Are you using green tea to treat acne? Hot off the press from South Korea comes another study. And what this study shows just might prompt you to add some green tea goodness into your skin care routine.
Before I tell you about the study and what it means to you, we need to briefly review how acne happens.
The 3 steps to acne
Let’s start by briefly looking at the primary causes of acne. And by primary causes I mean things that happen in the skin, not systemic effects like insulin resistance or hormone levels.
We can divide the acne formation process into 3 steps.
- Blocked pore – Happens as a result of excessive sebum production and skin cell growth, mainly driven by genetic sensitivity to certain hormones.
- Inflammation of the hair follicle – Studies have shown that oxidative damage (i.e. inflammation) triggers the acne formation process. It alters the ‘oxygen tension’ (please don’t ask, it takes a smarter person than me to know what that means) in sebum to make it more suitable for P. Acnes bacteria to thrive.
- Rapid multiplication of P. Acnes bacteria – The bacteria irritates the hair follicle and this rapidly increases inflammation in the area resulting in an inflammatory pustule.
All of these steps have to happen for you to get a pimple. Stop the process at any stage and you are saved, and that’s where green tea steps in [cue dramatic music].
Green tea fights acne every step of the way
So now that we understand how acne forms, let’s get to the real meat (or tofu, if you are so inclined) of this post.
The researchers at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea tested the acne-fighting properties of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the major antioxidant in green tea. Their research was done in 2 stages: first a series of test tube studies on the potential of EGCG in every step of the acne process. They also conducted a human trial using EGCG cream.
Unfortunately the details in the abstract are sparse and no full-text study is available. So I can’t get into details, but here are the salient points from the abstract.
- EGCG suppressed sebocytes (sebum producing cells) in test tube. This is something we’ve seen in other test tube studies and also in human trials.
- EGCG suppressed inflammation in test tube.
- EGCG decreased the viability of P. Acnes bacteria in test tube. I can’t say for sure what ‘decreased viability’ means. I presume either weakening them or suppressing growth.
- Finally, EGCG cream significantly improved acne in the clinical trial over 8 weeks, and showed little to no side-effects.
As I mentioned details of this study are hard to come by, so I have no idea how much EGCG was in the cream or how much acne improved over placebo.
Lack of details aside, this is one more reason to incorporate green tea into your acne treatment regimen.