Is drinking tea the key to beauty?
Integrating healthy beauty rituals into your daily routine is an enjoyable way to keep your skin healthy and glowing. One such ritual is the time-honoured practice of drinking tea. For thousands of years, various cultures have employed the benefits of tea drinking in their daily lives for the gamut of health and beauty benefits. I am not only talking about real teas such as black tea but the beguiling and healthful world of herbal tisanes as well.
Understanding the different properties of teas/herbs and drinking them on a regular basis is an empowering and fun way to improve your complexion. It also creates the perfect opportunity throughout the day to take time out, reflect and relax. I recommend creating a tea dispensary in the cupboard; a selection of teas/herbs that can be infused to assist with skin problems as they may arise as well as enhance your beauty sleep and use as a general skin and body booster.
Where the art of drinking tea for better skin health begins is in ensuring the quality of your tea and the tools you use to prepare it. Certified organic tea offers you a quality brew without the pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on conventional produce. If you opt for teabags as opposed to loose-leaf, ensure that the bags themselves are not bleached. Many skin and health problems can be aggravated by hormone imbalances, which can be exacerbated by the exposure to xeno-oestrogens, hormone disruptors found in some plastics and bleached products.
Also, if possible, boil your water in a stainless-steel kettle or even a stainless-steel pot on the stove rather than in a plastic kettle. Using purified water enhances the health benefits of the tea. While boiling water eliminates certain bugs, it doesn’t remove chemical pollutants. Resist drinking your tea too hot as this can scald and irritate your mouth, oesophagus and stomach. Opt for it well steeped, rich and warm.
Real tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant. The three main components of tea are essential oils, polyphenols and caffeine, all of which deliver beauty benefits. What determines the unique properties of the various teas — black, green, white, oolong and pu-erh — is the alteration of the shape and chemistry of the leaf (the level of oxidation and fermentation). All these lovely, health-giving teas are high in antioxidants that boast myriad skin and health benefits.
It makes perfect sense that after a stressful situation, we yearn for a relaxing cup of tea. Stress is infamous for triggering skin-sabotaging free radicals and these pesky molecules are mopped up by the powerful antioxidants called flavonoids found in tea. What perfect synergy! White and green teas are purported to be super-rich in polyphenols, though some recent studies have found oolong to be superior. Either way, the EGCG polyphenols in all teas have been shown to protect skin cells from UV damage and may even help prevent skin tumour formation.
This same compound has been found to inhibit the enzymatic reactions that break down collagen and elastin in the skin. Pu-erh tea is less known but worth including in your beauty routine. It has not garnered the attention or research that green tea has but it may be the ultimate skin-loving tea. Treasured in China, pu-erh tea is reputed to contain strong qi that boosts the blood flow, aids digestion and weight loss, helps the body’s circulation, removes toxins and restores a rosy glow to the complexion.
Tea is a metabolic stimulant and is said to help maintain a healthy weight. Its stimulating properties can be attributed to its caffeine content. While common belief holds that tea is dehydrating to the skin, the latest research differs. Black tea contains between 40g and 120g of caffeine per cup, which of course various according to steeping time. Say researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, moderate amounts of caffeine, up to 500mg a day, do not cause dehydration and in moderation can be hydrating. The liquid content of the tea neutralises the diuretic effect of the caffeine. Other health experts recommend no more than 300g.
While decaffeinated tea is an option for those who choose to be caffeine-free, the health benefits may be reduced. Researchers have found that chemicals in tea, namely fluorine, may destroy bacteria and viruses that cause dental caries. However, some studies showed that decaffeinated blends were less effective as antiviral agents.
Researchers have also recently raised questions about the high levels of fluorine being a potential problem. Studies have shown that, while a certain amount is health-boosting, too much can compromise bone density. However, it could be argued that if we removed the levels of sodium fluoride (the toxic form of fluoride that is a by-product of the aluminium industry) that we consume in our water and toothpaste, the levels we consume from tea may give us all the good and natural fluorine we need.
For those with puffy eyes and a blocked nose caused by allergies, green tea has also been shown to be a good allergy fighter. Japanese researchers have found that the polyphenols in green tea block the biochemical process involved in producing an allergic response.
Herbal tisanes/teas make excellent drinks to consume throughout the day. The skin-detoxifying, nourishing and rejuvenating, strengthening, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of herbs are infused into the water. I keep many types of dried herbs on hand for tea. But another wonderful way to enjoy herbal tea is to pick some fresh from the garden and steep them in a cup of boiled water. I pop sprigs of rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, calendula and basil in mine and it’s lovely with a slice of ginger and a dash of honey (manuka honey is particularly anti-bacterial and a delicious addition to tea).
Getting your Beauty sleep is paramount for healthy skin, too. We produce two very important age-defying hormones and antioxidants: melatonin and human growth hormone. Herbal teas such as chamomile, valerian, red clover, lemon balm and passionflower can be wonderful aids to better slumber.
Herbs are beneficial for restoring gut health, too, vital for beautiful, glowing skin. Herbs that aid digestion include peppermint, fennel, oregano, pau d’arco, ginger and green tea, among many others. Herbs that are great for boosting the immune system of the skin include licorice root (excellent for a cough, too), astragalus and dong quai (also good for balancing hormonal problems). Remember that some herbs have contraindications and should only be drunk short term to help remedy a specific problem, so it’s important to ask your health practitioner if your herbs of choice are suitable for you.
One of my favourite herbal teas/infusions (in this case, a decoction) is dandelion root. It’s very cleansing for the liver and the perfect tea when engaged in a skin detox. Another favourite is rosehip tea. Rich in bioflavonoids (great for those with broken capillaries) and vitamin C, which is important for collagen synthesis, this tea is a potent skin rejuvenator.
For those with acne, depending on what is causing the problem, there are teas to balance hormones and others to cleanse the liver. Burdock root and yellow dock (also great for eczema) can be particularly helpful for controlling outbreaks. Another great staple for your tea dispensary is rooibos tea. It originates from Africa, where it is also known as bush or red tea (but is not from the Camellia sinesis plant). This tea is super-rich in skin-enhancing antioxidants and is caffeine-free. It is perfect for all skin types.
Topically, cooled tea can be used to rejuvenate the complexion in the form of a spritzer or a facial mask.
Lemon & Rosewater Facial Treatment with polyphenols, vitamin C and bioflavonoids
This vitamin- and antioxidant-rich mask will clarify and rejuvenate the complexion. If your skin is very sensitive, omit the lemon juice and double the quantity of rosewater. Make a big batch of this if you like it and freeze it in ice-cube containers. Each time you require a face mask, simply pop out a cube and thaw it.
2 tbsp strong green tea (cooled)
2 tsp rosewater
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp strong cooled rosehip tea
1–2 tsp citrus pectin
Mix together all ingredients except the citrus pectin. Slowly whisk in the citrus pectin, constantly stirring until a gel forms. To use, apply to a clean complexion. Leave for 15 minutes and rinse thoroughly.
Carla Oates is a natural beauty expert and the author of Feeding Your Skin.
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