Is Matcha the Hot New Beauty Ingredient?

It’s everywhere these days. Find out if you should get in on the trend.

by Katheryn Erickson

Prada coat, dress, and bracelets.
Photographer: Ben Hassett Stylist: Panos Yiapanis

Skincare ingredients are a lot like denim styles. They often come in trends and, as a result, can be easy to date. Low rise skirt? Definitely from the early aughts. That acai-boosted serum in the back of your medicine cabinet? Likely purchased 2008. Today, the skincare equivalent of those vintage Levis you’re currently collecting is none other than the highly Instagrammable, beverage: Matcha.

Thing is, tea isn’t entirely new to the beauty world. Green tea, white tea, and camellia oil (which is produced from green tea seeds) have been used in skincare for their soothing properties for years. But matcha green tea, which is denser in chlorophyll and stone-ground to a fine powder, is quickly becoming a new trend. So why is it uniquely useful? “Matcha contains high levels of catechins, which are potent antioxidants,” says New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. In fact, a University of Colorado study from 2003 found that matcha contains 137 times more antioxidants than your standard cup of green tea. There’s a reason you’ll want to apply it in addition to drinking it, too. “Topical antioxidants ensure that the ingredient reaches skin. While a healthy diet is important, food needs to be digested before it reaches the blood stream and eventually your skin,” Zeichner says. “Think of matcha as you would other antioxidants: Like a fire extinguisher that puts out inflammation, minimizes damage caused by sun exposure, evens skin tone, and promotes healthy collagen production.”

Not everyone is on the matcha train quite yet. New York dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz, host of DermTV.com and creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz, still prefers classic Vitamin C for fending of free radicals. “Matcha has very high levels of epigallocatechin 3-O-gallate (a potent antioxidant)—even more than other forms of green tea. So orally, it has the potential to be a very strong antioxidant,” he explains. “But there are no studies demonstrating protection or absorption as an active antioxidant in the skin when matcha powder is put into a topical formulation.”

While the jury is still out on whether the ingredient will totally transform your skin, we like to think an extra serving of antioxidants is never a bad thing. How to get your matcha beauty fix, below.

If you want a matcha spa moment…

Using Origins RitualTea Matcha Madness Revitalizing Powder Face Mask ($36, sephora.com) is like having a mini tea ceremony in your bathroom. You mix two teaspoons with equal parts water, blend together with Origins’ beauty equivalent of a matcha whisk ($16, origins.com), relax for ten minutes, then rinse clean. The result: noticeably smoother, brighter skin.

If you want a detox treatment…

Plant Matcha Organic Antioxidant Face Mask ($24, plantapothacary.com) is another powder mask, and is blended with cleansing white clay and chamomile oil, another calming ingredient. Because matcha is so potent, it’s ideal for a “short contact treatments such as face masks,” Zeichner says.

If you want to steep in your matcha…

Fig + Yarrow powdered Matcha Milkbath ($20, figandyarrow.com) is the closest you’ll get to literally soaking in a matcha latte. It also contains magnesium salts to treat sore muscles, alkalizing baking soda, and coconut milk powder to make skin ultra-soft.

If pollution is your concern…

If you really want your matcha to get to work, you’ll need a leave-on product. “Antioxidants are traditionally used in the morning to prevent skin damage from environmental exposure such as UV light,” Zeichner says. “Pair them with an evening product that helps repair of the skin, like retinol.” H2O+ Protective Matcha Moisturizer SPF 40 ($40, h2oplus.com) does the trick, with an impressively high SPF for a daily moisturizer, 100% Pure Organic Matcha Emulsion Tonique ($45, 100percentpure.com) is a light essence that leaves skin plump and dewy, and Pacifica Berry Matcha Recharge Lotion ($18, ulta.com) hydrates with coconut and is great for combination skin.

If you’re a frequent flyer…

Toners are one of those products that always get left home when you’re going away (honestly: try to find a toner under 3.5 ounces). Not only is Milk Makeup’s push-pop-like Matcha Toner ($26, milkmakeup.com) painfully cute, but the solid stick also won’t get thrown out when you go through the security line at the airport.

If you need a post-Bikram pick-me-up…

“Caffeine helps constrict blood vessels and may help reduce puffiness,” Zeichner says. First Aid Beauty Hello Fab Caffeine Matcha Wake Up Wipes ($15, sephora.com) make for a hydrating refresher after working out, and leave skin noticeably less rosy.

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