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Green tea (camelia sinesis leaf extract) is almost a victim of its own success. Its antioxidant properties have become so well known that it appears in just about every lotion and potion out there. Just as we were in danger of becoming complacent, there is a new reason venerate this humble leaf. Scientists have discovered that it is an effective sunscreen - even at low doses.
It has been known for sometime (with a body of literature to back it up) that green tea can protect the skin from UV rays. This is because it contains catechins. These are signaling molecules that belong to the flavenoid family. About 25% of the weight of a tea leaf is accounted for by catechins. The most abundant type of catechin in green tea is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and this is the one that provides sun protection.
In the past, researchers thought that high doses of topical green tea needed to be applied to have any effect. These solutions have a green brown color and can stain, making them impractical for cosmetic use. Now Swiss researchers have looked at the effects of low concentrations of green tea extracts over a sustained period of time. They concluded that 0.4% extract of green tea applied over a five week period exhibited significant photochemoprotective effects.
This means that every time we slather on our daily antioxidant with its ubiquitous smattering of green tea, we are getting some form of sun protection.
The same catechin is responsible for green tea extract's anti-aging properties. ECGC blocks collagen 'crosslinking' that accelerates the aging of cells. In Korea, researchers applied a 10% concentration of EGCG to aged human skin threetimes a week for six weeks and noted that the result was increased the epidermal thickness.
Drinking green tea daily is credited with everything from weight loss (this seems to be proven) to preventing dental decay. Green tea's preventative effects against cancer are well documented. There is also research that long-term drinking of green tea protects the structure of the erythrocytes membrane in skin cells that are normally disturbed by the process of getting old. Cuppa anyone?