Healthy Skin in a Cup: Does Tea Cause Acne?

By Valeria D.

May 9, 2020

acne, Tea

Tea and coffee are two drinks I enjoy daily.

It may sound like an exaggeration but I can’t imagine my day-to-day routine without them. Especially tea.

Then one fine day, as I stared into my cup of tea, a question popped in my head. Does tea cause acne? 

Maybe because I’m writing a series about acne causes?

With how much tea I drink, you’d think I have an answer ready. But to tell the truth, I’m not really sure. 

Until now, it never crossed my mind that tea and acne would be related. Nevertheless, as always, with the curiosity of a cat, I chased down the answer to the question above. Here’s what I found. Certain types of tea can make your existing acne worse.

There’s no claim whatsoever that tea itself causes acne. But making matters worse doesn’t sound appealing either.

Of course, we won’t leave it at that. Join me in today’s post as we unveil the truth about tea and acne. 

You’ll also discover a few wonderful benefits as a bonus for spending your time here. And by the end of the post, all this can hopefully help you decide whether tea is for you.

Ready, natural beauty Queen? Read on!

Good Leaf! The Benefits of Tea for Acne

Benefits of tea and acne

Since I started this post with a sad news, let’s go on to some good news. You’ll be happy to know that tea can actually deliver benefits for acne. 

Take a look for yourself in this list below.

1. Tea is an Antioxidant-bomb for Nuking Acne.

Antioxidants are a must-have for healthy, youthful-looking skin. That’s why you’ll often see this term attached to anti-aging, wrinkle-preventing products. 

But what does that have to do with acne?

The function of antioxidants is in fighting free radicals. This fight is beneficial not only for wrinkle-prevention, but for acne-prevention, too!

A little bit of free radicals in your body is normal, but it can get out of hand. If not countered, this leads to damaging effects from oxidative stress. For example, oxidative stress harms your skin by inducing chronic inflammation. This inflammation doesn’t simply lead to swollen, painful red skin. It can damage the skin cell function and deliver death blows to collagen. 

You can look at it this way. 

If adding swollen skin to acne wasn’t bad enough. Imagine how bad the blow will be to skin recovering from acne when: skin cells don’t function well; and, there’s less collagen to keep skin healthy.

So you see why antioxidants are a must have. Luckily, tea is a great source of antioxidants!

Looking at tea's features as a beverage, its antioxidant prowess shines the brightest. Just look at these benefits from drinking tea for its antioxidants:

  • Tea is rich in antioxidant molecules called polyphenols. These have promising effects on acne. They reduce oil production, which helps in preventing acne.
  • Chronic inflammation from oxidative stress is a bummer. But that can be countered by antioxidants from tea.
  • Antioxidants in tea can help mitigate skin aging from the sun’s harmful rays. Less damage from the sun, more room for acne to recover.

2. Tea is Skin’s Peacemaker for Hormonal Acne.

Hormones and acne are connected like chains. 

Research after research tell us an imbalance in hormone levels can lead to breakouts. The oil producing glands beneath your skin are forced to produce more oil. That's the sitch when your hormone levels are out of whack. And when there’s an overproduction of oil, it’s only a matter of time before acne moves in. 

Good news is tea can help with the warring hormones. How? Tea acts as a peacemaker for hormonal acne by lowering insulin levels.

How are insulin, hormones, and acne connected? Well, research links insulin to oil production and interactions with hormones called androgens. These sex hormones cause follicle glands to increase in size and produce more oil. 

Overproduction of oil then contributes to the formation of acne. 

So you can see how awful insulin is for hormonal acne.

Now where does drinking tea come in handy? You’ll be happy to know that tea can lower insulin levels effectively! Research has found polyphenols and antioxidants from drinking tea can increase insulin sensitivity.

High sensitivity to insulin makes cells able to better make use of blood glucose. This is good for your body. The more effective use of insulin means less insulin needs to be produced. Less insulin means less interaction with androgens, the acne-inducing hormones! 

3. Tea is a Stealthy Acne Fighter – Taking the Fight to the Gut.

Since we’re talking about drinking tea, it’s only natural for there to be effects on the gut. The gut or gastrointestinal system takes direct benefits from tea. And those benefits can help with acne!

How’s that gonna happen? Let me tell you!

I bet you’re familiar with probiotics, right? Their helpful bacteria that keeps your gut healthy. These good guys are often found naturally in fermented food – like yogurt and pickles. And tea? Oh, nope, tea doesn’t belong that category. But it does have polyphenols that act asprobiotics

Polyphenols are so multi-functional and its similar effects to probiotics makes for a happy gut. Now, this doesn’t seem much connected with acne at first glance. But do you know what a healthy gut can do for you and acne? Well, research has it that a healthy gut can help acne by:

  • Enhancing absorption of nutrients like zinc
  • Improving mood
  • Decreasing stress
  • Helping with fat loss

Walking on Tea Leaves: Risks in Tea for Acne

tea and acne

I guess it’s the reality of life that there’s always a bit of bad in something good. So we can’t have good news for tea and acne without bad news. And bad news is that there are risks in tea for acne.

It’s important to know these risks so you can make sound decisions. So let’s get right to them.

1. Is There Caffeine in Your Tea?

When I say caffeine, the first thing you’ll probably have in mind is coffee or even soda. But the list of beverages with caffeine won’t be complete without tea. Sadly, caffeine doesn’t really play well with acne-prone skin.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Caffeine has a tendency to increase cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. And that increase does not bode well for acne. The relationship between stress and acne flare-ups tells us as much. Your body produce more androgens as a response to stress. These hormones cause oil glands to produce more oil, which can lead to acne.
  • Caffeine in your diet can make it harder for you to get a good night’s sleep. One study concluded that chronic poor sleep quality can affect skin health. Skin will show increased signs of aging and decreased ability to keep moisture. 

Of course, with most things in your diet, it’s all in moderation. Tea is way lower in caffeine content compared to coffee, but drink enough of it and you’ll wham up your caffeine intake, too.

2. Is There Fluoride in Your Tea?

When I came across this fact, I was surprised. In my mind, fluoride belongs in toothpaste. But apparently, fluoride can turn up in your cup of tea, too! 

How does that happen? 

According to experts, the tea plant (Camellia sinensis L.) is known to absorb fluoride from air and soil. And when brewed, fluoride from the leaves can make it to your cup. Take note though that the percent of fluoride varies on the type and quality of tea.

Now what does this mean for acne? 

Well, too much fluoride is a cause for concern since it can lead to thyroid problems. Even just a small amount of fluoride in drinking water can affect thyroid hormones. This can lead to a condition called hypothyroidism. With this condition, the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. And guess what’s one of the symptoms of this condition? You guessed it! A-c-n-e, acne.

Now don’t go throwing out all your tea leaves yet. All this may seem alarming, yes. But fluoride in tea will have little effect on thyroid function if your diet consists of varied nutrients, especially iodine.

How about acne? Well, with acne and fluoride, it’s a very YMMV thing. I can drink tea with no acne consequences. But toothpaste with fluoride can sometimes cause me trouble. Some people have great luck with their acne after going fluoride-free. A dermatologist even advices his patient not to use toothpaste with fluoride. The result of that advice: less breakouts near the mouth.

3. Is Your Tea Low Quality?

Not all teas are created equal.

It's very convenient to grab your favorite sweet tea from supermarket racks. Chances are, they’re not fresh enough to deliver the health benefits you want.

Adding sugar to your tea or opting for bottled sweet iced tea will do more harm than good for your skin. Studies show that a high glycemic-load diet have negative effects on acne. This type of diet involves eating food loaded with sugar. The rise in blood sugar causes more frequent and severe acne. And bottled iced teas usually have a significant amount of sugar.

Plus, if you’re looking to get some anti-oxidants, don’t count on ready-to-drink and instant teas for that. USDA reports that those types of teas have little to no anti-oxidants. So you can say bye-bye to the benefits of tea we talked about above when you opt for grab-and-go tea.

Tea and Your Skin: Is It Time to Turn a New Leaf?

tea and acne

It’s now time for the moment of truth. 

Considering the benefits and risks, should tea remain in your diet?

The answer for this may vary depending on the individual. Of course, you can show anyone the benefits of tea and they’ll most likely keep tea in their diet. Show the risks and it’s going to be a whole new story. 

With that said, here are a few questions you can ask yourself. Based on your answers, you can consider adjustments to better fit tea in your diet.

  • How much tea do you drink in a day?
  • Experts over at Harvard tells us 2-3 cups daily is the sweet spot. 
  • Are you prone to thyroid problems?
  • If yes, consuming brewed tea with the least amount of fluoride is your best bet.
  • What’s your usual source of tea?
  • If your source is usually ready-to-go, instant, and grab-and-go tea, you’re missing out on tea’s benefits. It may be time to consider unsweetened brewed tea into your diet.

A Cup of Healthy Skin: Best Teas for Acne

tea and acne

To get the best result from tea in terms of acne, it’s not the type of tea you should be looking at. All types have their own benefits to flaunt, and risks to carry. What you should take note of is the quality of your cup of tea and how often you drink it.

With that said, here are the types of teas for your consideration. I’ve listed their characteristics to help you decide which will be best for you.

Black Tea

The Good:

  • Increases insulin sensitivity
  • Can help moderate a healthy gut microbiome
  • Rich in anti-oxidants and polyphenols

The Bad:

  • Has the highest concentration of caffeine among all teas
  • Tends to have high levels of fluoride

Green Tea

The Good:

  • Highest amount of anti-oxidants compared to most teas
  • Loaded with EGCG, a helpful anti-oxidant for acne
  • Average amount of caffeine

The Bad:

  • Very high in fluoride

Oolong Tea

The Good:

  • Average amount of caffeine
  • Rich in anti-oxidants and polyphenols
  • May help improve eczema

The Bad:

  • Tedious to brew compared to other types
  • Good quality may be hard to get since its rare
  • High in fluoride

White Tea

The Good:

  • Least processed tea
  • Lowest amounts of caffeine among all types of tea
  • Low levels of fluoride

The Bad:

  • Studies are sparser compared to other types of tea

Herbal Tea

The Good:

  • Has no caffeine
  • Low in fluoride
  • Can help regulate insulin levels
  • Improves digestive health

The Bad:

  • Can interfere with medication (consult your doctor before including this in your diet)
  • Can cause rare allergic reactions

Final Thoughts

Tea can be healthy skin in a cup — or a disaster-filled bottle. It all depends on you. Opting for brewed tea loaded with its benefits will serve you best. Instant tea filled with sugar should be kept in the low (or none at all if you can). So the next time you’re considering what to drink for afternoon tea, keep in mind the benefits and risks of your choice.

Tea can’t single-handedly cure acne. But being mindful of what you drink can take you a step closer to healthy skin.

What’s your favorite type of tea? Have you noticed healthy skin effects from your cup of tea? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

If you read all the way to the end, remember… you are an awesome human being. 

Stay tuned and take skin care!

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