Is Black Tea good as a topical ingredient?

edited February 2017 in Ask the Beauty Brains
Some people apply Black Tea as a self tanner on their skin, but are there any negatives with topical black tea? Can it damage skin, or does it produce free radicals? It is well known regular self tanners with Dihydroxyacetone and Erythrulose generate free radicals, and cause skin damage (link, link, link, link).

I've found some studies on NCBI where they stated topical Black Tea may have the same benefits as green tea, so then it would be even beneficial for skin. What is the truth?


  • Here's what we previously wrote about Green Tea (but this would apply to black tea as well.)

    Green Tea

    What’s the story? It’s an extract containing polyphenols which are known to be potent antioxidants that may protect against UV damage and help photo-aged skin.

    Can science explain how it might work? Yes. There’s no doubt that green tea extract is an effective antioxidant which works by quenching several reactive oxygen species. It is also capable of limiting enzymes which cause collagen breakdown and to increase synthesis by fibroblasts, but again in in vitro testing.

    Can it penetrate skin to get to where it needs to be in order to work? Probably not. The active component EGCG is water soluble so it is not well suited for skin penetration. Also, It’s difficult to stabilize green tea extract long enough for it to penetrate skin. To make things worse there is little standardization about which components are contained in extracts and how much of them.

    Is there proof it does anything when I rub it on my skin? Maybe, for UV prevention. At least two studies indicate at high concentrations of the active components can prevent the damaged caused by UV exposure. However there is no comparison to indicate if it as good as conventional sunscreens. The only randomized, double-blind, controlled, clinical trial involving topical green tea extract showed no improvement in photo damaged skin from topical application of green tea extract after 8weeks. There were some trends in the data which indicate that a longer questing period might have yielded better results. But so far the ingredient remain unproven.

    How do we rate it? “C” The active component is is unstable and it’s not easy to get the ingredient to where it needs to be work. Also, there are no clear studies proving that it does what it’s capable of. In addition, there is little standardization to document the type and concentration of antioxidants present in the extract, not to mention in any finished products.

  • So probably when used as a "self-tanner", black tea is the safest option there is?
  • Does black tea really provide enough skin staining to be a functional self-tanner? I've never seen that. I suppose it would be safe. 
  • Well it doesn't produce the same dark tan as regular self-tanners, although you do see some difference. For a very pale person like me it does help. 

    I'm going to try it a couple of times, and if it doesn't work I guess I have to use foundation or a tinted sunscreen. 

    Do you know if iron oxides can produce free radicals in skin? I've read they can degrade Avobenzone, like nano Titanium Dioxide.
  • I've never seen evidence of that but perhaps it hasn't been well studied. 
Sign In or Register to comment.