If you're someone who likes to wind down with a glass of red wine, you might be familiar with one notable ingredient found in the skin of grapes: resveratrol. Studies have credited this potent antioxidant for having many health benefits as well as positive effects on the skin. But can that glass of pinot noir serve as a lovely addition to your skincare just as it does for your Friday night plans? Or is there a more effective (albeit, less enticing) way to reap the skin benefits of resveratrol? Ahead, board-certified dermatologists answer that burning question as well as dozens of others you might have about the antioxidant.
Meet the Expert
- Ava Shamban, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder and owner of Ava MD in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
- Michele Green, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in the Upper East Side of New York City.
Scroll below to find out everything there is to know about the benefits of resveratrol.
Type of ingredient: Antioxidant
Main benefits: Fights aging, protects the skin, and improves the overall appearance of skin.
Who should use it: Green says that, in general, anyone who has sun damage can use resveratrol, regardless of their skin type.
How often can you use it: According to Green, it's safe to use daily as long as you know how your skin responds to the antioxidant.
Works well with: Most other powerful antioxidants, like ferulic acid.
Don't use with: Neither dermatologist is aware of any ingredient that will deactivate the function of resveratrol.
What Is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a naturally occurring antioxidant that can be found in the skin of grapes, peanuts, all berries, and even dark chocolate. It comes in a powder, pill, or liquid form and can be found in a variety of skincare products, such as serums, creams, moisturizers, and supplements. Resveratrol is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. As explained by Shamban, "These polyphenols act as key antioxidants, which serve on the front line as the 'generals' gathering the troops to protect the cells against damage that leads to cellular aging." Shamban says that in general, most over-the-counter forms of resveratrol are fully stable, but she still recommends using products that are packaged in airtight containers (like a pump) and storing the products in a cool, dark place.
Benefits of Resveratrol for Skin
When the ingredient is applied topically, the main functionality of resveratrol helps to protect the skin's surface. With that said, it does have a few other benefits:
- Protects the skin: Resveratrol can interrupt negative environmental influences as well as protect the skin from UV damage. "Our skin is the largest organ in the body, and it functions as your body’s first line of defense against harmful microorganisms," says Green. "Using an antioxidant such as resveratrol helps boost your skin’s natural barriers so that your skin looks and feels smoother and healthier."
- Slows aging: Green says resveratrol works on a cellular level to fight the process of aging by stimulating healthy cell proliferation. As Shamban explains, "Resveratrol forms complex molecules with certain metal ions, inactivating their ability to form free radicals, and therefore improving cellular function and supporting fibroblasts, along with the creation of healthy collagen. This combination one-two punch makes resveratrol highly effective in combating the damaging effect of free radicals that leads to skin aging."
- Reduces redness: Shamban says resveratrol contains key skin-calming properties that help minimize the look of redness and inflammation.
- Evens skin: Green says not only does resveratrol brighten and even your skin tone, but it also works to improve the overall texture of your skin.
- Hydrates the skin: Green also adds that resveratrol can hydrate your skin and prevent it from becoming dry.
Side Effects of Resveratrol
"As far as we know specifically for skin, no studies have discovered negative side effects, even if or when it is taken in larger doses by transdermal delivery or ingested," Shamban says. However, she adds that when taken as a supplement, it might interact with blood thinners and NSAID medications, like aspirin and ibuprofen. In these cases, Shamban always recommends seeing your primary physician, dermatologist, or internist before starting on a new supplement or skin routine.
How to Use It
Shamban recommends applying resveratrol as a part of your nighttime skin routine. "Quality sleep, in general, is critical for healthy-looking skin," Shamban explains. "And with antioxidants, particularly resveratrol, we can capitalize on the heightened nighttime repair function to maximize or boost antioxidant production within the skin cells, and even more so, we're also able to trigger fibroblast cells to in fact make more collagen."
The step of your routine during which you should apply the resveratrol depends on the type of product you’re using. Green says for serums, apply it after you cleanse, or if you use a toner in your skincare routine, then you’d apply it after that step. If you’re using resveratrol in a moisturizer, then you’d apply it right after cleansing and toning, twice daily, mornings and evenings.
To reap the most cholesterol and heart benefits, Shamban suggests turning to powders, pills, or liquids—or better yet, the actual foods—that contain resveratrol. "Internally and in terms of health benefits, resveratrol is also shown in testing to be anti-cancer and both a cardioprotective and neuroprotective ingredient," she explains.
For skin benefits, on the other hand, resveratrol is more effective when applied topically. "The truth is, ingesting powder, pill, or liquid—you'd need to drink hundreds of cases of cabernet a day to get through the digestive system to get enough of the resveratrol needed to reap skin benefits to have any effect on the visible signs of photoaging or other epigenetic aging factors, including environment and stress," Shamban explains. So while wine can be beneficial, instead of drinking your way to better skin, Shamban suggests incorporating the ingredient topically through skincare to effectively boost skin's health.
The Best Products With Resveratrol
Green recommends this serum for its combination of resveratrol and ferulic acid, which work well together in defending the skin against free radicals as well as the aging process: "The main benefit of these two potent ingredients is that they can neutralize free radicals, which prevents the synthesis of collagen and elastin from being repressed," Green says.
As Shamban's top product pick, this nighttime serum is rich in antioxidants. Ingredients such as baicalin and vitamin E promise to increase the anti-aging benefits of the 1 percent pure resveratrol—and it does all the work while you sleep.
Green refers to the boost that your skin gets from resveratrol as "icing on the cake," and this luxurious night cream, which is a favorite of dermatologists, is definitely a treat for your skin. In addition to the resveratrol, you can credit the grapeseed oil, shea butter, and ceramides for that.
This serum isn't exactly cheap, but it's designed to be used on both the face and eye areas, so consider it a two-in-one product. Thanks to eight potent antioxidants (resveratrol, vitamin C, superoxide dismutase, bilberry extract, and glutathione, to name a few), this super-serum fights the visible signs of aging.
True to its name, this serum uses vitamin C, antioxidants, and pigment inhibitors meant to brighten the skin and correct hyperpigmentation, which is why it's a favorite product for getting rid of dark spots.
When you think of colder months, you might think of warming the skin up, not cooling it down. But this professional-strength formula is one of our favorite winter masks for addressing dry, itchy skin; it contains resveratrol and hyaluronic acid meant to hydrate, and aloe barbadensis leaf juice meant to soothe.
Packed with all of the good stuff (AHA and BHAs, bakuchiol, peptides, fatty acids, and, of course, antioxidants) and none of the bad, this night serum works to treat everything from pigmentation and texture to breakouts and blackheads.
Does resveratrol make your skin peel?
There typically aren't any side effects associated with using resveratrol on the skin, however, if you do notice that your skin has started to peel after using it, discontinue use of the product.
Can I use resveratrol with other active ingredients like retinol, AHAs/BHAs, or vitamin C?
In general, resveratrol can be used with active ingredients and actually works well with them, especially antioxidant-rich ones like vitamin C.
Does resveratrol help treat acne?
Studies have shown that resveratrol actually inhibits the growth of the bacteria that causes acne. When it's combined with benzoyl peroxide, it helps increase the antibacterial properties.
Ndiaye M, Philippe C, Mukhtar H, Ahmad N. The grape antioxidant resveratrol for skin disorders: promise, prospects, and challenges. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2011;508(2):164-170. doi:10.1016/j.abb.2010.12.030