Tea has been used as herbal medicine for centuries and for many different purposes – from indigestion to hair loss. People still use green tea today because it is rich in antioxidants and is said to have many health benefits.
Green tea has even been touted as an all-natural acne treatment. But is green tea really effective in preventing and treating acne breakouts? Should you add it to your acne treatment routine?
What is green tea?
Interestingly, green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea all come from the same plant, Camellia. It’s the way they’re prepared that gives each of these teas their unique look and flavor.
Green tea is made from fresh leaves tea tree plant. The leaves are lightly steamed dry. This is to avoid oxidation and browning of the leaves, which you can see in darker black and oolong teas.
Green tea is a powerful antioxidant
Here’s what we know for sure: Green tea is rich in antioxidants.You’ve heard the term antioxidant before, but have you ever wondered what exactly an antioxidant is?
Antioxidants help protect the skin and body from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable atoms with an odd number of electrons. These atoms can “steal” electrons from other molecules, causing damage.
free radicals, also known as Oxidative free radicals, inactivated by antioxidants. Therefore, antioxidants can help protect you from free radical damage.
Green tea happens to be full of them. (Green tea doesn’t have a monopoly on the antioxidant market, though. Many other foods are also rich in antioxidants.)
Green Tea May Reduce Inflammation
While antioxidants are healthy, antioxidants alone won’t improve acne breakouts.But green tea is also rich in substances called polyphenols catechins.
Quite simply, polyphenols are compounds in plants that are beneficial to human health. Catechins have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
This is where it gets interesting. The catechins in green tea are very effective in reducing skin inflammation.Can green tea reduce inflammatory acne? maybe.
A study published in the April 2016 issue of Complementary Medicine A decaffeinated green tea extract supplement was provided to a group of adult women with acne.The second group took a placebo supplement.
People who took green tea extract supplements had less inflammation, especially around the nose, mouth, and jaw. (You know, exactly where those pesky premenstrual breakouts seem to pop up every month.)
But green tea supplements didn’t completely clear acne.In fact, there was no significant difference between the two groups (those who took the decaffeinated green tea supplement and those who took the placebo supplement) all acne breakouts.
Therefore, green tea supplements appear to reduce inflammation in existing acne blemishes, especially around the nose, mouth, and chin.
Another interesting premium green tea has anti-bacterial abilities.Green tea has antibacterial properties against some of the most common bacteria that cause acne breakouts, namely Propionibacterium acnes and P. granulosa and Staphylococcus.
In the same study, published in the June 2015 issue Journal of Dermatological DrugsPomegranate extract has also been shown to have antibacterial properties against these acne-causing bacteria.
Before you run out to grab a green tea mask, know it’s all done in vitro. That means it’s done in a lab rather than on human skin. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether green tea is equally effective on real skin in the real world.
It does provide a good starting point for more research into the effects of green tea on acne breakouts, though.
Also, bacteria are not the only cause of acne. There are other factors at play, including excess oil and abnormal shedding of skin cells.
Affects hormone-induced breakouts
Acne is definitely affected by hormones. That’s why it’s so common during adolescence. That’s why certain anti-androgens, such as spironolactone and even birth control pills, can effectively control it.
Green tea may also help with these hormonal breakouts. Remember those polyphenols?Green tea is high in polyphenols Epigallocatechin-3-gallate or EGCG.
EGCG can lower androgen levels in the body. EGCG helps block IGF-1. IGF-1 is a growth factor that peaks during adolescence (yes, acne is usually at its worst).
It’s thought that high IGF-1 levels cause the sebaceous glands to drain oil, increase inflammation and make skin cells more “sticky” so they clog pores more easily.
EGCG may reduce IGF-1 levels, which in turn may reduce acne breakouts.
Green tea may not work alone
There is no doubt that green tea is a healthy drink. But don’t hang the hat over a cup or two a day to clean your skin.
More research is still needed to definitively prove (or disprove) the effectiveness of green tea as an acne treatment. Just drinking a warm cup of green tea is unlikely to clear your acne.
If green tea was ever approved for acne, it’s likely to be a more concentrated extract — one that hits the skin harder than the drink you’d buy at the grocery store.
Add green tea to your regimen
Still, with all the health benefits of green tea, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it as a supplement to your acne treatment routine. While it’s not enough to completely cleanse your skin on your own, it may help give you some improvements.
You can simply drink one or two glasses a day. Some people say that drinking green tea on an empty stomach can make them feel a little nauseous, so if that sounds like you drink tea after a meal.
Green tea can also be used topically.Many skin care products and cosmetics contain green tea extract.
How much benefit you will actually get from green tea in cosmetic products is debatable and has a lot to do with the amount of green tea extract in the product. Some sources cite green tea as an anti-aging agent for the skin.
Treatments to help clear the skin
In addition to green tea, you need to start your daily acne treatment. This will give you the most efficient and reliable results.
For mild acne, over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide is a good option. Try it for 8 to 10 weeks and see if this helps your skin.
If OTC products don’t work well, or you have moderate or severe acne, you’ll definitely want to use prescription acne medications. There are many treatment options out there, one of which may work for you. Call your dermatologist.
So, while green tea isn’t a miracle cure for acne, it’s not exactly bunk either. There is still a lot of work and research to be done to really understand what green tea really does for acne.
If you’re a tea drinker, swapping out another drink for a steaming cup of green tea is a healthy option. And, as far as skincare goes, green tea is a fun and luxurious addition.
But on its own, green tea is not a cure for acne. You can still get the best results from proven medications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do green tea pills help clear acne?
Green tea pills or supplements are unlikely to clear acne on their own, but they may reduce some inflammation from existing acne. Over-the-counter or prescription medications are more effective at clearing up acne.
What are the benefits of green tea for the skin?
The benefits of green tea for the skin include:
- Protects the skin from damage caused by free radicals (unstable atoms)
- Can reduce skin inflammation
- May reduce hormone-induced acne breakouts
Should I drink green tea on an empty stomach?
Drinking green tea on an empty stomach can cause an upset stomach in some people. If you’re prone to stomach upsets, it’s best to drink green tea after meals or snacks.