Green, black, and oolong tea are all produced from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Manufacturing differences produce the three different tea types. Green tea manufacturing is the least damaging to the leaves, since it involves steaming them immediately after harvesting. This immediate and gentle processing allows for green tea to retain the majority of the nutrients and chemicals found within the plant. Scientists have found that these nutrients provide green tea with a variety of health benefits for the skin, which includes the potential to improve acne.1 - 3
Chemical Components of Green Tea
Green tea leaves contain nearly 4000 different chemicals. The majority of these chemicals are proteins, fibers, minerals, and fats. However, nearly 30% are molecules called polyphenols. Polyphenols act as antioxidants, meaning that they can counteract harmful chemicals like free radicals, which are part of the reactive oxygen species class, found in the body. Within the polyphenol class of chemicals, a specific molecule called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is an especially beneficial component of green tea.1,3,4
Effect of Green Tea on Skin Health
Scientists have found that green tea polyphenols (GTPs) provide a number of health benefits for the skin.
- Green tea acts as an antioxidant, which protects the skin from harmful chemicals1
- Topical green tea possesses a photopreventative effect, meaning that it can protect the skin from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays4
- EGCG helps skin wound healing and regeneration by regulating skin cell growth and death. Therefore, scientists believe that topical green tea may be useful in treating other skin diseases like psoriasis, rosacea, ulcers, and actinic keratosis.4,5
- GTPs' antioxidant properties give topical green tea anticancer properties too. Studies investigating topical green tea on mice have found that it protected against skin cancer.4
Effect of Green Tea on Acne
In addition to the overall skin benefits, scientists have discovered that topical green tea can improve acne.
A higher amount of sebum (skin oil) is linked with increased acne severity. Increased activity of androgens, which are male hormones present in both males and females, is also linked with increased acne severity. Multiple studies investigating EGCG and acne have found that topical EGCG reduces sebum production and decreases the activity of certain androgens after eight weeks of daily application.6 - 8
A 2006 study investigated the daily application of a 2% topical green tea lotion applied daily for eight weeks. They found that 64% of participants who applied the lotion daily experienced a reduction greater than 50% in the number of acne lesions.9
Two studies performed in 2008 and 2009 repeated the 2006 study design and found that 60% of study participants who applied a 2% green tea lotion saw a reduction greater than 50% in the number of acne lesions.10,11
A 2013 study observed acne patients who applied either a 1% green tea lotion or a 5% green tea lotion daily for eight weeks. Participants applying either concentration of green tea noticed a 79 - 89% improvement in mild to moderate acne after eight weeks. That is to say, the 1% concentration of green tea demonstrated equivalent efficacy to the 5% green tea lotion.12
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- Chacko, S. M. et al. Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review. Chin Med 5, 1 - 9 (2010).
- Katiyar, S. K., Ahmad, N. & Mukhtar, H. Green tea and skin. Arch Dermatol 136, 989 - 994 (2000).
- Namita, P., Mukesh, R. & Vijay, K. J. Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea): A Review. Glob J Pharmacol 6, 52 - 59 (2012).
- Hsu, S. Green tea and the skin. J Am Acad Dermatol 52, 1049 - 1059 (2005).
- Sharangi, A. B. Medicinal and therapeutic potentialities of tea (Camellia sinensis L.) - A review. Food Res Int 42, 529 - 535 (2009).
- Pazyar, N., Feily, A. & Kazerouni, A. Green Tea in Dermatology. Skinmed 10, 352 - 355 (2012).
- Liao, S. The medicinal action of androgens and green tea epigallocatechin gallate. Hong Kong Med J 7, 369 - 374 (2001).
- Mahmood, T. et al. Outcomes of 3% green tea emulsion on skin sebum production in male volunteers. Bosn J Basic Med Sci 10, 260 - 264 (2010).
- Sharquie, K. E., Al-Turfi, I. A. & Al-Shimary, W. M. Treatment of acne vulgaris with 2% topical tea lotion. Saudi Med J 27, 83 - 85 (2006).
- Sharquie, K. E., Noaimi, A. A. & Al-Salih, M. M. Topical therapy of acne vulgaris using 2% tea lotion in comparison with 5% zinc sulphate solution. Saudi Med J 29, 1757 - 1761 (2008).
- Elsaie, M. L. et al. The efficacy of topical 2% green tea lotion in mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol 8, 358 - 364 (2009).
- Yoon, J. Y. et al. Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate Improves Acne in Humans by Modulating Intracellular Molecular Targets and Inhibiting P. acnes. J Investig Dermatol 133, 429 - 440 (2013).