I’m sure you’ve heard of resveratrol. It’s a fabulous nutrient that fights everything from cancer to heart problems. This powerful antioxidant has gained a lot of media attention lately because it’s found in red wine and even chocolate. It’s a powerful polyphenol that we extract from grapes and other plants. But have you ever thought about why grapes produce resveratrol in the first place?
Think about the structure of a grape. It’s held together by a thin membrane – the skin. And the grape has to keep itself safe from mold, ultraviolet radiation, toxins, and other invaders. Resveratrol helps it do that by defending the skin. And that makes it a natural fit for protecting our skin too.
People have been using oral resveratrol supplements for a couple of decades now. And of course, we’ve been enjoying the health benefits of red wine since people first figured out how to ferment grapes. But researchers are now investigating the advantages of applying resveratrol topically as well.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that in places like France and New York, you can actually bathe in red wine. But that’s probably not the best way to get resveratrol to your skin.
The Skin Benefits of Resveratrol
Topical resveratrol does have plenty of benefits. But to experience them, you need to use resveratrol regularly. I can only imagine the state of your bathtub – and your grocery bill – if you bathed in red wine every day! Instead, you can look for skincare products with resveratrol included. Let me tell you what they can offer you.
For starters, one study asked participants to use a resveratrol gel for 30 days. The researchers evaluated their skin according to the Global Acne Grading System before and after the treatment. And they found that the gel reduced their acne by about 54%.
A number of effective acne treatments exist. But it’s always nice to find one that offers additional benefits rather than being harsh, which many acne treatments are quite harsh.
And resveratrol is certainly beneficial. In fact, it’s an even more powerful antioxidant than vitamins E and C. I like these other antioxidants a lot. And I don’t think you should replace your current antioxidant products with resveratrol. I think you should use a combination. Here’s why.
Fighting Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress affects every part of a cell. But some parts are made of fat. And others are water. So you need antioxidants that can work in water. And you need others that are fat-soluble.
Resveratrol is water-soluble. But many other vitamins commonly found in skincare products, including vitamins A and E, are generally fat-soluble. So using a mixture helps ensure that antioxidants are available to clear free radicals out of every part of the cell.
Free radicals contribute to thinning and collagen breakdown in the skin. So having antioxidants available helps keep skin firm and more youthful.
Resveratrol not only scavenges free radicals, but also helps keep them from forming in the first place. It does this by inactivating ions that produce the free radicals. By shutting down the problem of oxidative stress at the source, resveratrol offers significant protection to the skin – even from cancer.
Resveratrol and Skin Cancer
Researchers estimate that skin cancer affects one out of seven Americans every year. Those are pretty high odds. And while the majority of skin cancers are treatable, doctors diagnose approximately 68,130 cases of malignant melanoma every year. And these lead to approximately 8,700 annual deaths.
Moreover, some research links a history of skin cancer – even if you beat it – to a greater risk of other deadly cancers. And even treatable forms of skin cancer can require surgeries and cause scarring. Clearly, it’s best to minimize risk in the first place.
Resveratrol can help you do this. Previous studies have found that it can help fight cancer in all three major stages: initiation, promotion, and progression. And most studies have found resveratrol to be quite safe, with minimal side effects even if you take high doses orally.
One study of melanoma cell lines found that resveratrol could induce apoptosis (cell death). Another found that the antioxidant could decrease protein levels in melanoma cells. Without needed proteins, cancer cells can’t function and spread.
These researchers also found that resveratrol could help inhibit the growth of these cancer cell lines. Yet another study found that resveratrol could significantly decrease the viability of melanoma cell lines without harming fibroblast (collagen-producing) cells.
While these effects are promising, it’s certainly best to avoid letting melanoma cells get a foothold in your skin in the first place. One study in hairless mice found that applying resveratrol topically 30 minutes before exposure offered significant protection against UVB rays.
In particular, it decreased skin edema, inflammation, and the generation of oxidative stressors. A follow-up study confirmed that resveratrol had chemopreventive effects, inhibiting tumor formation and minimizing damage.
Resveratrol and Sunburns
Resveratrol even offers significant protection from UV radiation. It defends skin from damage from both UVA and UVB rays. As you know, these rays can contribute to both aging and cancer.
Another mouse study found that resveratrol could help minimize damage from UVB exposure whether the researchers applied it 30 minutes before or 5 minutes after exposure. In fact, both applications work equally well. This suggests that resveratrol doesn’t act as a sunscreen; rather, it protects the skin through other channels. (So don’t use resveratrol as an excuse to skip sunscreen!)
Despite not being a sunscreen, resveratrol does seem to help prevent sunburn in humans. One study of 15 healthy volunteers found that treatment with a resveratrol derivative significantly inhibited the formation of sunburn cells.
Again, don’t replace sunscreen with resveratrol. Using both is a much better bet for your skin. It can offer an additional layer of protection.
Interestingly, some studies have even found that resveratrol can help minimize the damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. Obviously, smoking can destroy your skin. And no amount of resveratrol can counteract the damage smoking will do to your body. But if you have to experience cigarette smoke exposure – even just walking around your city – resveratrol can help minimize its effects on you and your face.
Rebuilding Skin's Collagen
Finally, we’ve been talking a lot about how resveratrol can protect your skin. And this defense is great. You want to keep your collagen from breaking down as much as possible. But it’s also good to build the collagen back up. Research has found that it can increase cell proliferation in the skin, thus helping the body create new, healthy skin.
Some naysayers regarding resveratrol’s effects comment on its bioavailability. And it’s true that drinking red wine and eating chocolate aren’t an efficient way to get resveratrol, despite what headlines like to claim. In fact, you’d have to drink 700 bottles of wine to reach the resveratrol levels used in some mice studies! And what would that much alcohol do to your skin?
The good news is that applying resveratrol topically sidesteps this issue. Topical resveratrol comes into direct contact with the part of the body you want it to help. So it’s very bioavailable. And of course, you can look for resveratrol in supplement form if you want to take it orally as well.
We’ve included resveratrol in both the Day Crème and the Night Treatment of the Système 41 line. We want you to have the protection it offers in the morning and its repair potential in the evening.
Of course, if you enjoy your red wine and chocolate, you can certainly have them in moderation. You will get some resveratrol from these, along with foods like blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and even pistachios. But you don’t need to bathe in red wine or apply a chocolate mask to get resveratrol’s benefits. Just look for it in your skincare products to get all of the protection without the expense – or the mess – of these more extreme strategies.