Ancient civilizations discovered the benefits of natural skincare because, well, natural resources were all that was available to them - however, Japan had a bit of an edge...
In keeping with the ancient concept of mottainai (pronounced moat-tie-nigh), the Japanese went to many lengths to find additional or remaining value in just about everything.
While a traditional Japanese diet of fish, rice, seaweed - and plenty of green tea - is a not a bad recipe for glowing skin all on its own, the desire to make use out of anything leftover from meals and cooking, allowed the Japanese to discover how much of what they ate and drank could also benefit their skin when applied topically.
For example: using leftover water from boiling rice as a face wash. Today, rice water is shown to brighten and balance skin tone, as well as inhibit the action of elastase, an enzyme that causes damage to elastin in your skin, which can lead to the premature formation of fine lines. So it’s no surprise that leftover green tea was also discovered early on to be extremely beneficial to a glowing complexion.
“Why does it work so well?”
Green tea is antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, and contains vitamin E - all of which make this powerhouse ingredient a must-have for any skin type. Whether you’re looking to avoid the negative effects of sun exposure, hoping to reduce or manage acne naturally, or you’d like to brighten up tired eyes, adding green tea to your beauty routine can aid in any and all of the above.
For Those Who Like it Hot…
If you’re someone who spends a lot of time in the sun and want to do all you can to protect your skin, green tea is something you might want to look out for in your beauty products.
Green tea is abundant in polyphenols, and most notably, a catechin called, (−)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG is an antioxidant shown to neutralize UV-induced DNA damage. This study found that EGCG, as well as (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), which is also found in green tea, were both efficient in preventing erythema (sun burn).The same study found that green tea extracts could also reduce the DNA damage that had already occurred!
Definitely find an SPF that includes green tea extract to help fight UV-radiation when you’re out and about. If you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the hot sun, you may also want to come home and treat your skin to a rejuvenating face mask, blending it with raw honey (a powerful humectant), to rehydrate your skin.
Clean + Green Beauty Queens...
The cleanest and the greenest way to care for your skin might be to just hydrate and nourish your body well from the inside out, and while we agree that this is the foundation of any effective skincare regime, topical supplementation is often necessary.
Anyone battling with dry skin has heard the advice, Just drink more water. Staying adequately hydrated can only mean great things for your skin (and the rest of your body), but most experts agree that internal hydration is not the be-all end-all of your dry skin woes.
The outer layer of your skin is often being dried out, not by what’s happening inside of your body, but by what’s happening outside of it. Reduced moisture in the air, chlorine exposure, and drying ingredients like alcohol in the products we apply to our skin daily can all worsen the problem, regardless of how much water we’re drinking.
When we drink water, our bodies have a long list of areas where that water is needed, and the outer layer of our skin is not very high on that list. The only job of a hydrating lotion or moisturizer is to penetrate this outer layer and attend directly to the surface skin cells that have been most effected by these environmental factors.
Similar to the drink more water myth, it’s often suggested that drinking green tea can help reduce acne, since green tea contains polyphenols that are anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial - but does simply drinking green tea really make a difference?
According to this recent medical review of studies, the topical application of green tea extract ‘significantly reduced’ inflammatory lesions (blemishes) whereas taking green tea extract orally showed ‘minimal effect’.
Don’t turn off the kettle yet, though! While drinking green tea may not be as effective as applying it topically, a great way to follow the mottainai concept would be to pour yourself a cup of delicious green tea, let the remaining tea cool, and then take that and blend it with our Rejuvenating Green Tea Mask to boost its effects!
And don’t let your tea bags go to waste either! We’ve all heard of the place-cucumbers-on-your-eyelids trick, and if you’re reading this, you’ve likely tried this ritual yourself, but have you ever tried using cold tea bags to soothe tired eyes?
Because of green tea’s caffeine content, topical application may help to reduce the appearance of dark circles or puffiness in the eye area. Caffeine is a natural vasoconstrictor, meaning it can calm inflamed blood vessels that create the appearance of dark circles and reduce swelling.
Most masks should be applied avoiding the eye area, but placing cool tea bags on your eyes during your mask ritual can make this a full face treatment! What we love about using tea bags over our favorite garden vegetable, is that you can mold the tea bags to make direct contact with the skin, where as cucumbers aren’t as flexible.
Green tea can also work like a hydrating toner. Cool your bags and then use them like cotton pads, wiping them over your face, post-mask or post-cleansing. Be sure to follow up with a moisturizer or facial oil to lock that hydration in.
The Full Mask Recipe
A pot of green teaSteps
- Begin with equal parts Rejuvenating Green Tea Mask and cooled brewed tea
- Add a small amount of raw honey
- Blend all together, adding more tea, if needed, until a desired consistency is reached
- Remove tea bags from refrigerator and set them nearby
- Cover face with mask, avoiding the eye area
- Lay back and place tea bags over eyes, resting for 10-15 minutes, or until mask feels dry
A Note on Ritual
Something else we can adopt from the Japanese is sticking to simple, time-honoured rituals and having patience with our beauty practices, rather than jumping from one beauty trend to the next without ever allowing our bodies the time to respond.
This is why we always recommend only introducing 1-2 new products at a time, and unless there’s irritation, continuing with those products for a month or two to see how your skin reacts before introducing anything else. You’ll end up with better results - and less waste. As always, what’s good for us is good for the planet, too!
All images by Alison Page Mills (@alisonmpage)