Green Tea: The Unexpected Game-changer in Acne Treatment

Over the past few decades, green tea has emerged as one of the leading natural ingredients recommended for skincare. The list of benefits of this famed drink now seems to be over a mile long – and it’s quite an eclectic list – from dandruff prevention to defying age. But those of us with problematic and acne prone skin can’t help but wonder – if it’s good for everything else, does green tea actually help fight acne?

We’ll see.

What is Green Tea?

First, let’s review the basics.

Green tea is a close relative to the white, black and oolong teas. In fact, they all come from the very same tree going by the Latin name of Camellia sinensis, found mainly in East Asia.

What differentiates the individual tea types is the way Camellia sinensis leaves are harvested and processed. Green tea comes from the fresh, almost unprocessed leaves of the tree, dried and steamed, while for oolong and black tea, the leaves undergo a longer oxidation process. This way maximum amounts of beneficial chemicals (such as polyphenols and some volatile organic compounds) are preserved in the tea.

How does green tea fight acne?

As there’s been a lot more scientific research into the health benefits of green tea, we now know more about the specific mechanisms by which green tea influences our bodies.

As it turns out, green tea has a lot of properties that can deal with several of the main causes of acne.

If you want to understand the ways in which green tea can help with acne, read on, we’ll explore what science supports the most.

Green Tea Is the King of High Antioxidants

Research done over the past few decades shows that green tea packs strong antioxidative properties which can potentially help slow down skin aging.

The antioxidant potential is actually its most famed feature – almost all the information you’ll come across when researching green tea will be about this.

What the term “antioxidant benefits” refers to is the ability of some chemicals in green tea to neutralize the so-called “free radicals” – incomplete molecules responsible for the damage of healthy skin cells and skin aging.

Green tea surpasses other popular antioxidants in this race: 100 ml of green tea (half a cup) has the same antioxidant potential as a 2 pounds of fresh fruits.

Of course, when it comes to skincare, there are no universal solutions.  Reports conflict when it comes to estimating how effective are these antioxidants for a number of different specific ailments but agree that the effects are more evident in skin facing high oxidative challenges, especially in smokers and physically less active people. Its high antioxidant content makes green tea quite the cure for minimizing acne scarring, but there’s even more promising evidence of this yet to be collected.  

Green Tea Helps Reduce Inflammation

As much as antioxidants can help you keep your skin healthy, they can’t beat acne breakouts by themselves. But green tea has something more in store. Catechins are a specific type of beneficial natural compounds found in plants, which show anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea abounds in catechins! This means that green tea might have a significant impact on reducing acne inflammation. Several studies have shown that while it had no significant reduction in the number of acne breakouts, green tea use was shown to lead to less inflammatory breakouts.

Antibacterial Properties

While green tea might not be the first natural substance that comes to mind when talking about anti-microbial properties (tea tree often tops this list), it has proven as especially effective in killing off three specific types of bacteria – all of them prime culprits for acne. As encouraging as that sounds, remember – bacteria isn’t the only cause for acne. That being said, the ways in which green tea does help in tackling acne are certainly not negligible.

Hormonal Effects

Acne can undoubtedly be provoked by hormonal changes, which is the reason breakouts often occur in periods when hormones are at the peak of their activity, such as puberty or specific phases of the menstrual cycle in women. It naturally follows that substances that aid our bodies in controlling hormonal processes can be effective in the treatment of pimples.

A small set of studies has shown that green tea is effective in the prevention of prostate and breast cancer. Now, when it comes to claims about cancer, conventional medical science is vehement against smaller-scale studies backing natural remedies, since misinterpretation of results can lead to grave consequences. However, what we care about here is the fact that both of these types of cancer are related to sex hormones, such as DHT – exactly the type of hormones that cause acne, and that’s what we care about for the purpose of this article. Green tea definitely lowers the level of DHT and other so-called bioactive molecules.

How to Use Green Tea to Treat Acne?

So, how to reap all the benefits of this natural remedy? For starters, think wide: a green tea acne treatment should include both oral and topical use.

Topical Use

Topical use refers to the application of the remedy directly to the acne-affected skin area.

As you may know, pimples appear when a skin pore is clogged from excess oil mixed with dirt and bacteria. Bacteria then easily spread causing infection and further irritation. When applied topically to active breakouts green tea acts as an effective toner – cleaning the area from acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation.

A green tea routine may involve a number of different ways of application. One way is to use a fresh green tea brew as a toner, by pouring the liquid into a spray bottle and applying on the cleaned affected area 2-3 times a day. Simply using cotton pads to spread the liquid instead of a spray bottle is fine too. Another option is using high-quality green tea oil. It can be applied to the spot, or a few drops can be added into a green tea brew to strengthen the potency.

Since you will most likely combine the topical application with oral (see below), you will be left with large amounts of wet green tea leaves after brewing. These leftovers can be made into a paste and then also used topically. Prepare the paste by mixing in some honey, apply on the acne-affected area and leave it in for no longer than half an hour.

Oral Use

Oral use refers to actually drinking the brew made of green tea leaves – and regularly.

Different guidelines give different advice on how many cups a day make the optimal measure for this tea when you’re trying to use it to treat active acne breakouts. While we often encounter the regular three-cups-a-day dosage, and that’s fine, but, there’s another thing we should consider. A growing number of studies have shown that a staggering 80-90% of the beneficial antioxidants of green tea can be lost even before they have entered our digestive systems. Therefore, if less than 20% of what we need ends up in our blood system, more liberal dosing guidelines should be applied. For optimal results, you should consume from 4 to 6 cups a day in a one-week period.

More Tips

We say “green tea” and we imagine that what we get will automatically have all the health benefits mentioned above. But there are countless quality grades of this tea that all go by the same label.

Unfortunately, some green tea leaves out there are simply a fraud. To maximize the effect always buy high-quality, well-sourced, organic green tea. Make sure you are buying loose tea leaves as opposed to bags. Avoid tea that comes in cardboard packaging and opt for metal or foil-covered boxes instead.  

The specific quality level you choose will have specific steeping time instructions. Lower quality green teas steep longer and on a higher temperature than higher quality ones. Always steep according to package instructions. Moreover, do brew a fresh cup of tea every time you need to consume one. Brewing a larger quantity in the morning to last you through the day is a bad idea since certain beneficial compounds found in the fresh tea disintegrate rapidly. Consume immediately after brewing.

While drinking tea first thing in the morning results in a three-times higher absorption of nutrients when compared to other times of day, some people may feel nauseous when consuming it on an empty stomach. This is perfectly fine and if you experience it  – don’t despair. This doesn’t mean you must stop consuming it. Simply start drinking it with meals. Mixing it with food will help curb your sensitivity to it, although you should know that you’ll be getting less antioxidant benefits this way – your blood system won’t absorb them fully.

If you’re not a big green tea fan, try masking it by mixing it in smoothies. Go for a simple, few-ingredient smoothie recipe and make sure there are no nutrients that do not combine well since this may counteract the effects of the tea. Alternatively, we recommend trying matcha – arguably the most palatable variety of green tea. A well-made cup of matcha tea is frothy and comforting and, again, there are a number of excellent recipes for matcha lattes out there.

You may also find interesting the following article: Skincare Tips: 100 Tips for Flawless Skin