A Not-So-Common Morning Beverage Can Help You Look Your Best All Day

Dr. Janet Zand

November 29, 2019



Many people start their mornings with a cup or two (or three) of coffee. That can be a great choice. Coffee is rich in antioxidants. And the caffeine can be a nice boost.

But what if I told you that swapping out just one cup of coffee for another beverage could improve your skin? What’s more, you need only one cup a day to get all of its benefits.

You might be drinking coffee so you don’t feel so tired. Well, there’s another beverage that could help you not look so tired. (Of course, neither drink is a substitute for sleep!)

Long-time readers might think I’m about to tell you about green tea. That’s close. Green tea is a great choice. But if you truly want to maximize your antioxidant intake, even green tea is too processed. You want white tea instead.

To understand white tea will truly give you the most antioxidant bang for your buck, you need to understand where the different types of tea come from. A common misconception is that black, green, and white tea come from different plants. In fact, they’re all the same. All three come from the Camellia sinensis plant. The difference comes in how the plant is processed.

White tea consists of tea leaves picked very young. They’re covered in a white fuzz at this point, which is where the name comes from. Tea producers dry the leaves and then package them up as-is.

To make green tea, producers steam and scald the leaves before drying them. And they oxidize or ferment the leaves to make black tea. These processes can enhance the tea’s flavor. But they do decrease the antioxidant content.

Why Drink White Tea?

The antioxidant content in white tea is significant. In fact, British researchers recently tested the benefits of 21 different plant extracts. They were specifically looking at how these extracts affected the skin. And white tea extract proved to be leaps and bounds ahead of the others.

Because white tea is chock-full of antioxidants, it does help decrease general inflammation. But its benefits for the skin get even more specific. In particular, it helps protect two important proteins in the skin: collagen and elastin.

You’ve probably heard of these proteins. They are both essential to helping the skin maintain its elasticity. Elastic skin doesn’t wrinkle or sag. And it bounces back from injuries. Elastin in particular helps the skin repair wounds. And collagen helps keep the skin strong and supple.

The researchers found that this combination of antioxidants and protective enzymes makes white tea an anti-wrinkle powerhouse. But when researchers conduct studies with plant extracts, sometimes it’s hard to know whether those benefits will translate to real life. For example, you’ve probably all heard by now that you’d have to drink 15 gallons of red wine every day to get the amounts of resveratrol researchers are using in their studies!

When it comes to white tea – there’s good news. Researchers found that one cup of white tea provides more of white tea’s benefits than the extract they used in their study. So you don’t have to drink it by the bucket to protect your skin. Even if it’s not your favorite beverage, consider swapping just one drink a day for a cup of white tea.

More Benefits of White Tea

White tea is low in caffeine compared to other types of tea and certainly compared to coffee. It has a very mild taste. Because it’s the antioxidants you’re after, try to drink the freshest tea you can find. Over time, white tea will oxidize and lose much of its antioxidant power. So buy fresh tea and drink it regularly.

If you just can’t get on board with the taste – or you really want to maximize your use of tea – you can also use it topically. Tea’s antioxidant properties make tea extract a powerful ingredient in skincare products.

Researchers studied the anti-wrinkle effects of green, white, and black tea extracts. They subjected hairless mice to UVB photoaging, and then treated them with the extract. They found that the tea extract significantly inhibited wrinkle formation in the mice. Not only that, the mice had more collagen and elastic fiber content, both hallmarks of skin restoration. Plus, they had a lower expression of MMP-3, which is an enzyme that degrades collagen. The researchers believe that the tea extract's effects on the mice reveal that it has great promise for human use.

Another study found that these extracts can help prevent melanin accumulation. In fact, they worked even better than some commonly used depigmenting ingredients. This suggests that tea extracts may be of use in treating issues that involve excess pigmentation, such as melasma or dark spots.

I've been so impressed with tea extract's results that we've included a remarkably premium quality white tea leaf extract in the Système 41 Eye Serum, the Gentle Purifying Cleanser, and the Day Crème, which you can order by following this link.

What About Green Tea? Does It Help the Skin?

While I’m very impressed with white tea’s benefits, I have to confess that I’m still pretty devoted to green tea. I enjoy the taste – and the benefits. Green tea is also full of antioxidants. In fact, by weight, green tea is approximately 45% polyphenol. And these polyphenols have tremendous anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory benefits.

White tea’s antioxidants may take some years off your face. But green tea can help you feel and, yes, look better. One of the key antioxidants in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG for short). This antioxidant is powerful but rare. Green tea is one of the best places to find it. And EGCG’s ability to decimate free radicals means it helps ward off a number of age-related diseases, including memory loss and other brain issues. It can help you flush toxins out of your body and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels.

Like white tea, green tea’s antioxidants are great topically too. In fact, you can soak a cotton ball in steeped green tea, apply it to an area of your skin prone to breakouts for five minutes, and rinse – or don’t if you are going to bed. It will help existing blemishes heal and prevent new ones from forming.

Plus, the tannins in tea can help shrink your pores and reduce excessive oil production. Less oil often translates to less breakouts. But just how much less oil are we talking about? Green tea can produce truly dramatic results. In fact, a study of products that contained 3% green tea extract reduced sebum (skin oil) by a whopping 70%! That can go a long way toward reducing breakouts. I have patients who have told me that green tea has helped their complexion as much as cortisone cream.

How to Use Tea Topically

After you brew your tea, whether you drink it or just apply the tea topically, be sure to save the tea bags. Let them cool in the refrigerator. Then apply them under your eyes for up to 10 minutes. The caffeine in the tea and the cool temperature will work together to calm inflammation and help drain puffiness/accumulated fluids from this sensitive area.

Most of the time, I personally use green tea as matcha – depending on my mood – to keep my own inflammation at a low roar. Green tea bags will also promote vasoconstriction, which will reduce swelling. Just be sure you rinse off the area when you’re done. Letting tea sit on sensitive skin for hours can potentially cause irritation.

After you’ve soothed your eyes, you can still get additional benefit from those tea bags. Cut them open and mix the tea leaves into your favorite mask. You’ll get an extra boost of antioxidants, and the leaves will provide gentle exfoliation as you apply the concoction. If you’d prefer to go the DIY route entirely, you can mix the leaves with honey or yogurt to make your own mask. Again, just be sure to rinse after 15-20 minutes.

Of course, I do encourage you to give drinking tea a chance. Tea has less caffeine than coffee and unlike coffee, it can help you stay hydrated. This is particularly true of white tea. You may even find that you can drink white tea in the afternoon without affecting your sleep. Don’t try this if you are very sensitive to caffeine though! Sleep is just as much of a beauty aid as tea.

No matter what your beverage of choice is in the morning, try to squeeze some tea in. If you think you don’t enjoy tea because black tea is too bitter for you, give white tea try. Its mild flavor – and its effects on your skin – might be a pleasant surprise.

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