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Ask an expert: Kombucha benefits for skin

This popular fermented drink is a powerful source of antioxidants.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
pouring fresh bottle of kombucha
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Kombucha is becoming more and more popular, as many people reach for this bubbly beverage. A “functional food,”¹ kombucha is a healthy alternative to soda and other sugary drinks, according to its fans. But can drinking kombucha benefit the skin, too?

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is, in short, fermented tea. It’s traditionally made from a base of black tea, but it can be made with other types of tea, such as green, white, hibiscus, and oolong. Nowadays, you can find many kinds of kombucha, including some made from infusions of ingredients like mint, jasmine, lemon, and ginger, and both sweetened and unsweetened varieties.

Slightly acidic and a little bit fizzy, this flavorful drink is brewed by adding sweetened tea to a kombucha “SCOBY,” which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” The SCOBY contains acetic acid and other organic acids with antibacterial properties that prevent the drink from becoming contaminated by bad bacteria.² This beverage’s antioxidant properties may benefit the body—and yes, that may include your skin! 

Potential benefits of kombucha

The benefits of drinking kombucha may vary depending on the fermentation process and the type of tea it’s made with. More research is needed before our experts can verify its health and skin benefits—but our experts did some digging to learn what kombucha may be good for: 

It may contain probiotics

To make kombucha, the SCOBY, and sugar are added to a base of tea, which is then allowed to ferment for three to 60 days.³ There are specific types of bacteria and yeast formed during this process that may have a probiotic function.⁴ Probiotics are healthy bacteria that have shown promise in a variety of health conditions, including certain GI and gum diseases⁵ but the probiotic benefits specific to kombucha have not been scientifically proven. 

It may improve cholesterol levels

A recent study discovered that this beverage can reduce the absorption of “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase the absorption of “good” HDL cholesterol, but this hasn’t been proven in humans.⁶ 

It may be anti-diabetic 

Green tea has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels,⁷ making green tea-based kombucha an option worth exploring for anyone worried about insulin resistance. A review of 18 studies with information from nearly 450,000 people found that those who drank decaffeinated tea (including black and green tea) regularly were found to be less likely to develop diabetes.⁸

It may contain antioxidants

Kombucha may be rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols, which play a role in preventing certain types of diseases,⁹ and flavonoids, which are found mainly in red and green tea. Kombucha made from green tea has the highest antioxidant potential, achieving the highest value on the first day of fermentation, and decreasing over time as the fermentation process progresses.¹⁰ Kombucha’s antioxidant potential may allow it to deactivate free radicals, which can damage cells and may contribute to the signs of aging.¹¹ Kombucha produced with black, green, vine, or sweet tea residue also demonstrates antioxidant activity.¹²,¹³

It may contain vitamins and minerals

Research shows that kombucha may contain vitamins and minerals essential for your health, including vitamins B1, B6, B12, and C, as well as copper, iron, manganese, nickel, and zinc.¹⁴

It may kill bacteria

Kombucha’s fermentation process produces acetic acid,¹⁵ which could kill potentially harmful microorganisms. According to one study, the acetic acid in kombucha may inhibit the growth of a wide range of bacteria, and additional antimicrobial compounds may be present in kombucha.¹⁶ Specifically, kombucha made from green and black teas may have antibacterial properties, with green tea shown to have the highest antimicrobial potential.¹⁷

woman enjoying kombucha drink

Potential side effects of kombucha

When considering kombucha’s benefits and risks, there are a few important things to be aware of. Here are a few of the potential downsides of kombucha:

  • It may contain excess sugar: Look for kombucha brands that are low in sugar, and drink them in moderation. 

  • It may cause health problems: Kombucha tea may cause dizziness, nausea, and headache among other symptoms. We recommend leaving kombucha-making to the experts, as the safe preparation of kombucha is vital to prevent contamination. In addition, overfermentation may lead to the leaching of unwanted contaminants from the materials it is produced in, so care must be taken during this process.¹⁸ 

  • It may cause an allergic reaction: Like any food, kombucha may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

  • It may be alcoholic: Those who are pregnant or nursing should be mindful of drinking kombucha, as it may contain alcohol. 

Our experts’ favorite kombucha skincare products

Probiotics, which may be found in kombucha, may help treat and prevent inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, and allergic inflammation, as well as UV-induced skin damage that can lead to signs of aging.¹⁹

The tea in kombucha is also a great potential source of antioxidants, which suggests skincare containing kombucha could potentially help fight the damage associated with the oxidative stress caused by free radicals, like the signs of aging, inflammation, and photodamage.²⁰

Kombucha extract is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores. However, we don’t advise applying the drinkable form to your skin, as its acidic nature could be irritating. Instead, stick to skincare products that are formulated with kombucha specific for this purpose! 

If you’re interested in adding kombucha-infused products to your skincare routine, our dermatology providers recommend the following: 

  • Youth To The People Kombucha 10% AHA Power Exfoliant: This exfoliant contains black tea kombucha, lactic acid, which helps even skin tone, and glycolic acid, which helps reveal a smoother, brighter complexion. 

  • Fresh Kombucha 2-in-1 No-Rinse Cleanser & Prebiotic Treatment: This product cleanses while helping protect the skin’s barrier with prebiotic inulin, a chicory root-derived extract that feeds the skin’s microbiota. It contains kombucha and soapberry peel extract, which offers a high concentration of natural, plant-based cleansing agents. 

  • Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome™ Fermented Sake Spray:In this spray, fermented sake extract, kombucha, and hops help soothe skin, while coconut water and sodium PCA provide potent antioxidant protection alongside essential moisturization. Zinc, copper, and calcium gluconate may also help reduce redness and promote healthy collagen production. 

  • Elemis Superfood Glow Priming Moisturizer: This silicone-free moisturizer primes and hydrates, and it’s formulated with kombucha and fermented ginger to help promote a brighter complexion. Illuminating microminerals add radiance while fermented green tea seed oil nourishes, and an active prebiotic helps protect the skin’s microbiome. It’s a great option for under makeup.

Curology is on your side

Open Curology box with products inside

Kombucha may be good for the gut and provide potential benefits when used topically, but when it comes to skincare, nothing compares to scientifically backed ingredients and expert advice. That’s where Curology can help.

Founded in 2014 by a board-certified dermatologist, Curology takes the guesswork out of your skincare routine. We work with you to examine your unique skin, assess your skincare goals, and create a custom treatment plan for you.

Getting started is easy. Simply answer a few questions and snap a few selfies to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers. They’ll assess your skin and prescribe a formula with provenactive ingredients like tretinoin, azelaic acid, and niacinamide. They’ll also be there to answer any skincare questions you may have along the way.

FAQs

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is, in short, fermented tea. It’s traditionally made from a base of black tea, but it can be made with other types of tea, such as green, white, hibiscus, and oolong. Nowadays, you can find many kinds of kombucha, including some made from infusions of ingredients like mint, jasmine, lemon, and ginger, and both sweetened and unsweetened varieties.

Does kombucha has any side effects?

Here are a few of the potential downsides of kombucha:

  • It may contain excess sugar: Look for kombucha brands that are low in sugar, and drink them in moderation. 

  • It may cause health problems: Kombucha tea may cause dizziness, nausea, and headache among other symptoms.

  • It may cause an allergic reaction: Like any food, kombucha may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

  • It may be alcoholic: Those who are pregnant or nursing should be mindful of drinking kombucha, as it may contain alcohol.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Kapp, J., Sumner, W., Kombucha: a systematic review of the empirical evidence of human health benefit.Annals of Epidemiology. (2019).

  2. Jessica Martínez Leal, et al. A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites. Journal of Food. (2018).

  3. Jessica Martínez Leal, et al. A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites. Journal of Food. (Ibid).

  4. Kaashyap M, et al. Microbial Diversity and Characteristics of Kombucha as Revealed by Metagenomic and Physicochemical Analysis. Nutrients. (2021 December 13).

  5. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Probiotics: What You Need To Know.

  6. Aloulou A, et al. Hypoglycemic and antilipidemic properties of kombucha tea in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. (2012).

  7. Liu, K., et al. Effect of green tea on glucose control and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. (2013).

  8. Huxley, R., et al. Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption in relation to incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. (2009).

  9. Jessica Martínez Leal, et al. A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites. Journal of Food. Ibid.

  10. Jakubczyk K, et al. Chemical Profile and Antioxidant Activity of the Kombucha Beverage Derived from White, Green, Black and Red Tea. Antioxidants (Basel). (2020).

  11. Cutler, R.G. Antioxidants and aging. Am J Clin Nutr. (1991).

  12. Zhou DD, et al. Fermentation with Tea Residues Enhances Antioxidant Activities and Polyphenol Contents in Kombucha Beverages. Antioxidants (Basel). (2022).

  13. Saimaiti A, et al. Antioxidant Capacities and Polyphenol Contents of Kombucha Beverages Based on Vine Tea and Sweet Tea. Antioxidants (Basel). (2022).

  14. Jessica Martínez Leal, et al. A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites. Journal of Food. Ibid.

  15. Jessica Martínez Leal, et al. A review on health benefits of kombucha nutritional compounds and metabolites. Journal of Food. Ibid.

  16. Sreeramulu G, et al. Kombucha fermentation and its antimicrobial activity. J Agric Food Chem. (2000).

  17. Battikh, H., et al. Antibacterial and antifungal activities of black and green kombucha teas. Journal of Food Biochemistry. (2012).

  18. Watawana, M, et al. Health, Wellness, and Safety Aspects of the Consumption of Kombucha. Journal of Chemistry. (2015).

  19. Roudsari MR, et al. Health effects of probiotics on the skin. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. (2015).

  20. Oresajo C, et al. Antioxidants and the skin: understanding formulation and efficacy. Dermatol Ther. (2012).

Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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Curology Team

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Laura Phelan, NP-C

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