Study: Green Tea Fights All 3 Causes of Acne

Study: Green Tea Fights All 3 Causes of Acne

Are you using green tea to treat acne? Hot off the press from South Korea comes another study. And what this study shows just might prompt you to add some green tea goodness into your skin care routine.

Before I tell you about the study and what it means to you, we need to briefly review how acne happens.

The 3 steps to acne

Let’s start by briefly looking at the primary causes of acne. And by primary causes I mean things that happen in the skin, not systemic effects like insulin resistance or hormone levels.

We can divide the acne formation process into 3 steps.

  • Blocked pore – Happens as a result of excessive sebum production and skin cell growth, mainly driven by genetic sensitivity to certain hormones.
  • Inflammation of the hair follicle – Studies have shown that oxidative damage (i.e. inflammation) triggers the acne formation process. It alters the ‘oxygen tension’ (please don’t ask, it takes a smarter person than me to know what that means) in sebum to make it more suitable for P. Acnes bacteria to thrive.
  • Rapid multiplication of P. Acnes bacteria – The bacteria irritates the hair follicle and this rapidly increases inflammation in the area resulting in an inflammatory pustule.

All of these steps have to happen for you to get a pimple. Stop the process at any stage and you are saved, and that’s where green tea steps in [cue dramatic music].

Green tea fights acne every step of the way

So now that we understand how acne forms, let’s get to the real meat (or tofu, if you are so inclined) of this post.

The researchers at Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea tested the acne-fighting properties of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the major antioxidant in green tea. Their research was done in 2 stages: first a series of test tube studies on the potential of EGCG in every step of the acne process. They also conducted a human trial using EGCG cream.

Unfortunately the details in the abstract are sparse and no full-text study is available. So I can’t get into details, but here are the salient points from the abstract.

  • EGCG suppressed sebocytes (sebum producing cells) in test tube. This is something we’ve seen in other test tube studies and also in human trials.
  • EGCG suppressed inflammation in test tube.
  • EGCG decreased the viability of P. Acnes bacteria in test tube. I can’t say for sure what ‘decreased viability’ means. I presume either weakening them or suppressing growth.
  • Finally, EGCG cream significantly improved acne in the clinical trial over 8 weeks, and showed little to no side-effects.

As I mentioned details of this study are hard to come by, so I have no idea how much EGCG was in the cream or how much acne improved over placebo.

Lack of details aside, this is one more reason to incorporate green tea into your acne treatment regimen.

About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.

13 thoughts on “Study: Green Tea Fights All 3 Causes of Acne”

  1. I became interested in that study. If you want, I can get the details through my university’s library. I’m a bit sceptical when it comes to Korean researchers studying green tea because it’s inevitable that they hold some kind of bias and want to show the world how beneficial green tea is. Of course, this doesn’t undermine real results. So if you are interested in the exact numbers, just let me know, I can access it for free.
    Btw, if you also want to have access to studies for free and you live near in a city with a university, I think you can just join the library (it requires a small fee if you are not a student) and request the studies you are interested in.

    • Thanks for the offer. I also now have access through University Library. True, a lot of the green tea papers seem to originate from Korea. For some reason Pakistani and Iranian researchers have also published some papers on topical use of green tea.

  2. Seppo,

    I know you’ve probably answered this in other posts but I forget things.

    Do you think green tea supplements, instead of the real stuff, would be just as effective? There are many sites selling green tea supplements, all saying they are high potency. I just have this doubt that the body actually makes full use of these products. To paraphrase the “Big Bang Theory” when commenting on multi vitamins, Sheldon said it was just creating expensive urine. Thinking it is always better to use the real stuff rather than substitutes


    • I wouldn’t spend money on green tea supplement. To be clear, this post referred to a study that used topical green tea. I do think that drinking green tea can be helpful for some acne patients, and it’s good for your overall health. But given how unreliable most supplements are and the relatively weak data on oral (tea or supplements consumed orally) green tea on acne, I wouldn’t spend money on green tea supplements as acne treatments.

      To answer your other question, yes the body can use EGCG derived from supplements. Many of the studies showing benefits of oral green tea use supplements. It’s just a handy way for researchers to standardize dosage across all the participants.

  3. Seppo,

    I have become quite the Tea Junkie within the last 5 years. I love green tea. I live in the US and I would like to ask you what kind of green tea do you drink? I am an acne Sufferer and have for about 4 years now ( i have purchased your book and it is already so helpful) I know that here in the US labeling is a big controversy and you cannot always trust what is on the label or the quality of the product. Is there a place online I can buy some from? I want good pure green tea. Thank you for your help in advance.


    • Lauren, I’m sorry but there’s really no way for me to help you with this. I don’t have any insights on particular tea brands. Furthermore, the antioxidant content of tea leaves varies a lot depending on soil quality, weather conditions, time of the year, etc. The best advice I can give you is not to worry too much about it. Buy a decent loose leaf green tea and you should be fine.

  4. I don’t know if this is the right place to ask this, but would there be any problems to apply a product on your skin that contains Squalene?

  5. I wonder why people are so focused on green tea. White, black, oolong and rooibos tea also has antioxidants and health benefits. I think the health benefit of any one type of tea really depends on where the tea came from, how it was grown, stored and prepared.

    • Yep, they are all made from the same plant. That said, green tea has more of the good stuff in it than other forms of tea. Whether that’s enough to make a difference, I cant’ say.

  6. I would like to say that for me green tea was a bad choice.
    I am hyperactive and have anxiety since forever. I was so anxious and angry all day by the time I was drinking 5 cups of green tea a day and I was sleeping 3-4 hours per night( keep in mind I am only 14). After I quit drinking green tea my anxiety got so much lower and I started sleeping like a baby again.

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