You know when something tastes like crap but you force yourself to drink it anyway because it’s healthy? That was my relationship with green tea until I met Pukka. I don’t know how they do it, but they managed to get rid of that bitter herbal flavour that puts me (and a lot of you) off it.
I’m thrilled they did because green tea is an anti-aging elixir. It keeps wrinkles off your face, gives your sunscreen a boost and even tones redness down a notch or two. Now that it’s part of my afternoon tea ritual, it’s time to add it to my skincare routine as well. Here’s what makes green tea a skincare hero and why you should look for serums, moisturisers, and sunscreens that feature it too:
- What Is Green Tea?
- Green Tea Benefits: What Does It Do For Skin?
- How To Use Green Tea In Your Skincare Routine
- Drinking VS Applying Green Tea: Which One Works Better?
- Green Tea Side Effects: Is It Safe?
- What Are The Best Products With Green Tea?
- The Bottom Line
What Is Green Tea?
Green tea is derived from the leaves and buds of the evergreen shrub Camellia Sinesis plant (that’s how it disguises itself on the label, by the way). The same plant also gives us black tea and oolong tea, but through different processes. Green Tea is made by steaming and drying the leaves.
The antioxidants that give green tea its powerful anti-aging properties are polyphenols (also called catechins). They prevent wrinkles while soothing skin, too. The best, and most researched, polyphenol in green tea is Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). I know, it’s a mouthful! It’s said to be 200 more effective than Vitamin E!
Not all green tea extracts are created equal. There are vast differences in quality depending on climate, season, age of the leaf, and how the plant was grown. The best ones contain between 50 and 90% catechins. You can usually spot them by their brown hue and distinctive smell (although, sometimes a good formulation can make these traits).
Need help creating an anti-aging routine that really works? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Anti-Aging Skincare Routine Cheatsheet” (it includes product recommendations, too!).
Green Tea Benefits: What Does It Do For Skin?
Green tea is one of my fave antioxidants. It has been studies for pretty much anything, from acne to wrinkles, to rosacea, and even skin cancer. Research shows it tackles both wrinkles and acne. Here’s how:
1. It Has Anti-Aging Properties
Green Tea is rich in polyphenols, a group of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. Polyphenols do double duty: they destroy the free radicals that cause sagging and premature wrinkles before they can wreak their damage and soothe the inflammation that generates them in the first place.
It works like this: pollution, unprotected sun exposure, a diet rich in processed foods, and even metabolic processes like breathing generate free radicals. These free radicals roam your body and attack collagen, elastin, cellular DNA, and all that good stuff that keeps your skin firm and elastic.
Antioxidants, like green tea, patrol your body looking for free radicals. When they spot one, they destroy it before they can initiate their destruction chain reaction. The result? Your skin has more collagen, is more elastic, and looks younger for longer.
Related: What Does Vitamin E Do For Your Skin?
2. It Reduces Sun Damage
My fave green tea superpower? This little plant can reduce sun damage. Studies show that “green tea polyphenols are photoprotective” and that applying them to your skin can help reduce inflammation and redness caused by sun exposure.
In particular, polyophenols prevent UVB-induced oxidative stress (the kind that causes wrinkles and cancer) and the depletion of your skin’s natural antioxidant force. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate goes the extra mile: it also prevents collagen breakdown.
FYI, green tea is NOT a sunscreen and should not be used as much. It only gives your sunscreen a boost, so it works better and provides enhances protection.
Related: How Do Antioxidants Work?
3. It Reduces Acne
Turns out, green tea can help give acne the boot, too. A 2009 study shows that a 2% Green Tea Lotion is an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne. After using the lotion twice a day for 6 weeks, patients reported that “the mean total lesion count decreased from 24 before the treatment to 10 after 6 weeks after treatment, a reduction of 58.33%”.
Green tea reduces acne in three ways. For starters, it reduces the production of sebum. Sebum is your skin’s natural moisturiser. Your skin needs it to stay soft and supple. But when it pumps out too much, the excess gets stuck in your pores, where it mixed with dead cells ad bacteria, causing blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. By reducing oil production, the excess can’t get stuck in your pores and give you breakouts.
What about the other two ways? Acne is an inflammatory disease. Green tea has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness and inflammation. Less inflammation = less acne. Finally, green tea has antibacterial properties that can damage the bacterial membrane that cause acne. I wouldn’t use green tea alone for acne. But it’s definitely a good weapon in your anti-acne arsenal.
Related: Adult Acne: Why It Happens And How To Treat It
4. It Soothes Inflammation
I’ve already mentioned that polyphenols, the antioxidants in green tea, have powerful soothing properties that can reduce redness and irritation, including those caused by UV rays. Its soothing properties also reduce inflammation in skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis, helping them heal faster.
How To Use Green Tea In Your Skincare Routine
The best way to use green tea in your skincare routine depends on the product you’re using. Is it in a serum? Then, it goes after cleansing/exfoliation and before moisturiser. Is it in a sunscreen? Then it’s the last step of your morning skincare routine. Is it in a moisturiser? Then, it goes in between serum and sunscreen in the morning and at the end of your skincare routine at night.
Who Can Use It?
Green tea is an ingredient that anyone who isn’t allergic to it can safely use. It helps reduce excess sebum production and acne in oily skin, soothe irritations in sensitive skin, and fight premature aging in all skin types.
Dr. Jeanine Downie, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Image Dermatology, believes that “green tea should be included in the anti-aging skin care regimen of anybody over the age of 35 that has a decent amount of sun exposure.”
How Often Can You Use It?
Unlike powerhouses like retinol and glycolic acid that can irritate your skin when used too often, green tea is very gentle. You can use it every day without experiencing side effects (unless your skin is super sensitive to it.
What Can You Use Green Tea With?
Green tea is an antioxidant. Like all antioxidants, it works better when used with other antioxidants. Every antioxidant kills only one or two types of free radicals (the nasty molecules that give you wrinkles and make your skin sag). The more you use in your skincare routine, the more free radicals you destroy, and the more you slow down premature aging.
According to Dr Christine Choi Kim, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles, green tea is particularly effective when used with Vitamin C: “Vitamin C helps to reduce degradation of Epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG, and in turn, EGCG can enhance the antioxidant effect of both Vitamins C and E.”
Instead, there’s nothing you can’t use it with. Green tea is compatible with pretty much any ingredients in your skincare products.
Drinking VS Applying Green Tea: Which One Works Better?
99% of the time, ingesting an ingredient (and I’m talking about things like green tea and vitamin C that occur naturally in food, not silicones and other stuff that should NEVER be ingested!) works way better than topically applying it to the skin. Why?
This idea that your skin absorbs 60% of what you put on it is BS. Your skin has a lipid, water-repellent barrier (the reason why you don’t put on weight when you shower!) that’s very good at keeping stuff out of the body. Most skincare ingredients simply stay on the surface, unless formulated in a way that enhances penetration – and even then, there’s also so deep into the skin they can reach.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Stacy Chimento Capote says it best: “There have been no studies comparing the benefits from applying in skincare vs drinking, however it does seem there is more data that drinking green tea provides more health benefits. EGCG is hydrophilic and is limited in skin penetration, so perhaps oral ingestion may provide additional benefits.”
Green Tea Side Effects: Is It Safe?
Green tea is one of those ingredients everyone can use it. It doesn’t break out skin, cause redness, or irritations. Having said that, if your skin is so super sensitive that it reacts to everything you put on it, it’s good to do a patch test before using products with green tea. There are exception to every rule after all.
Like all antioxidants, green tea loses its effectiveness (overtime) when exposed to light and air. Choose products that come in an airtight, opaque containers whenever possible. A lot of brands (especially Korean brands) like to use jars or see-through bottles, but they’ll make green tea become ineffective within weeks.
What Are The Best Products With Green Tea?
- Benton Deep Green Tea Serum ($17.00): This serum is packed with every type of green tea you can think of (leaf water, leaf extract, seed extract, and root extract). Plus, hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate skin and Centella Asiatica to soothe irritation. Hydrating, soothing, and anti-aging, it’s suitable for all skin types. Available at Sephora, SokoGlam, Stylevana and Yes Style.
- Boscia Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturiser ($38.00): An oil-free moisturiser to hydrate oily, acne-prone skin that hydrates skin without adding more pore-clogging oil to it. It’s also enriched with silica to absorb excess oil and green tea to prevent premature aging. Available at Ulta.
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00): A dupe for Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, this Vitamin C serum brightens skin, fights free radicals, and enhances sun protectuin. Plus, it’s enriched with antioxidants, including green tea, that help prevent premature aging. The texture is a little sticky, but if you don’t mind that, this is a wonderful serum that gives you results. Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK.
- Mad Hippie Face Cream ($26.99): One of my fave moisturisers, it has natural oils to moisturise skin, every antioxidants under the sun (including green tea) to prevent premature aging, and niacinamide to soothe skin and help reduce acne. Best suitable for dry to combination skin. Available at Ulta.
- MD SolarSciences Mineral Creme Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen ($30.00): This mineral sunscreen has a beautiful silicone-based texture that makes it a pleasure to use. It provides gentle, broad spectrum protection, applies smoothly on the skin, and dries to a matte finish. Plus, it has green tea and other antioxidants to fight free radicals before they give you wrinkles. Available at at Dermstore and MDSolarSciences.
- Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($39.00): This lightweight serum is infused with every antioxidant you can think of (including green tea) to prevent premature wrinkles. Plus, retinol to reduce the wrinkles you already have. Available at Paula’s Choice.
The Bottom Line
Green tea is one of the most powerful antiaging weapons in your arsenal. It prevents wrinkles, fights sun damage, soothes redness and irritations, and even helps reduce acne. Drink your daily dose and give your skin its fix too.
I love green tea! I am a regular drinker,especially after a meal with oily food. however, I don’t have any skincare with green tea, not sure if they really work on skin.
Xin, I like to drink green tea. It tastes nice and it works for you. And it works even on skin, as long as the concentration is high enough. It’s an antioxidant, though, so you’ll see the effects in the long run as it prevents damage rather than reducing wrinkles.
i never knew about the “make sure it looks brown” tip, good to know! i’ve been using weak green tea stuff apparently
Vonnie, oh no! That’s a mistake I made too though. Sadly it’s hard for the consumers to determine how much of an ingredient is in a product and how it will work. But thanks to Dr Baumann we now know better.
Great article Gio, Im glad you give us information about the effective concentrations of green tea cause its common to hear “this ingredient is good for the skin” but Im always wondering about the minimum amounts to have a benefical effect on the skin.
Im using a serum which third ingredient is green tea leaf extract but its an opaque and translucent yellow, it has a particular smell that i thought it was from green tea but now I dont know what to think……
Alejandra, thanks. I’m glad you found the article useful. Using if an ingredient is listed in third place it means there is quite a lot of it, but it may still not be enough to be effective. The smell may be well green tea though.
I personally haven’t used much products with green tea, nor do I drink green tea much myself. I don’t really know why especially because I know about all the benefits of green tea especially when it comes to beauty. I gave a cream a chance once but didn’t see much effect from it so maybe that’s one reason!
Chriselle, maybe the cream you use didn’t contain a high enough concentration of green tea to be effective? Also, because it is an antioxidant, you will see the effects in the long run and not straight away. You can always drink it though, it’s really lovely!
Really interesting, people always talk about how green tea is good and has antioxidants, but not so much what it actually does. I love drinking green tea, but maybe I should strain the tea bags a second time, and use the leftovers as a toner or mask or something. Great post 🙂
Makeup Morsels, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. We all know that green tea is good for us but it’s interesting to know exactly how, isn’t it? And it’s good that it’s effective both when drank and applied topically. 🙂
That’s why I always prefer skincare products with green tea as a base rather than water 🙂
Amanda, those are very nice indeed. 🙂
I hardly use products with green tea ingredients. I don’t think that they can provide 100%. If my skin behaves bonkers I keep the tea bags (I luv drinking it!) to use them for a fast skin treatment mask.
Mylanqolia, green tea products are effective, if they contain a high enough concentrations of it. But even though it’s an effective antioxidant, it’s not a miracle ingredient. That’s why I think it is a good idea to incorporate it in your skincare routine, but not rely solely on it and use products with other antioxidants, niacinamide and other beenficial ingredients.
i am sorry for trolling on your old posts but i discovered your blog today so i thought ill read more from it as i find it very intresting.The thing about green tea is that i realized when i drink few cups a day i lose weight..i didnt eat anything less and i drank 2 cups a day for 2 weeks and i was 3 lbs lighter and when i diet,t helps ,i lose weight much faster.Also when i rinse my face with handmade green tea(make in a bottle and keep it in fridge for 3 days tops) it helps my skin,soothes and less breakouts.But when it comes of a cream having green tea..i dont even know what to say.I used a eye cream with lots of green tea in and it was nice
Roxana, I’m glad that you’ve found my blog and that you like it. I enjoy reading all your comments and I hope to see you around often in the future. 🙂
Green Tea is really nice, isn’t it? I think its benefits are more obvious when you drink it than when you apply it on the skin. The problem with creams with green tea is that they often don’t contain it in amounts high enough to be effective. That’s why it’s important to make sure they are brown in color. That means the concentration is high enough to actually be effective. 🙂
i added your blog to my favorites,so ill be around ,i really like it.And is really nice that u take time to read and reply to all the coments.I became a fan of this blog
Roxana, I’m so glad to hear that. Thanks for your support, I really appreciate it.
And I love chatting with you all. 🙂
Just had a cup of green tea ? Does it help reduce belly fat?
Ana, there are some studies that show it helps… a tiny little bit. It’s not a substitute for exercise, unfortunately. 🙁
I like to drink green tea, and also use it as a toner and on my scalp. I put it in a spray bottle and spray it on my skin. Thanks for this lovely and informative post.
Amanda, green tea is such a multitasker, isn’t it?
I use amore pacific from Korea. Loaded with green tea and bamboo sap