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Ingredient Spotlight: Green Tea

Green tea is known for its amazing health benefits, so it makes sense that it’s such a popular menu item these days. Thanks to its super-high antioxidant content, studies find that green tea helps protect the cells in your body from free radical damage.

Quick science lesson: Free radicals are molecules that are produced when your body breaks down food or when you come into contact with pollution. Free radicals cause damage to cells and changes to your DNA, therefore accelerating the aging process. Research shows that free radical damage can lead to everything from diabetes to cancer.

So yes, it’s a pretty big deal that green tea has the ability to fight free radicals. But green tea isn’t just good for your body — it’s good for your skin, too!

What is green tea?

Native to China and India, green tea is made from unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinesis bush. All teas are actually made from this bush, but green tea is one of the least processed types of tea, which is why it’s so full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants known as polyphenols. One type of polyphenol found in green tea is known as Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG helps protect against cell damage caused by free radicals and in turn this helps protect against diseases.

On top of providing antioxidant protection, green tea can be used to do everything from flushing out excess fluid to nixing gas to keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Besides antioxidants, green tea also contains caffeine. Not as much as coffee, though — an eight-ounce brewed cup of green tea has about 25-29 mg, where as a regular eight-ounce cup of Joe generally has upwards of 100 mg.

In order to really reap any of the health benefits, it’s best to sip brewed green tea, since the bottled variety doesn’t have as many antioxidants in it (and might be loaded with added sugars).

Is matcha the same as green tea?

If you’ve heard about matcha green tea and aren’t about what that term actually means, we’re here to clear up the confusion. When those bright green camellia sinesis leaves are plucked at their freshest and ground up immediately, this is called matcha. Instead of letting matcha soak in hot water to brew, you can actually ingest the powder itself. This allows your body to benefit even more from all those antioxidants and the caffeine, since you’re digesting it directly instead of just brewing the leaves.

This is what regular green tea looks like:

And here’s what matcha powder looks like:

How does green tea help our body and skin?

It’s all about those polyphenols. You know those free radicals we told you about earlier? Well, they’re not only damaging to the cells inside your body — they hurt your skin, too. Polyphenols in green tea help protect against free radical damage of the skin (which can show up as wrinkles and sagging skin) and even repair damage you already have.

Studies show that drinking green tea could potentially minimize your risk of getting skin cancer. That’s because polyphenols protect against UV damage, which is a major contributor to aging (hello, wrinkles!) and skin cancer. This doesn’t give you a free pass to skip the sunscreen, though — you should still slather on an SPF before heading out for the day (and reapply, reapply, reapply throughout the day!).

The EGCG in green tea could also have a positive effect on adult acne, according to one study. EGCG is anti-inflammatory, so it makes sense that it could curb breakouts, which are often caused by inflammation to the skin. Green tea may also even be able to soothe other inflammatory skin conditions, like rosacea.

Finally, the caffeine in green tea may help shrink under-eye bags temporarily when applied topically. Caffeine, a diuretic, eases water retention, which is why you might find it useful if you’re experiencing puffiness. Try storing steeped green tea bags in the fridge then setting them on your face when they’re cool, as the chill can also reduce bags.


You don’t necessarily have to guzzle green tea to reap the skincare benefits — it’s a popular ingredient in a variety of products, including moisturizers, facial mists, and face masks. (You may see “camellia sinesis leaf extract” on the ingredient list as opposed to green tea, so just keep that in mind when shopping!)

Who benefits from green tea in skincare?

Anyone can benefit from a little antioxidant action, and green tea just so happens to be gentler than other antioxidants, such as vitamin C. That means it’s OK for use by all skin types. If you’re thinking about how to address signs of aging, are a former sun worshipper, or are struggling with adult acne or another irritating skin condition, you may find green tea a particularly useful skincare ingredient.

You can’t expect to drink green tea a few times and have all your ailments disappear. It is, however, proven to have great side effects, therefore it may be worth adding green tea to the shelves of your kitchen and bathroom cabinet!

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