Remember years ago when the whole “red wine is good for you” trend was really big? That was thanks to resveratrol, a powerhouse antioxidant that can not only be found in red wine and other indulgences like dark chocolate, but also in many skin-care products. Boasting both internal and external benefits, resveratrol is one ingredient worth adding to your regimen. Here’s what to know.
What It Is
Commonly found in the skin of grapes—yes, you can also get a dose of it in your daily glass of red wine, as well as dark chocolate—resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant that has been used in cosmeceuticals for the past decade. “It is a type of phenolic—think those powerful anti-aging agents we constantly hear about that are present in red wine and dark chocolate,” says cosmetic chemist Dr. Marta Pazos. “It is naturally occurring in grapes—especially in the skin of red ones—blueberries and other purple and red berries, cocoa powder, and to a lesser extent, peanuts and other legumes, like tamarind and peas. It is one of the commonly secreted substances that certain plants use to heal after an injury and defend themselves from parasites and fungi attacks.”
New York dermatologist Rita Linkner, MD first investigated the topical effects of resveratrol when she was completing her fellowship in dermatopharmacology at Mount Sinai. “We were looking into its anti-aging potential on various DNA markers using biopsy samples taken from patients who were using a resveratrol-based skin-care line for months,” she says. “The findings were solid: It does in fact anti-age the skin to the level of adjusting DNA markers.” So what does this mean exactly? It “works at the cellular level to help repair cells that have been attacked by free radicals,” adds Brigitte Beasse, Los Angeles aesthetician and owner of Brigitte Beauté. “It contains sirtuin, which repairs DNA and prevents cellular mutation.”
Aesthetician Liz Kennedy is also a fan of resveratrol for “its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help protect against diseases such as cancer and diabetes. The anti-inflammatory effects make it a good remedy for arthritis and skin inflammation, too—as we age, inflammation becomes more common. And, as far as its antioxidant properties, it works even better than vitamin E and vitamin C when it comes to fighting off existing free radicals and preventing the formation of new free radicals.”
“Newer data suggests that resveratrol can function as a brightening agent as well, as it has effects on tyrosinase, the enzyme that is responsible for melanin discoloration [dark spots] in the skin,” says Dr. Linkner. “Resveratrol appears to need to the help of an exfoliating agent to penetrate to the depths of the skin where it can act as a brightening agent, so for this benefit, it should be paired with ingredients such as retinol and niacinamide.”
Two other perks: “Because it absorbs in the UVB region of the UV light spectrum, it may also protect skin against the damaging—higher-energy part—sunlight,” Dr. Pazos explains. “It also has a smaller molecular weight than retinol and a more ‘compact’ structure, so it can penetrate deep into the inner epidermis, helping protect collagen, which is one of the sources to keep skin elastic and supple.”
Who It’s Good For
Dallas dermatologist Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD says resveratrol is great for all skin types. “People aren’t allergic to antioxidants as a whole, so the more the better!” adds Joshua Ross, aesthetician and founder of LA-based SkinLab. However, be sure to study the ingredient list before using if your skin is easily irritated or allergic. Resveratrol is often paired with other actives that may be a culprit, so better safe than sorry.
How to Incorporate It Into Your Routine
“If you’re using a daytime serum or moisturizer, you should apply it in the morning underneath your sunscreen because it works as an antioxidant to help counteract the effects of oxidants such as UVA rays,” Ross says. “It acts as a second layer of protection.” However, there are nighttime products too.
“Resveratrol is not very soluble in water and very soluble in alcohols, so look for products that contain glycerin, butylene glycol, octyldodecanol, and even isopropanol and ethanol—these last two can also help with skin penetration, but due to their drying properties, they must be sparingly added into the formula,” advises Dr. Pazos, who says serums are best for incorporation of actives like resveratrol. “Look for dispersing agents on the label that can reconcile all ingredients, such as PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate or polysorbates, that are not normally miscible without them.”
And when layering, make sure you allow some time between the application of the serum and the moisturizer, so the serum can penetrate, and its ingredients will not potentially adversely interact with those of the next layer over.”
Resveratrol Product Picks
Some of Dr. Houshmand’s favorite products include SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E, which is “a great serum for nighttime and has antioxidants and the ingredients baicalin, vitamin E and 1-percent pure resveratrol,” and “Caudalie Resveratrol-Lift Firming Night Cream with both resveratrol and hyaluronic acid. It also has olive squalane to help nourish dry skin.”
Dr. Pazos likes the Typology serum with resveratrol and ferulic acid. “It has a high concentration of both actives, which are not only potent on their own, but they can also work together in perfect harmony to bring anti-aging power while also calming and soothing. It also helps protect against UV rays and pollution. It is formulated with a short ingredient list, but contains all the necessary ones to dissolve the actives and help with the skin penetration of them.”
Ross prefers Paula’s Choice Resist Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($39), which blends resveratrol, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to brighten, hydrate and firm stressed-out skin.