Camellia sinensis is the plant from which green, black, oolong, and other types of tea come. There are four main varieties of the plant, which is native to India, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China. Camellia sinensis is also cultivated in other subtropical regions. Its leaves and seeds can be dried and/or turned into powders, extracts, and oils. The dietary and medicinal uses of camellia sinensis go back 5,000 years or more, most often as a stimulant and an astringent.[2,3] Today it is often found in bath products, detergents, makeup, and skin care products.
Camellia sinensis helps bind moisture to the skin. It also contains antioxidants, and as an emollient and astringent it helps soften and cleanse the skin.[5,6] Camellia sinensis leaves have a naturally high tannin content, which gives tea its signature “tart” (astringent) flavor when brewed. Tea tannins are chemically distinct from other types of plant tannins such as tannic acid. Accordingly, tea extracts frequently contain no tannic acid.
The type of tea that comes from camellia sinensis depends on the time of year the leaves are harvested, the age of the leaves, the location and climate, and how the leaves are processed. The leaves are usually crushed or rolled, then dried. Processors can also extract tea oil from the plant’s seeds either mechanically or by using a solvent. Seeds that are rich in oil can also be cold pressed without the need for solvents. After the initial extraction, the oil is often refined by first treating it with caustic soda to neutralize fatty acids and remove colors. The next step involves treating the oil with activated earth to further absorb pigment. The last major step is steam distillation, which deodorizes the oil. Oils can also be hydrogenized, which makes them more heat resistant and last longer. Refining can also give the oil a lighter color.
We use camellia sinensis in our lotions as a moisturizer. The FDA has deemed camellia sinensis Generally Recognized as Safe, and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review has determined that camellia sinensis seed oil is not a skin irritant.[9,10] Whole Foods has deemed the ingredient acceptable in its body care quality standards.[11,12] Studies show camellia sinensis leaf extract also acts as an antimicrobial, accelerates wound healing, and can soothe a variety of skin irritations.[13,14,15]