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Is It a Gimmick?: Skincare Edition

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Is it a gimmick? Skincare Edition

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Caffeine wakes you up, so why not try it under your eyes? Cannabidiol is said to have anti-aging benefits, so why shouldn’t you stay young and add a few drops to your face cream? Green tea supposedly helps with gut issues, so why couldn’t it help with anti-redness in your skincare routine, too?

Caffeine, CBD oil, and green tea are ingredients popping up everywhere in skincare products. Companies claim their exclusive benefits, utilizing marketing tools to reach all kinds of consumers. Which ingredients are actually working, and in what ways? Should we stick to drinking coffee, consuming CBD and sipping green tea? Let’s find out.

According to the American Spa, when caffeine is applied topically, it can increase anti-aging benefits and brighten the skin because it “constricts the blood vessels.” It also helps reduce inflammation and puffiness (which are in fact, signs of “tired” skin). Additionally, topically applied caffeine both “tightens and brightens the skin, reducing wrinkles and visibly smoothing… cellulite.”1

On the flip side, though, according to Paula’s Choice, research into caffeine's effect on puffy eyes is mixed. The reason some scientists and skincare enthusiasts believe in its effect on cellulite comes from caffeine’s distant relationship to aminophylline, which is an ingredient that was “once thought to improve the look of cellulite.” 2

One thing experts can agree on is that because caffeine contains antioxidants, it does come with benefits pertaining to antioxidants, such as limiting the amount of free radicals your body uses, which are what cause the visual appearances of aging like wrinkles. 3

If you’re interested in testing out the fad yourself, The Body Shop’s Nicaraguan Coffee Intense Awakening Mask contains coffee and Community Trade Sesame Seed Oil from Nicaragua, Community Trade Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter from Ghana and organic Community Trade Cane Sugar from Paraguay. This is a great way to support community trade in addition to testing out coffee in your skin!

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First, let’s clear up what CBD oil is: CBD oil is a “non-intoxicating component of marijuana or hemp plants.” It is extracted as a powder and then mixed with an oil such as hemp, coconut, or olive.4 All of this means that CBD oil will not get a person high since it is missing the mind-altering component of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Additionally, CBD oil is not the same as hemp oil, which is also used in various cosmetic products.

Now that that’s been cleared up, is the CBD aspect actually doing anything, or are most benefits coming from the oil it’s mixed in? According to an article by SELF, after speaking with three experts on the subject of CBD oil used topically, there is limited conclusive research linking CBD oil to anti-inflammatory or anti-anxiety benefits. The most conclusive research concerning CBD oil -- while still limited -- is related to pain management.5

What are the studies (done on rats and man-made materials) saying? Some studies find that CBD oil could benefit people with acne-prone skin. Research has already shown us that acne is an anti-inflammatory issue. Several studies reveal that because CBD oil contains antioxidants, it has anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as a potential to decrease excess sebum oil production. Most experts agree that these studies aren’t enough, though. 4

Top give CBD oil a shot in your skincare routine anyway, check out Lord Jones's moisturizer containing 250 mg of CBD oil and ceramides.

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Finally, are we going to see some positive news regarding green tea (sometimes listed by its Latin name “camellia sinensis”) in skincare? Signs point to yes.

Paula’s Choice regards green tea as one of the best ingredients for skin. They state “research has established that topical application of green tea or extracts has many benefits for the skin.” These benefits include anti-aging and skin-soothing properties as well as “significant promise” for improving the appearance of sun-damaged skin, specifically. The polyphenols in green tea contain strong antioxidant properties, which as a reminder, is what helps with anti-aging. 6

Other studies pertaining to green tea continue to reveal positive results. A long-term study on 24 people done in 2013 showed that when used topically on sun-damaged skin, green tea improved the damaged skin. Scientists concluded this may be because green tea encouraged the skin’s ability to retain moisture. Another study of 80 women showed that green tea helped with skin elasticity. According to a 2010 article published by the Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science, the caffeine in green tea constricts blood vessels in order to reduce swelling and inflammation.7

These are just a small handful of several studies supporting the use of green tea in skincare. For a highly rated green tea cosmetic product, check out Arcona’s Green Tea Lotion, which has a high enough concentration of green tea to get the job done, but higher concentrates of other ingredients such as aloe vera in order to further smooth and calm the skin in addition to green tea’s benefits.

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There you have it -- it turns out antioxidants are the main theme when it comes to skincare. Since skincare is so vastly different for everyone, keep using whatever works for you. You may be an outlier for what otherwise is seen as a gimmick in skincare.

1. American Spa, This is How Caffeine Benefits the Skin, https://www.americanspa.com/skincare/how-caffeine-benefits-skin 

2. Paula's Choice, Caffeine, https://www.paulaschoice.com/ingredient-dictionary/antioxidants/caffeine.html 

3. Byrdie, Caffeine in the Skin: The Complete Guide, https://www.byrdie.com/caffeine-in-skincare 

4. Paula's Choice, CBD Oil's Benefits for Skin: Can it Helps with Acne, Anti-aging and Other Skin Issues?, https://www.paulaschoice.com/expert-advice/skincare-advice/natural-skincare/cbd-oil-benefits-for-skin-can-help-acne-anti-aging.html 

5. Self, Is there Literally Any Reason for CBD to Be in Your Skin-Care Products?, https://www.self.com/story/cbd-skin-care 

6. Paula's Choice, Green Tea, https://www.paulaschoice.com/ingredient-dictionary/skin-soothing/green-tea.html 

7. Healthline, Benefits of Green Tea for Skin, Acne, and Skin Cancer, https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-green-tea-for-skin#green-tea-and-the-skin-around-your-eyes 

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.