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Green tea: sunscreen’s new best friend

Forget the cart full of expensive sunscreen this year ladies! Instead, take your shopping voyage down the coffee and tea isle, and stock up on antioxidant-rich green tea. Incredibly, green tea is not only a healthy addition to a balanced diet, but it may also be useful as a skin protector as well.

Why Is Green Tea Healthy To Begin With?
Although you’ve probably heard that green tea is “healthy” for you, it’s important to understand the benefits it provides. First of all, green tea contains beneficial antioxidants for our bodies. What do antioxidants do? Antioxidants are compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and tea that protect our bodies from dangerous free radicals. Although our bodies come equipped with natural defenses against disease, free radicals (cancer-causing agents) are one thing our immune system cannot fight on its own. With all the chemicals we ingest daily through the environment and foods we consume (intentionally and unintentionally), it’s important to boost our bodies with protection.

Can Green Tea Really Protect My Skin?
Besides providing beneficial antioxidants, green tea can also be used as a shield against the sun’s damaging rays. A research study conducted at Peninsula Medical School in the United Kingdom had participants consume three cups of green tea, then subject their skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays (the same rays the sun emits). Results from blood testing proved that the green tea helped protect DNA from UV damage. So, consuming 24 ounces of green tea a day (in addition to sunscreen application) can significantly help protect our skin from damaging rays.

Another study used a topical green tea to see its protective effects on human skin. This study, performed at the Ohio Department of Dermatology In Cleveland tested a green tea cream against UV ray damage. Here, participants applied the green tea cream to their skin, then exposed the skin to UV radiation. Results showed the area of skin containing the cream was protected against the UV rays, and no damage occurred to the skin cells. Green tea cream is another way to protect your skin if you’d rather squeeze it from a bottle than drink it from a cup.

Although green tea has proven itself as an easy addition to sunscreen for skin protection, other research protests that it doesn’t protect skin at all. A two year study executed at Stanford University in California showed that participants had no difference in skin protection before and after ingesting green tea 4. While this study didn’t show green tea as a protective agent against UV rays, keep in mind that research is constantly evolving, and these results may change with additional trials.

It Might Be Great, But Can I Afford It?
Finally, if the different forms of green tea available don’t intrigue you enough, wait until you see how affordable this breakthrough is! If you’re looking for drinkable green tea, you can find a wide selection in your local grocery store. Boxes of green tea are available for only a few dollars, and the variety of decaf, caffeinated, and flavored selections are endless.

Even better, green tea can be made hot or cold, and quick additions such as honey or a lemon wedge can add variety as well. On the other hand, if you’re after a topical version of green tea, green tea-containing lotions can be purchased in the health and beauty departments of your favorite stores. Although they are more expensive, one tube will last a long time when used in conjunction with sunscreen.

As you stare out the window at the frigid flakes of snow and wonder if warm summer will ever come again, make a “sunnier days” shopping list with your skin in mind. Stock up on green tea packets and lotion as a reminder of the sunny days ahead, and know that you’re helping your skin stay healthy for the future. Then, when the summer months finally breakthrough and you start packing for the beach, remember to grab your delicious hot green tea, refreshing green iced tea, or soothing green tea lotion to supplement your sunscreen. Your skin is there to protect you, now you can naturally and affordably return the favor.

March 17, 2011 by Cassie McGuire '11

See also: Healthcare, Students