Dealing with Free Radicals: The Science Behind How Tea Antioxidants Work

Dealing with Free Radicals: The Science Behind How Tea Antioxidants Work

Have you ever wondered whether there's any science behind the benefits of tea, or if it's just a bunch of comfortable myths we've happily adopted? If you've bumped into the term 'free radicals' and their negative effects on our bodies and skin, tea may be the very thing you've been missing.


When it comes to heeding the call for self-care and self-love, drinking tea may be the shortest and sweetest route to get there.  Tea is also more popular than you think, according to Forbes, it is the second most popular drink,  after water.


So, let's delve into the some of the health benefits that come with tea drinking –focusing on the relationship between tea, free radicals, and antioxidants and how it all ties in with our skin. Read on to find out.  


What are Free Radicals?

Our bodies are made of tiny particles called molecules and those molecules contain even tinier particles called atoms. Atoms have electrons that surround them and these electrons prefer to be in pairs.  When these electrons stay in pairs, everything is fine. When they don't, these electrons become  free radicals and they can be very dangerous. 


How do Free Radicals Affect the Skin?

Although antioxidants defend your body against free radicals, there has to be a balance between antioxidants and free radicals. An imbalance leads to oxidative stress. In other words, you have more free radicals than the antioxidants your body can handle.  


The free radicals begin to destroy cells and other substances in the cells, fatty acids and some proteins. One of these proteins destroyed by free radicals is called collagen. 75% of our skin is made of collagen –a protein that keeps your skin elastic and healthy. This protein is also found in bones, blood and muscles.  


When free radicals destroy your collagen, your skin loses its elasticity. On top of that, it causes unappealing skin blemishes, wrinkles, dark spots, fine lines, and sagging skin.


But that's not all. When you have oxidative stress for a long time, you can develop skin cancer from a constant deprivation of the right moisture levels.  


Where do Free Radicals Come from?

You can't completely avoid the formation of free radicals in your body but you can increase it or decrease it based on your lifestyle and what you're exposed to. For example, a person working in the industrial sector is more exposed to pollutants than others. Pollutants like dust end up on your skin very easily.


If you smoke or live around smokers, you have a higher likelihood of developing free radicals.  Other external causes of free radicals include exposure to x-rays and ozone.


Additionally, if you're into alcohol, processed meats or fatty foods, you have more free radicals roaming in your body.


The process of digesting alcohol forces your body to release a harmful by-product called acetaldehyde. This substance dehydrates your body and skin and leads to early wrinkles. 


It also opens up your pores wider than they should be causing blackheads and whiteheads. If these go on unchecked, you could develop lesion-like bumps called papules, or cystic acne.


How Tea with Antioxidants Helps

An antioxidant is part of the body's defense mechanism against free radicals. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from being destructive. How? Antioxidants can donate an electron to a free radical and make them a pair which stops their destructive process.


Veggies such as broccoli, spinach, and carrots, and fruits such as apricots, different berries, cantaloupe, watermelon, oranges, papaya, etc., are naturally high in antioxidants. But as research suggests, they don't come close to the antioxidant levels in tea.


Tea from the camellia plant contains 8-10 times as much polyphenols –a type of antioxidant- found in fruits and veggies.


Camellia sinensis, commonly known as tea plant, is the source of black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and green tea. It's a shrub that originally came from southwest China.  


These antioxidants seek out free radicals in your body and detoxify them which prevent them from their usual destructive path. So in addition to  antioxidants from your daily fruit intake, you can also get a healthy amount of antioxidants from tea.


Black and green teas also possess a host of other types of antioxidants called flavonoids that you may not find in fruits and veggies. These flavonoids are responsible for giving your skin a youthful appearance. 


Green and black teas have equal polyphenols content.  Tea polyphenols regulate the production of sebum (oil production in the skin) and the development of acne. Acne forms when your skin produces too much sebum which clogs pores and breeds bacteria.


Polyphenols have also been proven to prevent skin disorders caused by UVB light rays from the sun including different types of skin cancer and photoaging- aging caused by excess exposure to the sun. Adding tea extracts to skin lotion helps to prevent UV rays damage.


By applying green tea extract to your skin or taking it as a supplement, you reduce your chances of developing alopecia, and atopic dermatitis where your skin becomes dry and itchy. 


In a recent study, participants who consumed 1,500 mg of green tea extract for twenty eight days showed a significant reduction in the red skin bumps caused by acne.


An earlier study proved that drinking green tea and applying it to your skin improves skin elasticity.


When it comes to dealing with puffy skin around your eyes, soaking two green tea teabags and freezing them for 10 to 20 minutes and then placing them on your eyes while closed significantly reduces puffiness.  


Green tea also impedes the onset of diabetes. A study conducted on adults in Japan established that people who drank more green tea were 42% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.


Green tea may also help you improve brain function through the stimulating ingredient caffeine. It may not have as much caffeine as coffee but it has just enough to wake you up on a slow morning without overstimulating you like coffee would.


Green tea also helps to reduce anxiety. Green tea's bioactive compounds may have a variety of brain-protective effects including lowering the risk of dementia.


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