I love tea. Since becoming caffeine curious (and weaning off coffee), I started drinking a lot of tea — iced, Earl Gray, Chamomile, Sleeptime — and other than the obvious downside of teabag waste, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen about the benefits, which for me have included better sleep, calmer mornings (read: less anxiety), and interestingly, more resilient skin.
On the skin benefits specifically, my tea consumption has actually been double-pronged: I’ve been drinking it, yes, but also rubbing a tea-leaf compound on my face. Not a literal teabag, but the new Fresh Beauty Tea Elixir.
Earlier in July, I flew to France to learn about the Fresh’s newest formula innovation that extends beyond its existing Black Tea collection (which is also very good, particularly the firming eye serum). I drove two hours south of Paris to a rural location known as the “cosmetic valley,” a business cluster of different laboratories that produce beauty products, to the LVMH lab where all the Fresh skincare is made.
The exotic Mauritian tea plant
I got an official lab coat and clogs (no open toes allowed) and enter into the sterile room with microscopes. There, I learn about the exotic tea plant that inspired the team of Fresh scientists: This tea plant grows on the island of Mauritius, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where the soil is volcanic and inhospitable for most vegetation. That’s one resilient tea plant, thought the scientists, and thus began the five-year process of sourcing then microscopically decoding the Mauritian tea plant’s genetic adaptations to see if there could be a human skin-care connection.
Biologist Dr. Anne-Laure Bulteau and her team of Fresh researchers determined that the Mauritian tea plant’s resiliency comes from adaptive phytocompounds, like citrate and polyphenols, which essentially act as antioxidants. In the lab, the scientists mirrored the plant’s genetic expression and treated skin cells with the same molecular compound. “We back our natural ingredients with science,” Dr. Anne-Laure tells me.
The tea-skin connection
Examining the skin cells treated with the antioxidant (now patented by Fresh and LVMH), the researchers found that the compounds activate the skin cell’s biodynamic energy systems. “Citrate’s goal is to activate,” Dr. Anne-Laure explains. “It activates the synthesis of the skin structure proteins, like elastin. It helps produce fatty acids [which] are very important for the skin’s epidermis and for the skin barrier because they help with the production of ceramides. Also, citrate is a good activator of the mitochondria. When you put the citrate on mitochondria, the mitochondria start producing ATP.”
Like the Mauritian tea plant that thrives in volcanic soil, the skin cells treated with the tea’s adaptive compounds showed markers of resilience, adapting their natural functioning to make the structural proteins, fatty acids, and energy needed to adapt to stressors, which for our skin, include factors like lack of sleep, pollution, a bad hangover, et cetera.
Fast forward past years of formulating and tinkering with the texture and other key ingredients — niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and ocean kelp — and the elixir was ready for testing. “We had a lot of tests on this formula,” Dr. Anne-Laure says. “The results are pretty amazing. We were able to measure that after using the serum, your skin’s resilience is increased by 62%, which shows that all of these things are happening to your skin.”
Back at home I don’t own a microscope, but my skin certainly looks and feels more resilient since using the elixir. How do I know? I’ve given my skin the equivalent of volcanic soil. I’ve been on 4 different airplanes, gotten less than my average 8.2 hours of sleep per night, been out in the sun, and enjoyed many, many cocktails — all of which make my body (and my skin) dehydrated. I strategically dialed back on actives: I stopped using retinol and vitamin C and instead just used the Fresh Tea Elixir in place of all serums and a moisturizer, with once-a-week exfoliation. My skin is not only glowing, but it seems to be hydrated and dare I say, thriving.
The Fresh researchers were quick to add that this serum is not an anti-aging serum, per se. “It’s a universal serum that everyone can use,” says Dr. Anne-Laure. “However, we have seen amazing results on fine lines and wrinkles. It improves the bounce and the glow of the skin.” You might see similar results with another antioxidant serum, but this would be my rec, as a fake scientist but a real tea person.
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