that right behind it is green tea. That could be why green tea is consumed by hundreds of millions of people all over the world. It should come as no surprise, as tea has been around for thousands of years, originating in India and China.
Initially, it was believed that black and green teas came from two different plants. Later, it was found that both types of tea actually come from the same plant - with the only difference being that black tea is fully fermented, and green tea is not fermented at all. Oolong tea is another variety of tea, and it is only partially fermented.
While there are many varieties of tea, most current research is focusing on green tea that comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, which grows as a bright, shiny green evergreen shrub with a hairy underside on the leaves. It can grow to over 15 feet in height, but is usually pruned in order to keep the plant at about 6 feet. The plant originally was cultivated in East Asia, but it is now found in many areas of Asia as well as in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
Lately, there has been a renewed interest in tea, particularly green tea, as it has been shown to have many different beneficial and healthful properties. This is especially true in the area of green tea and skin, as scientific research has shown a variety of skin healing and enhancing properties contained within the chemical makeup of the tea. Because green tea is not fermented, it has a higher polyphenol content than black tea.
So what is a polyphenol? They’re basically chemical compounds found in plants, including Camellia sinensis. They have more than one (poly means many) phenol unit in each molecule that makes up the plants.
The reason they’re so important is that many polyphenols are considered powerful antioxidants, which can help to mitigate the damage done to the skin cells by free radicals. And green tea is a very powerful antioxidant!
To provide you with some background information, a free radical is an atom or a group of atoms, which have an odd number of electrons. They are formed when oxygen comes in contact with certain molecules.
The reason they’re dangerous is that they tend to do damage when reacting with different cellular components like DNA or the cell’s actual membrane. The reaction can cause cells to function poorly, or even die off. It’s what causes premature aging, sagging skin, and other harmful effects on the body.
You’ll find green tea on almost every list that ranks botanicals high in antioxidants. What’s interesting about any list of foods high in antioxidants is that they’re primarily found in foods from plants. The truth is that green tea alone can’t protect the body from free radicals at the same level that many different antioxidants working together can provide, but it is an important part of the puzzle.
In the 1990’s, scientists began to discover that free radicals were causing cellular problems, and that antioxidants could help minimize the damage that was being done to the cells. Not surprisingly, the human body has several defenses of its own to protect cells from free radicals, but it can’t cope with the overall damage that free radicals can do at the cellular level. That’s why antioxidants like green tea are so important.
First, they help prevent the formation of free radicals. Next, they can scavenge through the skin cells to break up the free radical chain. Finally, they even have the capability to repair cells, but it’s their ability to scavenge that sets them apart from other modalities.
When free radicals prevent the body from regulating the damage they cause, a condition develops called oxidative stress. This is what can trigger damage to cells, as well as cause a variety of diseases.
When an external source of antioxidants is applied to the body, the body is assisted in handling the oxidative stress. There are synthetic antioxidants available, but they have been found to harm the body, which is why a person needs to use effective, nontoxic natural antioxidants.
Many different medical problems occur when oxidative stress happens, including inflammatory disease, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other medical conditions.
It also impacts the aging process, and current research shows that damage to cells from free radicals can lead to the many cellular changes that are associated with aging. These include wrinkles, fine lines, loss of elasticity in the skin, and atypical skin pigmentation.
DNA damage within the cells, as well as cellular functional damage from free radicals, contributes to aging. What scientists have found is that by reducing free radicals, the actual aging process may be delayed. They have also found that antioxidants can significantly influence the effects of the damage that happens with the aging process. And research also suggests that it may even increase a person’s lifespan.
While there are several synthetic antioxidants available, scientists have found that they are highly volatile and unstable. Because of this, there has been a major shift toward using the natural substances found in medicinal and dietary plants when searching for a therapeutic antioxidant. That’s why green tea offers a key benefit, because it is a natural antioxidant.
But being a natural antioxidant is only one of the benefits of green tea. Because the polyphenols in green tea are catechins, they act as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.
In fact, one of the major catechins found in green tea has proven to be the most effective weapon against skin inflammation as well as carcinogenic changes in the skin. Using antioxidants is an effective approach to helping prevent premature aging of the skin caused by sunlight.
But scientists are looking at other factors within green tea, such as caffeine and other compounds, to find the actual process by which green tea helps protect against inflammation and skin cancer. More studies are needed on humans, because to date the only actual studies have been done on mice.
Another benefit of green tea when applied topically is its ability to provide anti-aging effects on the skin. While it may not help stimulate collagen production, some studies have shown that there were improvements in wrinkle appearance and the actual skin texture, which appeared more radiant after applying topical formulations.
Because topical application helps to reduce skin inflammation while eliminating free radicals, topical green tea has gained in popularity as an additive to anti-aging skin care formulations.
Treatment with 2% green tea lotions has also shown significant improvement in subjects who had mild to moderate acne. It is thought that the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects of the antioxidants in green tea played a role.
In addition, there is currently evidence that compared to other antioxidants; topically applied green tea can help to protect skin from the sun’s radiation, especially when it’s applied in combination with traditional sunscreens.
And data suggests that topically applied green tea extract also was beneficial in the treatment of many different skin conditions, including rosacea, leishmaniasis and others.
There’s another benefit of topically applied green tea formulations. Green tea is packed with both vitamin B2 and vitamin E, which are essential for skin health. Vitamin B2 plays a key part of maintaining the skin’s collagen levels, which provide a more youthful skin firmness and appearance. And vitamin E helps new skin cells grow while providing hydration for a softer skin.
There is always research being conducted on the properties within green tea and the benefits of its topical application. One research study by Dr. Stephen Hsu at the Medical College of Georgia has uncovered a lot of helpful information about the properties of green tea.
His research helped find that the polyphenols in green tea help to guard the body’s healthy cells while eliminating cancer cells. He found that the most prevalent green tea polyphenol is EGCG. With his colleagues, he compared the normal growth of skin cells to cells that were exposed to EGCG.
Amazingly, they discovered that the polyphenol EGCG was able to reactivate dying skin cells. This was an unprecedented discovery. Their study found that when the old cells found in the upper layers of the skin actually appeared to be dividing again. While this was only one study, and additional studies and clinical trials are needed, it showed that there could be many potential benefits of topically applied green tea.
Green tea extract is now incorporated into a variety of personal skin care and beauty products. The abundance of polyphenols and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory impact on the skin helps to maintain skin’s vitality. They also help improve the natural tone and radiance of the skin.
The key is to utilize products that use green tea extracts that are processed in ways that maintain the green tea’s beneficial properties. It’s also important to only use products that have quality green tea extracts.
By using skin care products containing EGCG as part of a daily routine you’re providing your skin cells with powerful antioxidants that are part of an anti-aging regimen. Using these products helps to minimize the impact of the effects of pollution, UV rays from sunlight, and chemicals in the environment.
Skin care products with EGCG from green tea will help to counter the damage to the skin cells on the face while boosting your skin’s natural mechanisms to help it ward off the damage from external sources.
The polyphenols in green tea can help to increase the plasma antioxidant activity at the cellular level. And due to both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, topical green tea formulations help slow down some of the signs of aging.
Here’s something else to consider - the antioxidant impact of EGCG in green tea is 25 to 100 times more powerful than vitamins A, C and E.
One study conducted by the University of Georgia and the Department of Veteran Affairs showed that EGCG helps to protect the skin’s immune system, delays the aging process while stabilizing irritated skin. Overall, EGCG is one power-packed antioxidant.
All of this goes to show why green tea has survived for more than 5,000 years as a powerful remedy for a variety of medical issues. And most importantly, how it’s properties help fight the aging process and even help skin cells rejuvenate.
Certainly, more research and human trials are needed, and many new studies are currently underway to determine which properties within green tea are the keys to its success. And don’t forget, green tea also contains caffeine, which is also an antioxidant that helps to help fight the DNA damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.
In order to utilize green tea’s many healing benefits, be sure to use formulations that contain quality green tea extract regularly. Topical application is best when using green tea to help with symptoms of the aging process, and its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties can help with other skin problems like acne and rosacea.
Green tea is one of nature’s most potent antioxidants, ready and able to take on those free radicals that are out to destroy your skin cells and cause symptoms of premature aging. In fact, when it comes to green tea, there isn’t anything more powerful and beneficial for skin when used properly!