How Green Tea Vs. Coffee Affected My Skin

by Lindsey Rose Black

I’m in a serious and committed relationship with coffee. Though my favorite roast has yet to propose, we start mornings together and get our grind on, check in throughout the day, and occasionally even spend intense nights together shaking. Our relationship has always seemed solid, but my frequently broken out skin disagreed. I hit up my dad (whose skin glows) for some face love advice, and he suggested the impossible: swap coffee with green tea for better skin.

Hoping his advice lacked merit (no offense, dad!), I turned to Dr. Shereen Idriss of Wexler Dermatology and Dr. Sue Ann Wee at the Manhattan Center for Dermatology for the full story on whether drinking green tea instead of coffee could improve my skin. I could handle the truth even if it meant cutting coffee... right?

The Facts

First, the accusation: Dr. Shereene Idriss says, “Coffee happens to be a strong diuretic, which in the dermatology world equates to dehydration. In turn, this leads to a buildup of toxins resulting in blotchy and dull skin.” Adding insult to injury, Dr. Sue Ann Wee shares, “Coffee drinkers often add sugar and sweetened creamers to coffee, and this excess sugar ... can [also] increase inflammation in the body [and] trigger acne flares." Why coffee, why.

Christopher Jue/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Alternatively, green tea gets some serious praises for its skin-nourishing effects. Dr. Wee explains, “Green tea is better for your skin than coffee [IMO] mainly because it doesn’t spike cortisol in the same way (high levels of cortisol can lead to aggravation of acne, rosacea, and other skin conditions)." Building on Dr. Wee's previous statement on coffee add-ins, Dr. Idriss adds, “Green tea isn't usually consumed with creamer and therefore tends to be more hydrating than coffee without inducing acne." Well, damn.

The Experiment

(Above, me happily drinking coffee in simpler, highly-caffeinated times.)

Armed with some serious motivation, a ton of yummy green tea options, and a little anxiety, I decided to drink green tea instead of coffee for an entire seven days to find out what would happen to my skin. While Dr. Wee and Idriss advised it would likely take up to a month to notice any incredibly drastic effects, I am only human and a week was the longest amount of time that seemed feasible. I know my fellow coffee addicts will understand.

And since this is a thoroughly scientific experiment, I want to point out that the photos below were all taken in similar lighting, not photoshopped or filtered, and I got seven hours of sleep each night!

Day 1

An excerpt from my phone notes on day 1: “Oh my god. This was a terrible idea. Why is morning so bright? Please tell me day 7 is tomorrow.”

UGH. The headache struggle was so real basically all day. I popped a few painkillers by 2 p.m. because I needed to function at work. Yowch.

Day 2

I admit, I felt a little less groggy mentally than the day before, but my body was so tired. I had no idea how dependent I’d become on that jittery feeling to get me moving. A headache crept in around 10 a.m. but was intermittent instead of totally constant. #Praise.

As for my skin, nothing to really note in a day…

Day 3

My skin may wasn't insanely different yet, but I felt like my mind was definitely clearer than it normally is when I wake up. But alas, another late morning headache.

Day 4

So I started my period on day 4 which meant I’d normally be pimple-covered. But! There wasn't a single pimple on my face. What the actual eff green tea?! Is this your doing?!

And, apologies if this is TMI y’all, but one very unexpected benefit of green tea is my bowels are waaay more regular. Apparently I don’t need my morning coffee to have my morning banyo moments.

Day 5

I only had a headache for around twenty minutes in the morning, but felt so energized the whole day. I went to bed earlier last night, fell asleep faster, and woke up freaking pumped to power through the day.

Also, can we stop and talk about my dark under eye circles? No, because there aren’t any!

Day 6

Yes, I wore the same shirt two days in a row. Please don't judge me.

My body felt great and my skin is noticeably brighter than day 1, but day 6 was hard.

As I mentioned earlier, coffee isn’t just caffeine — it’s romance. Like with any breakup I’ve been through, I missed the days coffee and I spent together. I started totally cheating on green tea in my mind and dreamt of grinding beans and boiling water for the perfect pour-over. Shhh.

Day 7

Dang! If my skin gets this bright and clear in a week, it’s hard to imagine what kind of difference a whole month would legit make.

The Results

I’m not ready to say bye to my sweet cup of joe for a whole 30 days (I literally made a cup of coffee right after taking this pic with zero regrets), but have no doubt the skin-improving benefits of sipping green tea would continue if I stuck it out. Maybe someday!

If you want to try this experiment for yourself, below are the delish green teas that got me through the week:

1. Organic Immunity SuperGreen Tea

Organic Immunity SuperGreen Tea, $13, The Republic of Tea

The hint of elderflower adds a light floral touch to this earthy tea.

2. Organic Japanese Powdered Matcha Green Tea

Organic Japanese Powdered Matcha Green Tea, $18, The Tao of Tea

When you just need that extra energy kick, matcha is the way to go.

3. Organic Serenity SuperGreen Tea

Organic Serenity SuperGreen Tea, $13, The Republic of Tea

Ah sipping this one in the late afternoon was the equivalent of taking a hydrating nap. Yup. I stand by that statement.

4. Super Antioxidant Green Tea

Super Antioxidant Green Tea, $3.99, Yogi

I felt so freaking pumped after each cup of this antioxidant-packed tea.

5. Organic Brain Boost SuperGreen Tea

Organic Brain Boost SuperGreen Tea, $13, The Republic of Tea

Sometimes you just gotta have a #boost, am I right?

Images: Lindsey Rose Black; Courtesy of Brands