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Would You Drink Onion Skin Tea? A Derm's 72-Year-Old Mom Can't Get Enough

March 3, 2021

Remember when we told you to save your banana peels for skin care? Well, triple board-certified dermatologist Mamina Turegano, M.D., and her 72-year-old mom, Michiko, have another surprising go-to for a supple, youthful complexion (the duo actually has a whole bank of family beauty tips over on TikTok, in case you're curious). 

Although, this tried-and-true hack is not as—shall we say—sensorially appealing as a sweet banana mask. This time, Michiko wants you to repurpose your onion peels: "The skin has so many benefits," she says in a recent video, as the two sip on piping mugs of "onion skin tea."

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Onion skin benefits. 

Onions themselves contain a heavy dose of antioxidants—specifically quercetin, a powerful flavonoid that helps stave off inflammation1 and fight off free radicals, both of which are important for managing signs of skin aging, like fine lines and crepey skin. One study even shows that quercetin was able to prevent UV-induced collagen degradation in human skin tissues2.

The thing is, the quercetin seems to be most concentrated in the onion skin: Multiple studies show that the peel contains higher levels than the outer, middle, and core parts of the onion. Of course, the bulbs themselves still have significant amounts of the antioxidant, but you might want to pause before tossing away the peel. 

In terms of which color onion to use, there isn't one onion deemed the "healthiest." All varieties of onions contain skin-healthy antioxidants, although red onions, in particular, also have anthocyanins (aka the phytochemical that gives them their red pigment). This class of flavonoids is like a bonus nutrient for your skin, with added anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects3. So while you can grab any colored onion for your brew, red onions do pack a punch. 

How to make onion skin tea.

Below, Turegano explains how to repurpose those onion peels:

  1. "To make onion skin tea, first wash the skin thoroughly," says Turegano. 
  2. Next, place a handful of onion skins in a pot full of water on medium-high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. 
  3. Let the skins simmer in the water for about 15 to 30 minutes before straining the mixture into a mug.
  4. Sip and enjoy! 
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OK, but let's address the elephant in the room: the taste. Sipping on an onion-flavored tea might not seem as appealing as, say, a chai or chamomile, but Turegano assures us that it's actually not as pungent as you'd expect. "It tastes like really bland onion water, but there's something comforting about it, too," she says. 

Will it become your new favorite bedtime beverage? Perhaps not. But for the sake of glowing, youthful skin, why not give it a try? Plus, you can always add other skin-supporting ingredients to mask the taste, like turmeric or lemon. 

The takeaway. 

Turegano's mother swears by onion skin tea to keep her skin glowing and supple. With all of onion's powerful antioxidants concentrated in the peel, it makes perfect sense! Try sipping on a cup of this quercetin-rich brew for a time, and notice how your skin feels. 

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