Benefits of Green Tea for Skin
By Cynthia Bailey MD.
The benefits of topical green tea for skin care are scientifically proven and profound. It is one of my favorite ingredients for skin care. I've been using a powerful green tea product in my dermatology practice for years and have seen the benefits on thousands of my patients. It's also a product that I use myself daily and never travel without. It’s one of my favorite skin care ingredients for almost every facial complexion.
Quick Green Tea Facts
What is green tea?
Camellia sinensis leaves and buds are used to make a range of tea including green and black tea. But unlike black tea, the leaves and buds do not undergo the same oxidation process and as such, green tea is a type of antioxidant.
How can green tea be used?
It can be ingested or used topically, be applied directly to skin or be extracted for use in topical creams.
3 top proven benefits of topical green tea for your skin.
- Green tea antioxidants help fight skin cancer and UV radiation skin damage.
- Green tea fights skin aging and inflammation.
- It helps reduce acne and skin sebum production.
Who can use green tea?
It’s safe to use on a range of skin types and green tea allergies are rare.
Should I avoid using green tea with certain products?
No, it’s safe to use with a wide range of topical products.
What reasons are there for using green tea on your face?
Green tea antioxidants are soothing for inflamed skin, help reduce UV cell damage, help fight acne, can reduce sebum production, quiet the inflammation and capillary proliferation of rosacea, sooth atopic dermatitis and more. Green tea antioxidants help get rid of harmful free radicals in your skin, protecting precious cells and molecules from damage. Basically, the benefits are so far reaching that almost everyone will benefit from adding a high-quality green tea product to their facial skin care routine.
What kind of green tea antioxidants are good for your skin?
Green tea comes from a plant, the Latin botanical name for which is Camellia sinensis. Green tea is approximately 30 percent polyphenol antioxidants by weight. This includes a large amount of a natural catechin antioxidant called EGCG, or epigallocatechin-3-gallate. This is the antioxidant you want. It has the most beneficial health effects for your skin.
The best green tea antioxidants are the EGCG part of an antioxidant group called polyphenols.
What are green tea polyphenol antioxidants?
Polyphenol antioxidants come from plants and have conclusively been scientifically-proven to provide profound, beneficial effects on skin.
You can obtain polyphenol antioxidants by eating and drinking foods that contain these polyphenols – and you should eat and drink them in abundance. You can also super load your skin with them by applying high concentration polyphenol products to your skin. In fact, this is where state of the art is going in skin care – topical antioxidants to help reduce UV-induced skin damage, acne, sebum production, and more.
What foods contain polyphenol antioxidants, like the ones in green tea?
Polyphenol antioxidants are found in many plant foods including:
- berries (like blue berries),
- seeds like flax,
- and even in some barks.
Why are green tea polyphenols the best plant polyphenol antioxidant for skin care?
Many skin care products boast that they contain antioxidants. The possibilities for topical polyphenol antioxidant application are endless – and often limited by inherent pigment, antioxidant stability in a preparation, allergenicity or irritancy when applied to skin, and overall cosmetic acceptability. For example, who wants stainingly-bright pomegranate magenta, tomato red, or turmeric yellow skin cream?
Green tea is gently-colored, packed with the right polyphenol antioxidants, and lends itself to purification and concentration. It is also very well studied, and the benefits of topical green tea are backed by scientific evidence.
My opinion as a practicing dermatologist is that that it is the best antioxidant for every skin care routine. I’ve seen thousands of patients with a variety of complexion problems benefit from it, and I wear it on my own face daily.
Evidence that green tea antioxidant polyphenols fight skin cancer
Recent studies have shown that polyphenol antioxidants have antineoplastic (anti-cancer) benefit. They have also been shown to help protect skin from UV radiation damage. This beneficial role of EGCG from green tea in reducing the incidence of skin cancer is well established. In a review article on green tea in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (3), the author states,
“There have been more than 150 reports of in vivo and in vitro studies on the effects of green tea on the skin..... The early focus of these studies was chemoprevention of chemical carcinogenesis or photocarcinogenesis in rodents. It was found that green tea extracts or an individual green tea polyphenol (GTPP), especially (−)-epigallocatechin (EGC)-3-gallate (EGCG), inhibited two-stage chemical carcinogenesis...... and photocarcinogenesis (induced by UVB).”
The best study is one showing that topical application reduced UV damage (such as sun damage) when human subjects allowed their buttocks skin to be studied. Authors of that study (4) conclude,
“We found that treatment with GTP to human skin before UV exposure inhibits UV-induced DNA damage when detected by using immunohistochemistry. Our data also shows that GTP treatment inhibits (partially) the penetrating ability of UV radiation into the deeper dermis), thus protecting against DNA damage in dermal cells as well.”
What this means is that topical green tea antioxidants have 2 key benefits,
- They fight UV damage, reaching all the way into the second living-layer of your skin called the dermis. This is also where wrinkles start.
- They help reduce the processes leading to carcinogenesis in the skin.
By scavenging free radicals that are produced from all sorts of skin stress, who knows what the next studied benefit will be. I'm a huge fan of adding a really good green tea skin care product to your facial skin care routine,
In my 30+ years practicing dermatology, I’ve never seen a non-sunscreen skin care product work better than my Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy for helping patients reduce the number of precancerous and cancerous skin growths. I’ve documented in chart note after chart note. In fact, it’s how I realized what a game changer it was for my cancer patients. I had been using it in my practice for rosacea and facial seborrhea and saw these additional benefits. This was well before any scientific studies were being done. - Cynthia Bailey, MD, Dermatologist
Helping to fight skin aging and inflammation.
In a scientific review article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (3), authors state,
“Recently, the properties of GTPPs (green tea polyphenols) for anti-inflammatory, antiaging, and wound-healing effects were also explored. Evidence generated from basic science laboratories indicated that GTPPs are not only a group of reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavengers that function as antioxidants in the epidermis, but also act as modulators of different gene groups and signal pathways.” (4)
This is science-speak for saying that green tea antioxidant polyphenols fight the degenerative aspects of skin aging. I recommend it for all of my adult patients who are on an anti-aging skin care routine, and a routine to control rosacea and facial seborrhea. I have worked the Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy into many skin care routines over the years. In my observation, this one non-prescription skin care product both sooths facial inflammation and potentially slows skin aging better than any other.
Creams help acne and oily skin.
In addition to the anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea creams, there is antimicrobial (including the bacteria P. acnes, now named C. acnes, that plays a role in acne), anti-acne (in ways beyond C. acnes reduction), and sebum-reducing properties for skin. EGCG in particular has been studied in the inflammatory cascade leading to acne and shown benefit.
The important thing to know is that the green tea polyphenol antioxidants must be present at high concentrations and formulated in products where they remain stable.
My Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy is a great choice for oily complexions. It has the equivalent of 500 cups of ECGC green tea polyphenols per ounce of cream, and thus well able to provide the sebum reducing benefits, but it is also rich in hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a powerful water binding ingredient. I find that the Green Tea Antioxidant Cream is often the perfect moisturizer for oily complexions. It helps to prevent skin dehydration with the hyaluronic acid, while at the same time it has the potential to reduce skin sebum production and fight inflammation from acne lesions or acne treating products.
What are the best face products and creams?
Of the different, green tea antioxidant polyphenol compounds, you want epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This is the one shown to have the most beneficial health effects on skin. My top 3 green tea products that have high concentration EGCG polyphenol antioxidants are,
Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy
This can be used twice daily. I like it applied right after cleansing and before applying other products to your skin. I find that it layers nicely with just about every product including moisturizers, sunscreens, anti-aging and acne treatment products.
Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream
Retinol is an ingredient that is used at night because light breaks it down. My Retinol Night Cream has the same highly concentrated form of green tea as my Antioxidant Skin Therapy meaning that if you use the Retinol Cream at night you already have the right amount of green tea on your skin.
This eye cream contains the right amount of retinol for the delicate eye area combined with highly concentrated green tea and other ingredients that help fight puffiness and dark circles.
These three green tea products are powerful, unique and effective.
- All of these professional products contain pharmaceutically pure and stable green tea ECGC antioxidants, the equivalent found in 500 cups of brewed tea per ounce of cream.
- They are dispensed in light protective and air tight containers so that you get the full benefit of this powerful ingredient.
What is the best way to add professional green tea to your skin care routine?
- Use the Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy twice a day after washing.
- If you use the Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream you can apply that at bedtime in place of the Green Tea.
- Use the Advanced Corrective Eye Cream twice a day in the delicate eye area.
Many of my other products contain lesser amounts of EGCG’s mixed into formulations targeted with other key ingredients for a variety of skin conditions and goals. The green tea antioxidants in these products have benefit, but not nearly as dramatic as the 3 products I listed above.
The amounts in these products make them unique, costly to produce, and there are no substitutes - I personally use all three every day and can easily see and feel the benefits. Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
Mother Nature and skin care science have given us a powerhouse!
- Suzana Saric, Manisha Notay, and Raja K. Sivamani, Green Tea and Other Tea Polyphenols: Effects on Sebum Production and Acne Vulgaris, Antioxidants, (Basel). 2017 March; 6(1): 2.Published online 2016 December 29. doi: 10.3390/antiox6010002 PMCID: PMC5384166
- Elsaie ML, Abdelhamid MF, Elsaaiee LT, Emam HM. The efficacy of topical 2% green tea lotion in mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. 2009 Apr;8(4):358-64.
- Stephen Hsu, PhD, Green tea and the skin, JAAD, June 2005 Volume 52, Issue 6, Pages 1049–1059
- Santosh K. Katiyar, Anaibelith Perez, and Hasan Mukhtar, Green Tea Polyphenol Treatment to Human Skin Prevents Formation of Ultraviolet Light B-induced Pyrimidine Dimers in DNA1, Clinical Cancer Research, Vol. 6, 3864–3869, October 2000
- Joi A. Nichols and Santosh K. Katiyar, Skin photoprotection by natural polyphenols: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and DNA repair mechanisms, Arch Dermatol Res. 2010 March ; 302(2): 71. doi:10.1007/s00403-009-1001-3.