What can a few cups of green tea do for your skin?

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Once a rare specialty item associated with Chinese herbal medicine, green tea is now a staple in the coffee and tea aisle at your local supermarket. It not only tastes good, but some evidence also suggests that the beverage may help prevent or treat a number of ailments, including cancer, heart disease and obesity [source: American Cancer Society].

Most experts highlight green tea's health benefits over other types like black, white and oolong (pronounced wu-long). This is mainly due to how the different types are processed. All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Fresh tea leaves have high levels of flavonoids known as catechins, a kind of antioxidant that may reduce several health risks, including cancer, stroke, heart failure and diabetes. To make green tea, leaves are steamed or fried, and then dried. Because the leaves experience a minimal amount of oxidation, green tea holds on to a large percentage of its antioxidants. When making black tea, however, leaves are left out in the air to fully oxidize, and they end up with a lower percentage of antioxidants [source: Linus Pauling Institute].

Some evidence suggests that its polyphenols, which are antioxidant compounds, can prevent the growth of skin tumors [source: Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute]. Experts believe that antioxidants get rid of free radicals, the harmful by-products of cell metabolism that may damage DNA and cause diseases like cancer. No one's sure, however, about how much green tea you'd have to drink to make an impact. Although several studies on Japanese populations suggest that at least two cups of green tea per day can reduce cancer risks, most experts want conduct more research [source: Edgar].

For lots more information on green tea and skin care, see the links on the next page.