There is no doubt about it, tea is a hot commodity. More than 158 million Americans drink tea—the second most consumed drink in the world—on any given day, according to The Tea Association of the USA. What’s more, total sales of tea have increased 16 percent over the last five years and are expected to continue to grow. This growth is due to an increasing interest in the healthy properties of tea and also the availability of new varieties. And tea isn’t just for sipping anymore. It’s also gaining popularity in the beauty industry, as tea-based skincare products and spa treatments steam up treatment menus and retail areas alike.
When ingested, the health benefits of the steeped leaves are just about anyone’s cup of tea. According to various studies, tea is anti-aging and can help prevent allergies, lower blood pressure and the risk of breast cancer, and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. What many spa professionals are now discovering is that tea-based products applied topically to the skin can provide similar benefits and more because of the compounds found in tea leaves, such as alkaloids, minerals, polyphenols like catechins and flavonoids, polysaccharides, purines, vitamins, and essential oils. “Tea delivers soothing, anti-inflammatory, healing, and antioxidant benefits to the skin,” says Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Clinical Enterprises. Plus, she says, “Natural ingredients and antioxidants are hot right now, and tea-based treatments and products fit into this category.”
Variety is the Spice of Life
To capitalize on this popular ingredient, you can incorporate tea into a guest’s spa experience in several different ways, both topically and orally. It can be served hot or cold to clients before and after treatments to promote relaxation, added to soaks and baths, and included as an ingredient in skincare products used during massages and facials. Black teas, such as kombucha; chamomile; green teas, including matcha; red teas, such as rooibos; and white teas are just some of the many varieties found in skincare.
Because of its potent and powerful antioxidants, green tea has long been known to offer major skin-protective benefits. That certainly explains why skincare companies are such fans. “As the creators of Mama Mio, the leading skincare line for pregnant women, Mio Skincare is committed to developing products that focus on results and are in line with our no-nasties policy,” says cofounder Jill Dunk. “Green tea fits the bill perfectly. Naturally rich in antioxidants, green tea functions as a cell protector and microcirculation booster that tones and improves the overall health of the skin.” Ideal for treating acne and oily skin, green tea, when taken orally or applied topically to the skin, can also inhibit skin-tumor formation induced by chemical carcinogens or ultraviolet radiation (UVB), says Annet King, director of global education for Dermalogica and the International Dermal Institute. “The extracts also possess anti-inflammatory activity that is owed to the polyphenolic constituents present,” she says. “Research has shown that green tea polyphenols are potent suppressors of carcinogenic activity from UV radiation and can exert broad protection against other UV-mediated responses, such as sunburn, immunosuppression, and photo-aging.” Considered even more powerful than traditional green tea, matcha tea is a very concentrated form of green tea that is gaining popularity due to its many anti-aging skin benefits. The tea, which is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, is grown under shade, which increases the chlorophyll content of the leaf. Matcha helps treat acne, protects skin from UV damage, and improves skin elasticity.
Because tea-based treatments can help reduce sun damage and premature skin aging, Cypriana George, spa director at Soleil Spa at The Landings, St. Lucia, recommends guests try the spa’s tea-based products and treatments, including the Ginger and Green Tea Scrub and Wrap ($135, 80 minutes). It features a body wrap made with balancing green tea, ginger root to invigorate the mind, and a seaweed algae, which helps to stimulate the body’s metabolism. The final step is a body massage with a geranium aromatherapy lotion. Says George, “Green tea helps to maintain balance and harmony in the body’s delicate systems and reduces sun damage and skin aging.”
Although a favorite, green tea isn’t alone in providing a host of skincare benefits. According to Allison, chamomile tea contains carotenoids, minerals, oils, and vitamins C and E to heal, soothe, and reverse aging, making it ideal for acne, allergic reactions, eczema, hypersensitivity, inflammation, and rashes. Kombucha, a black tea, contains active enzymes, B vitamins, organic acids, and polyphenols, which work together to smooth and provide pro-youth benefits. And rooibos, or red tea, is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and minerals and helps to inhibit free-radical damage, soothe skin, improve microcirculation, and provide healing support.
Gaining a following, white tea is what King refers to as “the new darling in skincare.” According to her, white tea extract derived from camellia sinensis grown in Southeast Asia is an unfermented tea with the highest concentration of polyphenols compared to black, green, oolong, and red tea. “While other tea leaves are rolled and dried in the sun or dried under oxidizing conditions, white tea leaves are picked at the most tender stage of growth, during a critical phase in flower development,” she says. “The leaves are wilted and slowly air dried, preserving the polyphenol content. White tea is the richest source of antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties, as well, and recent studies have shown that white tea also inhibits collagenase and enhances sunscreen performance when formulated in leave-on products.”
Westin Hotels & Resorts recognized white tea’s potential back in 2006 when the hotel teamed up with perfume house Mane to develop its signature white tea scent. “Westin’s mission is for guests to leave feeling better than when they arrived, and the white tea scent appeals to the brand’s focus on wellbeing,” says Brian Povinelli, global brand leader for Westin Hotels & Resorts. “It also has a light, gender-neutral fragrance that won over testers at both corporate headquarters and at the hotel level. The brand’s signature Heavenly Bath amenity line, which includes shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, soap, and body wash, is present in guest rooms at Westin properties worldwide.” The white tea-based products also include notes of geranium and freesia to soothe and nourish the skin.
At Anantara Spa at The PuLi Hotel and Spa (Shanghai), guests can receive the benefits of white tea with the White Tea & Avocado Body Scrub ($115, 60 minutes), which is designed to soothe and detoxify dry skin and includes a floral foot ritual, white tea and avocado scrub, a stress-relief massage, and a cup of hot white tea. The PuLi also offers guests the chance to experience the Urban Tea Oasis Journey (starting at $330 per couple), which includes afternoon tea in the hotel’s scenic garden terrace, sweet and savory Chinese delicacies served in an authentic Oriental wooden lacquer box, and a choice of a 60-minute spa treatment featuring a relaxing massage, revitalizing body scrub, nourishing body wrap, or a custom facial.
Just like a tea gets bolder and stronger the longer the tea bag sits in hot water, tea-infused products and treatments that envelop and stay on the skin for longer periods of time, such as in body wraps, soaks, moisturizers, masks, and SPF products, for example, provide more benefits to the skin. “We like to leave our cream cleansers on the skin longer than usual to allow just-warmed skin to absorb the benefits of the tea,” says Shannon McLinden, founder and CEO of FarmHouse Fresh. “We’ll often even layer an exfoliator over the cleanser to give the product extra ‘skin time’ and allow the ingredients to absorb as dead skin is sloughed away.”
At Eurasia Spa at Scottsdale Resort & Athletic Club (AZ), guests can embrace the benefits of tea with the Chai Tea Mud Wrap ($175, 80 minutes), which helps detoxify the body by drawing out impurities. The treatment combines pure green clay, soothing aloe vera, and chai tea spices for a relaxing therapeutic wrap that revitalizes and rejuvenates skin. Chai tea, which typically consists of various spices including black pepper, cinnamon, clove, and ginger, helps reduce signs of aging by stimulating circulation and boosting blood flow to the skin. This treatment begins with a dry brush to prepare the skin, followed by a warm chai mud mask wrap. After showering, guests are treated to a full-body massage using Ayurvedic oils to heal and restore.
At The Spa at the Setai by Thémaé at The Setai Miami Beach (FL), clients can soak up the benefits of tea with The Setai Ceremony ($390, 2 hours), which combines a back massage to help the body unwind using deep muscular techniques like sustained pressure and kneading. After a deep cleanse detox mask with tea leaves to promote a healthy glow, guests receive a face massage. The hotel teamed up with the Paris-based cosmetics and spa brand Thémaé to offer spa guests a menu of revitalizing treatments using exclusive skincare products formulated with extracts from four types of teas. The Complexe des 4 Thés (4 Teas Elixir) blends antioxidant green tea, regenerating white tea, soothing rooibos tea, and stimulating black tea with pure spring water sourced in France to maintain purity. Thémaé was chosen as the spa’s partner because it shares the hotel’s passion for tea and Asian-inspired rituals.
Beyond the Tea
As with any products, it is important for you to do your research before choosing a tea-infused skincare line. In addition to asking a company if the tea in a product is pure tea or tea-based, spas should ask about extraction and origins, according to King. Also, Allison suggests taking note of the entire ingredient deck of the formula. “Depending on the formula the tea is blended with, it will enhance or play down certain properties,” she says. “Always look at the overall company you are purchasing from to be sure only the highest-grade, quality ingredients are used. Just like with tea for drinking, there is a difference in the quality of the tea.” Adds Ivana Veljkovic, Ph.D., manager of product research and development and international regulatory compliance at PCA Skin, “Some companies will add an ingredient for ‘label value,’ but it isn’t used at the appropriate percentage to exert its benefits.”
Once a product line is chosen and treatments are added to the menu, it’s important to make spa-goers aware of the topical benefits of tea. This can be done with signage or by using terms like calming, redness-reducing, and soothing to describe tea-based products and treatments on the menu. And while most clients can benefit from these treatments and products, with the exception of clients with a tea allergy, spas should specifically target clients with acne, rosacea, and inflammation, according to Allison, because they will see the most benefits from a tea-infused treatment plan and homecare regimen.
To attract clients to tea-based treatments, King suggests incorporating a full tea-giving ritual, which can include serving, soaking, wrapping, masking, and retailing tea. “Of course, you can also have your own signature tea blend made for your spa and offer tea education to your guests, it makes for a nice event and is very hot with consumers right now,” she says. At Aveda Salons & Spas (multiple locations), for example, guests are offered the brand’s signature beverage, Comforting Tea, which is a 100-percent certified organic herbal tea that contains a combination of licorice root, peppermint, and other key ingredients to help relax and rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit.
Allison recommends creating a special destination facial or experiential treatment based around tea. “For this, you might take clients on an escape to a Japanese tea garden,” she says. “Serve them tea before and after the treatment, integrate the sights, smells, and sounds of a tea garden. Attention to detail at every touch point, from a themed appointment reminder to how they are greeted, will be essential here.” At The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Beijing, for example, couples can experience the ultimate romantic tea-based journey when they opt for the Midnight Magic ($1,595, 4 hours), which is a late night service that begins with a traditional tea ceremony in the hotel’s Tea Garden. Just before midnight, the couple walks down a candlelit path of roses into a private pool area for a swim followed by poolside treatments including an Aroma Infused Massage and Midnight Glow Facial. Champagne and decadent treats await the couple post-treatments.
While some spas choose to incorporate tea as simply a relaxing and comforting beverage before and after treatments, others are adding tea-based treatments to their menus and products to their retail areas. Either way, the trendy, yet beneficial, ingredient is sure to provide all-natural health benefits to the skin while simultaneously soothing the mind, body, and soul. “Tea is very calming to skin, with anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant properties, which help ease itching, redness, sunburn, you name it,” says McLinden. “Tea is profoundly soothing.”
Discover the blissful benefits that tea-based products from these companies have to offer clients.—Jessica Morrobel
1. Circadia by Dr. Pugliese Green Tea Mask: This treatment removes keratin buildup with chamomile, green tea, and nettles. It can also be used on dry and calloused hands, feet, knees, and elbows. www.circadia.com
2. Clean+Easy Black Tea Hair Removal Wax: Developed with argan oil and black tea, this wax removes coarse hair without redness, irritation, and breakouts. www.cleanandeasyspa.com
3. [ comfort zone ] Skin Regimen Juvenate Body Cream: This anti-aging gel-cream stimulates collagen production and boosts microcirculation with caffeine and matcha tea. www.comfortzone.it
4. Éminence Organic Skin Care Green Tea & Guava Fortifying Serum: Combining green tea, guava juice, and honey, this vitamin-rich serum restores firmness and improves the appearance of skin. www.eminenceorganics.com
5. G.M. Collin Bio Organique Cleansing Milk: This creamy cleanser gently removes impurities and makeup with green tea, leaving a refreshing and soothing sensation. www.gmcollin.com
6. Guinot Paris Biological Peeling Radiance Gel: Designed to gently remove dead skin cells without over-drying, this exfoliating gel combines green tea and natural fruit acids. www.guinotusa.com
7. HydroPeptide Purifying Mask Lift, Glow, Firm: This detoxifying clay, enzyme, and peptide mask combines bearberry extracts and green tea to restore and boost skin’s antioxidant levels. www.hydropeptide.com
8. Jurlique Rose Moisture Plus Daily Moisture Balancing Serum: Designed to moisturize dehydrated skin, this antioxidant-rich serum contains green tea extract and evening primrose and rosehip oils. www.jurlique.com
9. PCA Skin Rejuvenating Serum: Formulated with an antioxidant from grape stem cells, green tea extract, and peppermint oil, this serum minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a healthy, glowing complexion. www.pcaskin.com
10. Pevonia RS2 Concentrate: Part of the rosacea line, this soothing treatment strengthens capillaries, controls blotchiness, and cools skin with green tea, French rose essential oil, and licorice. www.pevoniapro.com
11. Repêchage Eye Rescue Pads: Made with rooibos tea, Roman chamomile, and yerba maté, these pads cool and soothe puffy and irritated skin around the eyes. www.repechage.com
12. Sothys Paris Micro-Gel Peeling: Infused with white tea extracts, this scrub contains a gel texture that transforms into oil when applied to the skin, then into milk when emulsified to gently exfoliate as it cleanses. www.sothys-usa.com