Know Your Ingredients: Brighten Up With Tea-Spiked Skin Care

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As people with extraordinarily elaborate skin-care routines, we pride ourselves on using products with the most effective ingredients around. Of course, this involves actually knowing what those ingredients are. And, boy, are there a lot of ingredients out there. In Know Your Ingredients, our new ongoing series, we'll be decoding the many oils, acids, extracts, and more that appear in our favorite products.
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It's more than the cup of goodness that pushes you out the door in the morning (or makes you feel delightfully English during a slow afternoon). Tea, in all of its forms — black, green, and white — has long been used as an energizing and healing ingredient in skin-care products. We caught up with the pros behind Origins and Fresh (two companies that are famous for utilizing tea in their skin-care lines), who told us exactly why the stuff is so awesome for your mug.
So, first up: What's the difference between the black, green, and white versions of Camellia Sinensis, the plant from which all shades of tea are derived? According to Lizz Starr, executive director of product development for Origins, "White tea is the first leaves from the tea plant and is deliberately picked at peak times to capture this high level of activity." Green tea leaves are slightly older than white, while black tea leaves are the most mature of all and are the result of a fermentation process. All three forms of tea are high in antioxidants. In terms of caffeine, white tea has the least amount of caffeine; black has the most. Fresh cofounder Lev Glazman loves black tea for this very reason. In skin-care products (such as his brand's black-tea-specific line), the consumer gets the dual protective and energizing benefits of antioxidants and caffeine.
So, who would benefit from antioxidants in their skin care? The answer, according to Starr, "Everyone needs antioxidant protection, regardless of skin type or even gender." Antioxidants prevent damage to cells from environmental aggressors. Meaning that, if you use them now, your skin will be much happier as you age. Both Glazman and Starr recommend soaking up the benefits of tea in a serum or a mask, where the active ingredients will be more concentrated than in a cleanser or moisturizer. In addition, Starr advises that since the eye area is often the first to show signs of aging, a tea-infused eye cream can be a great way to work the ingredient into your skin-care routine.
So, in a nutshell: Apply tea on your skin now, have a better-looking mug for life. Sounds like tea is where it's at, no?
Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask, $88, available at Sephora; Origins A Perfect World Age-Defense Treatment Lotion with White Tea, $23, available at Origins.
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