A glass of red wine a day may be good for your heart, but did you know it could also be good for your skin? Credit this to resveratrol, the anti-aging superstar found in red-grape skin. This antioxidant powerhouse boasts of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to protect the skin against the effects of oxidative stress and sun damage. But drinking wine isn’t the only way to reap the protective, skin-revitalizing benefits of resveratrol. With so much research around this powerhouse ingredient, learn more about why it should be part of your anti-aging arsenal.
What Is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol—or natural substances packed with micronutrients that can be found in plants—that is naturally present in grapes, berries (such as cranberries, blueberries and mulberries), peanuts, pistachio and cacao beans.
The skin and seeds of red grapes are the most abundant sources of resveratrol, which results in significant concentrations of this compound in red wine. A phytoalexin, resveratrol is produced by plants as a protective antibiotic to fight off fungal attacks, drought, UV radiation and inflammation.
What Are the Health Benefits of Resveratrol?
First studied for its effects and benefits on cardiovascular health, resveratrol has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that the compound’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can help protect the brain and prevent cognitive decline.
Experts have also studied resveratrol’s antitumor and anticancer properties. In a series of studies, it has shown positive results when it comes to fighting cancer cells by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, changing gene expression and preventing hormone-dependent cancers from progressing.
How Does Resveratrol Benefit the Skin?
While much of the research around this “longevity molecule” has focused on its internal use, resveratrol has also been shown to be an effective topical antioxidant—fighting the good fight against free radicals. Antioxidants are essential in neutralizing these skin-aging molecules that are produced by the aging process and other factors such as UV damage, pollution and cigarette smoking. Resveratrol not only works against free radicals, it also increases the skin’s overall antioxidant effectiveness—to improve the look of fine lines, skin firmness, elasticity, hyperpigmentation, texture and overall radiance.
“Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties, which calm down the skin, reduce skin-aging and may keep [the skin] free of infections,” explains Kansas City double board-certified dermatologist Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, M.D. Due to its antimicrobial properties, resveratrol inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria, as well as enhances the effects of the acne-fighter benzoyl peroxide. It also tackles acne inflammation and post-acne scarring by reducing redness, calming the skin and lightening dark spots, giving you a more even complexion. However, you may want to restrict your resveratrol regimen to the evening, as UV rays could render resveratrol much less effective.
How Does Resveratrol Compare to Other Antioxidants?
Anti aging formulas that boast the antioxidant powers of vitamin E or C aren’t lying—those ingredients have been proven to improve skin’s overall appearance. However, they’re operating nowhere near the level of resveratrol. “The most common antioxidant found in cosmetics is vitamin C, but it is quite unstable to the point that not much of its left after it reaches consumers. Resveratrol is much more stable and you’ll get all of its benefits in skin care products,” explains Dr. Tonkovic-Capin.
Studies have shown resveratrol to be 95 percent effective at preventing oxidative skin damage. Vitamin E proved a success rate of 65 percent, while vitamin C displayed a 37 percent rate. Resveratrol is also 17 times as effective as skin serums that contain idebenone, a synthetic antioxidant.
That’s not to say those antioxidants aren’t useful. As potent as resveratrol is, your skin needs a combination of water- and fat-soluble antioxidants to counter the effects of free radicals that target both the fat and water parts of a cell. Resveratrol, a water-soluble antioxidant, works synergistically with fat-soluble antioxidants like vitamin E to prevent further skin aging. This is especially important for mature skin, since your skin’s ability to repair itself decreases with age.
Precautions to Note
In general, using skin care products with resveratrol doesn’t have any severe or toxic side effects on your health, says Dr. Tonkovic-Capin. However, pregnant women may want to skip this ingredient for the time being. In a 2014 study conducted on pregnant animals, significant exposure to resveratrol displayed a “concerning alteration in fetal pancreatic development, which strongly cautions against the use of resveratrol by pregnant women.” It’s also important to make sure that the resveratrol in your skin care product is from a reputable source, adds Dr. Tonkovic-Capin.
Ready to reap the benefits of this antioxidant MVP? Here are our top picks for best skin care products with resveratrol.