What Rooibos Has to Offer Skin

Rooibos is one of those things that trended its way into our lives on the wave of the other 'power foods' that promised eternal youth and anti-oxidant amazingness.

African Red Tea.

It just sounds all kinds of exotic, sexy and a whole lot of other easy-to-sell things, doesn't it?

Cosmetics brand Ole Henriksen offers a African Red Tea series of skin care products. I'll be honest: I try the Mist every time I come across a tester bottle. I love the look of the bottle, the scent of the product, and the whole idea of a tea being good for your skin just agrees with me somehow (and yes, I have read the ingredients list and realize full well Ole Henriksen's African Red Tea Mist contains a whole lot of other things besides rooibos).

So what does rooibos have to offer? Let's have a look!

Exclusively African 

Rooibos (INCI: Aspalathus linearis) is native to one area of Africa – the Western Cape Province. Attempts to plant and grow it in areas of the US, Australia, and China have all failed – making this precious plant subject to extinction with climate changes. If we want to continue enjoying rooibos, we're going to either have to figure out how to grow it in other places or stop the climate change.

That's a pretty tall order that I hope we can figure out before it's too late.

It's Not Really Tea 

What we normally call tea actually comes from an entirely different plant - Camellia Sinenses. Rooibos is made from the dried, oxidized leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant. The process of drying and oxidizing the leaves is called 'fermentation' in tea-production terms.

The Science of Rooibos

Although testing involving humans is scarce (I haven't been able to find a single study), the tests that have been conducted (on animals and in vitro) show that rooibos has some potent antioxidant activity to offer – internally as well as with topical application.

Rooibos contains several soluble polyphenols that have shown antioxidant activity in animal tests. Believers will tell you polyphenols are vital to life extension, but science has not yet been able to establish this fully. (read more about polyphenols on wikipedia)

A 2011 test published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed "a high intake of rooibos resulted in significant reductions in lipid peroxidation, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and an increase in HDL cholesterol levels compared with the control group".

Their conclusion: rooibos lowered risk factors when consumed. It definitely looks like rooibos is rightfully placed in the power-food category.

And Topically?

As for topical application, rooibos has shown measurable antifungal properties in a test on frogs.

And that's it. That's what I have been able to find. Aside from articles from proponents of the 'if A, then B'  logic, I haven't been able to find anything else. Please do leave a comment if you have links to documentation of any kind!

If A, then B?

It's kind of like deducing: 'if the c vitamin in lemons is good for you, then extracting and using/consuming it in a concentration is even better.'

Sometimes this is correct, but sometimes, it just isn't.

Rooibos contains components that are good and necessary, but it may be a bit premature attributing it fountain-of-youth status.

The aspalathus linearis bush in its native environment. Picture from Wikipedia.

Any Day Now

My own experience with rooibos has to date been limited to consuming it regularly as tea, but ever since discovering Ole Henriksens skin care series, I have been meaning to explore rooibos in some of my own products – initially in a skin tonic, mist or skin drench. When I get to it, I will update.

Who knows – maybe it is the next anti-oxidant miracle-worker.

Meantime, I think I'll have another cuppa!

More about Rooibos

Science Direct Article
Dietary polyphenols- good bad or indifferent to your health?


La tía Maruja said…
Hello, Lisa!! I love rooibos, I've recently bought another box of this "tea" mixed with cinamon and it's delicious! I didn't know about its antifungal properties, I can imagine a couple of uses... I'll give it a try. Kisses from Spain! :D
LisaLise said…
Hello Tía Maruja! Thanks so much for your kind words. I love the rooibos tea with cinnamon and other spices as well. I recently also tried a version with pomegranate and that was excellent. I'd love to hear how you use rooibos for other things. Have a great week!
I haven't tried it on my skin as you know how I feel about at-home infusions, but I love the stuff in the mornings! I have at least ten different kinds in my cupboard, but I think my favourites have to be blueberry muffin and orange. I'm off this morning to get a little more before I go into work! Great article, as usual!
LisaLise said…
Hey there Susan! Thanks for your input! I've actually been considering trying a tincture with rooibos as well as a few infusion-based ideas. A tincture might make for a great addition to a skin tonic-- :)
alicyn said…
yum! i don't think i've had a rooibos tea that i haven't liked, but my favorite is an earl grey rooibos. (i think from rishi?) it's a more delicate, and caffeine-free, version of the breakfast classic.
Riana said…
Here in South Africa we have a skincare range utilising rooibos called Annique, it's been going more than 40 years. The results on skin are very good.

Rooibos tea is also good for colicky babies. It's completely safe and helps to calm baby down, and also helps with stomach cramp and nappy rash. In teenagers it can help to control acne by applying it to the skin every night.

A lot of us were essentially raised on rooibos and even today I find it helps with nausea and makes an excellent bedtime drink.
Riana said…

LisaLise said…
Hi Alicyn - Oooh that sounds like a lovely breakfast tea! I don't know this brand, but am now going to be on the lookout for it.

HI Riana - thanks so much for your input, inspiration for other uses for rooibos and these links- I want to check them in detail but looking through the list of references to studies, I can't find a single one on topical application of rooibos. I will definitely be looking at this in more detail though. Thanks for the skin care line info - I will be checking this as well.