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Asian Skincare Ingredients 101: Tea (Camellia Sinensis)

What’s the tea on tea? For starters, its origins aren’t completely clear. According to legends, however, humans accidentally stumbled upon the tea-steeping process in 2737 BC: Emperor Shen Nong was drinking a bowl of water that had just been boiled when a few leaves from a nearby tree fell into his drink. He was impressed by the flavor of the infused water and its health benefits, and thus began the history of the most consumed beverage across the globe (other than water, of course)!

To this day, Camellia sinensis, or the tea plant, is embedded into Asian culture from China to Japan to India! From traditional medicinal practices to some darn good refreshments, tea is a wonderfully versatile ingredient with countless applications. Let’s get into what makes tea an amazing skincare ingredient as well!

Skincare Benefits of Tea

Tea is, hands down, one of the most antioxidant-rich plants in the world. The composition of tea is so rich and complex that to this day, scientists have a difficult time identifying all the bioactive compounds and properties within tea. That’s not even taking into consideration the wide variety of teas available, from your standard black tea to the more obscure yellow tea!

To avoid writing an entire MLA-Times-New-Roman-12-point-font-75-page-thesis, we’ll focus primarily on studies regarding green tea, as it’s one of the least processed types of tea, therefore retaining many of the polyphenols and antioxidants from the original tea plant.

Green tea (and black tea!) is loaded with epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a well-researched catechin that fights free radicals and repairs DNA damage. EGCG helps combat UV-induced photoaging of skin by inhibiting harmful enzyme activity, leaving skin’s hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin intact! If all of that sounds like a bunch of gibberish, here it is in simpler terms: tea good, really good!!!

Other antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and more within green tea further underline green tea’s anti-aging benefits, not to mention boosting the skin barrier’s defense and moisturizing skin.

When used in conjunction with certain ingredients such as Ginkgo biloba extract, hyaluronic acid, and Vitamins C & E, green tea can create synergistic effects that amplify the original benefits of each ingredient. Combining green tea with Ginkgo biloba extract and hyaluronic acid, for example, can potentially increase their penetrating abilities for deeper moisture.

To sum things up, here’s a list of green tea’s skincare benefits:
  • Fights free radicals
  • Repairs DNA damage, combats UV-induced photoaging
  • Protects skin’s hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin
  • Boosts skin barrier
  • Increases moisture in deeper layers of skin when used with other humectants
  • Creates synergistic effects with certain skincare ingredients/actives

Tea can take many different forms in an ingredient list, so keep an eye out for anything mentioning “_____ tea” or “Camellia sinensis.” Green tea extract, Camellia sinensis leaf water, and Camellia sinensis leaf extract are the most common forms you’ll see in products, although you may want to note that Camellia sinensis can refer to any type of tea, not just green tea!

Best Asian Skincare Products with Tea

Benton Deep Green Tea Toner

Benton Deep Green Tea Toner

Benton’s Deep Green Tea Toner means business when it comes to green tea! Formulated with over 53% green tea water from Boseong, green tea leaf extract, green tea seed extract, and green tea root extract, this toner might as well be growing on a tea plant.

All the amazing benefits of green tea, like replenishing moisture, soothing irritation, and strengthening the skin barrier, make the Deep Green Tea Toner a particularly fabulous option for those with unbalanced, sensitive skin. While oily skin types are most likely to enjoy this for how hydrating it is without contributing any greasiness, dry skin types can most definitely layer this watery toner for an even greater hydrating effect.

What we said about the synergistic effect of green tea and certain active ingredients also applies here: sodium hyaluronate (the stable form of hyaluronic acid) is happily partnered with green tea to put the “Deep” in “Deep Green Tea Toner.” The combo replenishes the water content in deeper layers of the skin for a comfortable, long-lasting moisture.

Beauty of Joseon Calming Serum: Green Tea + Panthenol

Beauty of Joseon Calming Serum: Green Tea + Panthenol

Green tea has long been an irreplaceable ingredient in hanbang, or traditional Korean medicine. Beauty of Joseon does this legendary ingredient justice in its Calming Serum: Green Tea + Panthenol! Containing over 76% green tea leaf water, this hanbang serum is exactly what sensitive skin types need. Thanks to its polyphenols, green tea has an anti-inflammatory effect on skin, thereby positively increasing skin’s microcirculation as well!

Like Benton’s Deep Green Tea Toner, Beauty of Joseon’s Calming Serum also contains sodium hyaluronate for deep, long-lasting hydration. Add in known skin barrier-boosters panthenol and centella asiatica extract, and you’ve got an all-rounder serum that soothes, brightens, strengthens, and hydrates!

Annie's Way Green Tea Bubble Tea Mask

Applications of Tea (Camellia sinensis) and Its Active Constituents in Cosmetics

As a Taiwanese American founded company, we love our boba. The Green Tea Bubble Tea Mask from Annie’s Way combines two of our favorite things in the world: boba and sheet masks! Not only is its boba concept super fun, it’s also one of our favorite sensitive skin-friendly and oily skin-friendly sheet masks for its oil-balancing properties from green tea leaf extract!

Other notable ingredients include witch hazel leaf extract, burdock extract, and ascorbic acid, a.k.a Vitamin C! As mentioned earlier, Vitamin C is one of those skincare actives that work extra well with green tea, as their combined antioxidant activities are amplified. So on top of the oil-balancing, moisturizing, and soothing benefits of green tea, you’re also getting a brightening dose from these two melanin-inhibiting antioxidant-rich ingredients!

Annie's Way Black Tea Bubble Tea Sheet Mask

Annie's Way Black Tea Bubble Tea Sheet Mask

And we can’t talk about Annie’s Way’s Bubble Tea Mask series without talking about their most popular flavor: the Black Tea Bubble Tea Mask! One of our most highly reviewed and rated products, this sheet mask uses black tea leaf extract instead of the more common green tea. While green tea is one of the least processed types of tea, black tea is the most processed type of tea. This means that some antioxidants within green tea are not as abundant in black tea, but black tea has some unique bioactive compounds of its own thanks to its fermentation process!

Specifically, black tea contains polyphenolic components such as thearubigins, theobrownins, and most importantly, theaflavins. Theaflavins, also called the “soft gold” of black tea, are believed to have anti-aging benefits, as studies indicate that they have “the potential to inhibit the photoaging and intrinsic aging of skin cells.”

As such, this black tea-focused sheet mask has firming, nourishing, and brightening benefits. Whether you’re looking to revive a dull complexion or plump up skin, look no further!

23.5°N Oriental Beauty Tea Balancing Toner

23.5°N Oriental Beauty Tea Balancing Toner

Green tea and black tea have had their moments to shine in this article, but let’s not forget about oolong tea! Since oolong tea isn’t quite as popular as green tea or black tea, less research has been conducted on oolong tea’s benefits as a topical ingredient. However, studies have identified bioactive flavonoids such as theasinensins in oolong tea, which have high antioxidant activity! And oolong tea still contains tea polyphenols that scavenge free radicals, as well as exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

23.5°N’s Oriental Beauty Tea Balancing Toner sources a specific variety of oolong tea, called Oriental Beauty Tea, from Hsinchu County, Taiwan. Even though this toner is formulated to control excess sebum and oil, it also contains hydrating ingredients like sodium hyaluronate for a refreshing and replenishing boost. For normal to dry skin types, this toner is super watery and easy to layer for extra hydration, as demonstrated by Anthony Harper in his review of 23.5°N!

Final Thoughts

And that’s the tea on tea: an ultra versatile, skin-loving ingredient that can do everything from anti-aging to soothing to brightening to hydrating! With an endless list of benefits, tea is a must-try ingredient in Asian skincare.

Give these Asian skincare products a go, and let us know what you think!