This Brightening Facial Might Finally Get You Hooked on Matcha
Naturopathica’s exclusive facial for the Cliff House Maine and a spate of green tea–infused products can only mean one thing: The matcha trend has officially spread to skincare.
I first tasted matcha, a super concentrated green tea made from finely ground leaves, this past May during a private Rishi tea–tasting event at the Cliff House Maine, a 145-year-old hotel that just underwent a stunning, multimillion-dollar renovation and that sits, quite fittingly, on the edge of a cliff on the state’s southern coast. Dawn Page, the hotel’s spa and wellness director, was teaching our group the rules of matcha brewing: exact water temperature, a healthy leaf-to-liquid ratio, and a perfectly timed steep. But even after my exacting precision, my matcha tasted like… dirt. This is the hot new superfood?
I don’t usually stray from my three main beverages—ice water, black coffee, and red wine—so it’s no surprise matcha isn’t my, ahem, cup of tea. But when Page mentioned a matcha facial in the works for the spa’s summer menu, I put down my glass of grass and listened up. I may not gravitate toward the latest libations, but of-the-moment skincare? I’m in.
Matcha isn’t new—it’s said to have been brought from China to Japan, where it has remained popular, sometime in the 10th century. The matcha craze in the U.S. began in early 2015, but it’s new to skincare.
Traditional green tea, made by steeping leaves rather than dissolving matcha powder, is the most-studied antioxidant, according to Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., a Miami-based dermatologist and author of Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients, and she considers it the most promising natural ingredient on the market today.
“There’s convincing evidence that oral and topical green tea—you need both—neutralizes free radicals and decreases inflammation,” she says.
In fact, a study in the academic journal Carcinogenesis suggests that when applied topically, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a hardworking polyphenol found in the tea leaves, prevents the immunosuppression, oxidative stress, and depletion of defense enzymes caused by UV rays, giving it anti-carcinogenic, photo-protective, and anti-aging powers. (It’s also suggested to relieve acne, something I’ve been habitually hiding under makeup for over a decade.) And matcha, which is grown in shadier conditions and milled to a fine powder, is even more powerful. According to a study in the Journal of Chromatography, the powder has 137-time greater levels of EGCG than its leafy counterpart.
The Cliff House’s new Matcha Green Tea Facial—which includes an antioxidant-packed mask of matcha, white tea, and Indian gooseberry—was concocted exclusively for the Maine resort by its new spa partner, Naturopathica, a brand that shares Page’s belief in the benefits of chemical-free skincare.
“The key to healthier skin is selecting ingredients that work in harmony with [it] and act as a catalyst for change,” says Naturopathica founder Barbara Close. “The compounds in matcha help protect the skin and improve elasticity.”
Page agrees: “The skin really takes a gulp of those antioxidant properties,” she says. “Long-term, [the facial] combats signs of aging by conditioning skin. The immediate result is a quenched and bright appearance.”
And she’s right. After my matcha facial at Naturopathica’s serene Chelsea apothecary and spa, my skin feels baby soft and looks positively glowy. Or is that just the unrelenting New York City humidity? No, upon closer examination in my apartment with the A.C. on blast, I’m pleased—and pleasantly surprised—to see a noticeably brighter complexion, one I would un-self-consciously show off makeup-free.