The benefits of drinking matcha tea are well documented, but now people are applying the Japanese-style powder of green tea leaves to their skin with masks andcleansers — and more beauty brands are using matcha as a hero ingredient in their products.
The purported results include reducing acne, preventing premature aging, fighting skin cancer and minimizing damage from ultraviolet light. So, is matcha really the miracle skin care ingredient that some claim it to be? HuffPost spoke to three board-certified dermatologists familiar with the subject to get the truth, and the overall feeling is optimism riddled with uncertainty.
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What exactly is matcha, and why do people consider it useful in skin care?
“Matcha is a finely ground powder from a uniquely processed green tea, thought to be super high in antioxidants” — specifically epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG — said Dr. Leah Ansell, a cosmetic, medical and surgical dermatologist and an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University.
Though green tea has long been included in skin care products, matcha specifically is a newer ingredient in the market. “Catechins found in green tea and in super high concentrations in matcha-type green tea are thought to be the mechanism for protecting and repairing the skin,” Ansell said. The idea that matcha is a powerful skin care ingredient is based on studies of topical formulations of green tea, which “have shown significant reduction in skin cancer when applied in mice,” she said.
“We do know that when matcha is in tea form, the concentration of EGCG is 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG in other forms of green tea and at least three times higher than the largest literature value for other green teas,” Ansell added. “As a skin care ingredient, [matcha] is thought to have protective effects to fight free-radical damage, have anti-inflammatory powers and potentially … reduce the appearance of sun damage.”
How certain is it that matcha offers these benefits?
When compared with general green tea in skin care, dermatologists feel cautiously hopeful about matcha. “Since matcha is finely ground green tea leaves, more antioxidants in the leaves make it into your skin,” said Dr. Aanand Geria, a dermatologist in Verona, New Jersey. But, Geria added, “research is still being conducted to determine any risks or benefits that matcha may provide.”
“Comparative studies are still needed with matcha specifically, and there is not conclusive proof that matcha is superior. So, the jury is still out,” Ansell concluded. “Hopefully studies will be done to confirm these benefits when applied directly to the skin. The potential benefits could be significant.”
Does it even make sense at this point to use matcha in skin care?
Despite some uncertainty around effectiveness, the potential advantages could make skin care packed with matcha worth a shot. Dr. Dustin Portela, a dermatologist and skin care educator on TikTok, said that though “matcha can soothe inflammation,” evidence of other benefits remains inconclusive. “The reality is that we just don’t have enough studies to say that matcha is an effective ingredient to treat acne,” he said. “However, it may show some anecdotal evidence because of the anti-inflammatory properties.”
As for fighting premature aging, “matcha certainly has the potential to reduce those risk factors,” Portela said. “However, we simply don’t have enough studies to conclude that applying matcha skin care will reduce the risk of skin cancer in any individual.”
If matcha is effective, who is most likely to benefit?
“Matcha can be safe for a wide range of skin types,” Portela noted. “The way in which it is formulated, and what other ingredients are delivered, will actually make a bigger difference in what skin type a matcha product is suitable for.”
Still, people with certain skin concerns stand to gain more than others. “Researchers concluded matcha might be especially beneficial for people with sensitive skin or those exposed to pollution,” thanks to its ability to help stimulate natural collagen production and elasticity, according to Geria.
Furthermore, “anyone with sun damage or looking to protect their skin during the day from free-radical damage could benefit from trying matcha-containing products,” Ansell added.
What is the best way to reap the potential rewards of matcha?
Though Geria said that “having matcha in any step of your skin care regimen is beneficial,” Portela saw certain products as more advantageous than others.
“When you deliver antioxidants to the skin, you want to make sure they have time to be absorbed into the skin,” Portela said. “This is why I don’t find matcha cleansers to be particularly beneficial. They are not in contact with the skin for long enough to make a huge difference. Matcha has the most potential when delivered through serums and masks. This longer contact time allows the antioxidants to be delivered to the skin and to do their work.”
Still, the best method may just be the old-fashioned way: drinking it. “Numerous studies have shown that consuming matcha delivers potent antioxidants and can lead to better health. Everything in our bodies are connected, so when you consume antioxidants, eat nutritious foods and get plenty of sleep, you are more likely to display healthy skin as well,” Portela said.
“Drinking matcha has many benefits for the skin,” Geria agreed. “It contains vitamin B2 and E, [which are] essential for maintaining healthy skin. B2 helps balance collagen levels, which improve skin firmness and texture. Vitamin E assists in cell growth and helps skin stay hydrated and nourished. Matcha also contains antioxidants, which boost blood circulation, making the skin glow. In addition to antioxidants, matcha also contains methylxanthines that help to stimulate microcirculation in the skin. This makes the skin healthy and radiant, and gives it an even complexion.”
Are there risks to using matcha in skin care?
“As with any skin care ingredient, it will not work for everyone,” Portela said. “There is a risk of causing irritation or even allergic reaction with nearly any skin care ingredient.”
Ansell recommended watching out for “allergic reactions to the botanical itself or sometimes reactions to preservatives or other ingredients in the product that help stabilize it.”
As for the TikTok users who are mixing up their own concoctions, “I would caution consumers against making their own matcha skin care,” Portela said. “These are more likely to cause irritation and be less likely to deliver results to the skin.”
Looking for some skin care that really does work? Here are some dermatologist favorites, according to senior Shopping writer Lourdes Avila Uribe:
iS Clinical Super Serum
I am absolutely devoted to this powerful vitamin C serum. My esthetician recommended adding iS Clinical’s Super Serum to my lineup, and now I can’t imagine my skin without it. It’s an oil-based vitamin C-rich serum that not only has the potential to help reduce typical signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage, but can help to reduce scarring as well. While it costs a pretty penny, I think it’s absolutely worth it. Not only are the quality and the results unbeatable, but a little goes a long way, making it less of a financial burden than one might imagine. It’s definitely worth the splurge.
Promising review: “Love this stuff. It might be a tad expensive, but it has done wonders for my skin to even it out and make it so smooth. Lines seem to have almost vanished (I’m 57). I have sensitive skin and this was not harsh, nor did it break out my skin. VERY happy with this product and would recommend this to anyone with sensitive skin who wants their skin to feel soft and look radiant. I get SO many compliments on my skin. Have been using for 5 months and will continue to do so.” — Kindle Customer
Sunday Riley Good Genes serum
I’ve been using Sunday Riley’s Good Genes for nearly a decade, and despite testing hundreds of other comparable products, I always come back to it. I’m particularly obsessed with the high content of lactic acid, a unique chemical exfoliant that encourages quick cell turnover in the surface layers of the skin, leaving it smoother and helping clear up blemishes. It’s paired with licorice and lemongrass in this formula, which can help brighten up the look of dark spots, sun damage and other discoloration, and prickly pear extract that can help soothe redness and calm sensitive skin. It’s the perfect example of a product with a fairly common active ingredient that is perfectly formulated with other complementary ingredients to make it even more effective than many other options.
Promising review: “Hands down the best skin product I’ve ever used. Worth the price. I don’t write reviews on amazon but if I can help anyone justify the price given the magic it’s done to my skin – worth the time! My 35 year old skin looks at least 10 years younger. I will buy this for life. (I could care less about the smell and honestly, don’t really smell it? weird?)” — Patricia Izquierdo
The Inkey List
The Inkey List 10% azelaic acid serum
Dr. Adeline Kikam, a board-certified dermatologist who shares advice on @brownskinderm, is a huge fan of this particular azelaic acid serum. She told HuffPost that “it is gently formulated with azelaic acid at 10% and allantoin at .3% for extra moisture.” It can help soothe and calm irritated skin and help to reduce the appearance of redness. It’s also formulated with micro-fine green color particles that can help to mask the look of existing redness as well, acting almost like a color corrector.
Promising review: “Helped my rosacea and PD. I bought this 3 days ago and am actually super surprised and impressed with this product. I’ve used azelaic acid before but found it irritating and heavy silicones in those formulas broke me out. I struggle with perioral dermatitis and rosacea. I was going through a pretty bad flare 3 days ago and as of today it’s 90% gone. I have some tips for how to best use the product: 1. Apply to dry skin only. Applying azelaic acid to wet or damp skin makes it super itchy and can cause irritation. … I’m super impressed. This really helped clear up my latest flare and I’m excited to have found something that finally works for me. I’ll continue using and buying this as long as these results continue!” — Becca
Dieux Deliverance serum
Find out why Dieux’s cult-favorite Deliverance serum keeps flying off the shelves. It’s formulated to address three main skin issues: irritation, uneven tone and the look of fine lines. The lightweight formulation helps leave skin soft, soothed and delightfully glowy. It’s a great starter serum for anyone looking to amp up their routine or a wonderful addition to an already-established regimen. It harnesses the power of cannabinoids, niacinamide, peptides and more to leave skin looking and feeling its absolute best.
Promising reviews: “Phenomenal. I’m still currently using it but I’ve been using it a few weeks and it’s already made such a huge difference in my skin. my redness isn’t as severe and my skin glows! LOVE this product!” — Grace B.
“Saving grace. I have struggled with hormonal acne for years and have searched high and low for a product to help my skin (also very dry and sensitive). This product has changed my skin, slowly but surely. I absolutely notice more hydration. I’ve started breaking out less, and marks from old breakouts fade quicker than usual. Charlotte never misses.” — Mary T.
“One of those products where you start to freak out a little when you realize you’re almost out. So good. Any time I fall off my routine I realize how potent this serum is and effective.” — Allison M.
Vintner’s Daughter active botanical serum
This award-winning face serum is ideal for anyone wanting to harness the power of plant ingredients. It’s chock full of moisturizing fatty acids, nourishing omegas and antioxidants that fight free radicals and help to restore and strengthen the skin. This active botanical serum leaves skin moisturized, nourished and renewed — it’s as luxurious as it gets.
Promising review: “If I had to choose to reduce my skin care routine to one product and feel confident that my skin will get all the nutrients it needs, it would be the Active Botanical. I have tried many products over the year, I work in fashion and are exposed to quite a bit of them. The active Botanical is the one for me.” — Verified customer
“This serum is insanely expensive, but also insanely good. It’s like a bottle of love for your skin. Hyperpigmentation? It fades dark spots. Acne? I haven’t had a zit since I started using it 6 months ago. Sensitive skin? I can now start using chemical exfoliates, which I’ve never been able to do. This stuff is amazing! It’s expensive, but I no longer need serums and oils and moisturizers – just this stuff.” — BKOMC
True Botanicals chebula active serum
Address dull, uneven skin, rough texture, fine lines and dark spots with this powerful True Botanicals serum. This brand is beloved by celebs, skin care enthusiasts and everyone in between. The chebula serum is a hydrating serum that can help to reduce the visible signs of aging while helping to support and strengthen the skin’s natural moisture barrier. It’s definitely a splurge, but one that you likely won’t regret.
Promising review: “Skin feels great. At 52, I have tried all types of skin care products. Some seem to work for a short time, others feel too thick and heavy. This product feels light and amazing on your skin. It has replaced all other moisturizer products and my skin feels healthier than ever before. I use less makeup and feel more confident.” — Blustar70
The Ordinary mandelic acid 10% + HA
Mandelic acid is a game-changer for acne-prone skin like mine, and The Ordinary makes it easy to pick up a high concentration of this anti-bacterial AHA exfoliant without breaking the bank. It’s recommended for sensitive skin by two board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Purvisha Patel in Memphis, Tennessee, and Dr. Jennifer MacGregor of UnionDerm in New York City. The addition of hyaluronic acid brings skin extra hydration, making this a great formula for introducing your skin to mandelic acid. It’s ideal for acne-prone skin, reducing the look of fine lines and chemical exfoliation.
Promising review: “Skin type: 30s, cystic acne prone, hyperpigmentation, redness, combination skin, CANNOT use salicylic acid, glycolic or lactic acid. I never thought I had sensitive skin until a product with salicylic acid broke me really badly a month before my wedding. Curse you, salicylic acid, you are not for me. But this product is – mandelic acid. I can’t remember how I heard about it, but what really got me interested was the fact that’s is recommended for Skin of Colour, like mine 😀 FIRST USE: I applied four drops on my face (forehead, cheeks, nose/chin) after cleansing (oil and foam), then allowed it to sink in before continuing with the rest of my routine (toner, serum, moisturiser). Honestly, it takes a little while to sink in your skin, don’t use too much, you’ll be waiting a LONG time. The next morning I was washing my face and I was like, omg, my cheeks are baby soft. So soft, my skin was legit renewed, it felt like a miracle was happening. Basically, any sort of decongestion was dissolved and I was left with smooth skin. Yes, it works, if you need an acid that won’t irritate your skin, this may be the one for you.” — PS
Sunday Riley A+ high dose retinoid serum
HuffPost shopping writer and beauty devotee Tessa Flores swears by Sunday Riley’s A+ retinoid serum, and she’s not alone. It’s a great way to introduce a powerful active ingredient into your routine. And while it’s definitely an investment, a little goes a long way. The results also speak for themselves, making it worth every penny.
Promising review: “Sunday Riley’s A+ retinol serum initially caught my eye because it was advertised as an advanced strength retinoid that was suitable for both individuals with sensitive skin and experienced users of the ingredient that might be in search of a stronger product. The formulation contains a 6.5% retinoid blend, a relatively high percentage compared with other retinol products on the market. After using this product consistently for two months, I’m noticing a significant reduction of my keratosis pilaris in that the texture is smoother, less red and with fewer clogged hair follicles. I’ve also noticed less congestion in my T-zone, fewer sun freckles and an overall increase in skin plumpness — all without those telltale signs of retinol-induced irritation.” — Tessa Flores, shopping writer
SkinCeuticals C E ferulic acid serum
If you’re into skin care, you’ve likely heard people sing the praises of this cult-favorite serum, and with good reason. The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum has been praised by dermatologists for its ability to help lighten fine lines, firm skin, provide environmental protection and brighten a dull complexion. The stabilized formulation means all ingredients are working at the peak of their powers, in tandem with each other.
Promising reviews: “I have tried many vitamin c serums and keep coming back to this one. It’s been highly effective on my skin, and while it’s pricey the results have been well worth it. One thing I have especially noticed is that it helps fade my acne scars pretty quickly.” — GG
“When I first bought this, I was so apprehensive because of the price. But it really is amazing! You have to use it consistently for a few weeks to see the results, but it’s worth it. My skin has never looked better. A little goes a long way, so the price is worth it.” — Emma
Paula’s Choice 10% azelaic acid booster serum
Also recommended by Kikam, this serum from Paula’s Choice is a lightweight, oil-free cream-gel formulation with .5% salicylic acid to boost skin brightening. It’s great for redness, irritation, acne-prone or otherwise distressed skin. The formula is lightweight and won’t clog pores or leave skin feeling heavy. You can use it as a spot treatment or all over your skin, depending on what it needs.
Promising reviews: “The holy grail. If you had to buy one skin cream in the world, it would be this product. Absolutely love it!!! This product moisturizes my face SOOOO well that I glow and it minimizes my redness. I definitely will repurchase!!” — Kate
“It works! My dermatologist recommended this product for my sun-damaged face. I cannot believe how great this stuff is! I had hypoplasia and this moisturizer really works and my skin looks great now! I will be ordering this again.” — Deb O.
Naturium mandelic topical acid 12%
This is also on Kikam’s list of must-haves. She explained that it’s “a lightweight serum with 10% azelaic acid boosted with other calming ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin C and coffee seed extract to help with oil control and discoloration.” It’s designed to slowly penetrate the skin, encouraging cell turnover and leaving the complexion looking brighter, radiant and more youthful.
Promising review: “Gentle yet effective. Great for those with sensitive skin looking to clear out your pores. I have really sensitive skin. I can no longer use Salicylic Acid. This is what i use now. It’s amazing. During the winter though I’m sticking with the PHA, and may just use this once a week or every other week as i have acne prone skin but sensitive skin as well.” — Jenny Marie
“I have used hydroquinone for a long time and this fades spots better than any high-end hydroquinone formula I’ve ever used. I have acne scars and sun spots and both have faded significantly more with this product than clinical hydroquinone products I have used in the past.” — Kennedy
Sunday Riley Luna sleeping night oil
I happen to be obsessed with using Luna oil in conjunction with Sunday Riley’s Good Genes; it’s a powerful duo that leaves me swimming in compliments and glowing skin. If you’ve been on the fence about trying an oil or retinoid, then this is the perfect place to start. Soothing botanicals like blue tansy and German chamomile are paired with an advanced retinoid ester that supports skin health and elasticity, evens out redness and fights fine lines and wrinkles. Avocado seed oil plumps up the skin and delivers a healthy dose of antioxidants. It doesn’t clog pores, which is perfect if you are acne-prone like myself.
Promising review: “I’ve been skeptical of Sunday Riley since their review debacle. I use other high-end skincare and wasn’t looking to add anything but this came highly suggested from a friend I trust. Now I can’t go a night without this beauty! The natural scents of chamomile are so relaxing and great part of self care to any nighttime routine to tell your nervous system ‘it’s time for sleep.’ It’s a very soft texture in the skin that feels nourishing and I love the deep blue tansy color that easily fades into skin as you apply. It’s a gentle retinoid that doesn’t irritate or interact with my other skincare. Overall my skin always looks bright and even in the morning. Love love this product, bought another for my mom for Mother’s Day! Can’t go wrong with adding this to a luxurious nighttime routine!” — shelby k
Caudalie Premier Cru anti-aging serum with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid
This lightweight serum from Caudalie is perfect for anyone looking for a deeply nourishing blast of powerful niacinamide. Hyaluronic acid keeps the skin hydrated and quenched while the serum plumps, moisturizes and helps repair damaged skin.
Promising reviews: “I have noticed a visible reduction in my fine lines since using this product. It also doesn’t leave my face oily or sticky like other serums can and do. I also really love that it has clean ingredients and does not have hardly any fragrance at all for those who are sensitive to fragrances like myself.” — Daniii89
“Loved it! Excellent product !!! I’ve been using it since I bought it and I can see the difference in my skin. Highly recommended.” — Kary9103
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