The ‘French Paradox’. Sounds sexy right? I suppose it is, how are French women able to stay thin, fit, and age so gracefully through life? They have a love of cheese, wine, and rich foods. In the US we love cheese, beer, and fried foods; however, our nation is growing horizontally at an astonishing pace. The U.S. has seen a steady rise in heart disease, whereas the French haven’t. One of the reasons besides better exercise, healthcare, and food quality is the amount of wine the French drink and in particular one compound, Resveratrol.
Resveratrol is found in almost everything now it seems, it was in my hair mask last night. Granted, I used Hask’s UnWined Cabernet Sauvignon Deep Conditioner. It’s been deemed to cure cancer, prevent cancer, weight loss, brain function (Alzheimer and dementia). Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and mulberries but has also been found in the roots of sweet potatoes and orchids. It’s a compound (specifically a phytoalexin) naturally produced by plants that have been injured as a means of preventing bacterial and fungal infections, thus destroying the fruit making it unpalatable and preventing animals from consuming. Phytoalexins are a class of plant molecules that are very strong antioxidants and have antimicrobial properties and can be heat stable. The research focused more on it’s use as a natural fungicide for the grape industry in the 1970s before it moved into skin care and health benefits.
A 2011 review concluded resveratrol showed promise in animal studies at preventing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease but there was little evidence in humans to suggest an added benefit to consuming resveratrol. This is limitation is likely because there are very few studies that were published that focused on a clinical analysis of a known daily consumption of resveratrol. This limitation of data was also suggested in a 2015 study. Additionally, there is no known toxicology study that’s been performed. It’s likely a very high LD50 (lethal dose 50, the dose required to kill 50% of the participants) since it comes from a plant and has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. The NIH recommended dosage is 2,495 mg to 1g and 5-10 mg per day was considered entirely safe.
In skin care, resveratrol didn’t come into it’s own until the early 2000s. As an antioxident its 17x greater activity than idebenone (synthetic CoQ10). It also has a significantly higher activity than Vitamins A, C, and E. So why are we not using this like crazy??? Paula’s Choice even includes resveratrol as one of her ‘Five Super Anti-Aging Antioxidants Your Skin Needs’. Because of the antioxidant and antimicrobial activities it seems that it would be excellent in skin care that targets acne prone skin. One clinical study showed a 10% reduction in acne lesions and a 66.7% reduction in microcomedones (comedone is also known as a white head) as a pilot study with very few side effects. I’m a person who’s acne was so bad I had to take Accutane, which has horrible side effects but was my mercy drug. For a little bit of nerd out, Accutane was derived from Vitamin A.
Skin care lines that currently contain resveratrol as their active ingredient include the following:
- Vine Vera Resveratrol Pinot Noir Longevity Serum
- Caudalie Vinexpert Firming Serum; Caudalie has an entire line including a daily supplement focused on resveratrol.
- SkinCeutical Resveratrol BE
- BECCA Skin Love Glow Elixir
- Paula’s Choice RESIST Anti-Aging Eye cream
- Juice Beauty STEM CELLULAR Anti-Wrinkle Moisturizer
There are also several scrubs that contain resveratrol but I wouldn’t use those simply because of the resveratrol. You’ll be rinsing it right off your skin and it would not have any opportunity to absorb into the skin and actually work. If you want a good body scrub, brown sugar and olive oil is a part of my winter go to at-home concoctions.
Juice Beauty’s STEM CELLULAR Anti-Wrinkle Moisturizer does come with a caution flag. There are reports of a chemical burn that appear to more closely signify an allergic reaction. Juice Beauty does use a lot of plant based products in their skincare line, those affected could have an unknown allergy to something in that line. If you use this product try to get a sample first and do a patch test in a place that is coverable. I didn’t have any reaction when I used it.
The consumption of resveratrol has been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, prevention of Alzheimer, and cancer. Unfortunately, you’ll likely never lose weight because of a resveratrol supplement. But don’t pick up the wine glass just yet. It won’t replace that hour in the gym we saw in the news. The alcohol in the wine has been shown to have other adverse health effects besides those benefits resveratrol would add simply because the amount of wine you’d have to drink to get the desired daily concentration of resveratrol would make you a clinical alcoholic (3-4 drinks per day, everyday). By one study, any alcohol consumption is a negative health outcome. But as a concentrated supplement resveratrol doesn’t appear to have huge negative outcomes. In skin care it is a powerful antioxidant if in the correct concentration; however, the proper concentration for skin care effect has yet to be properly determined. This is evident in that the products that contain resveratrol simply list it as an ingredient, whereas Vitamin C you may see as 10% Vitamin C on the packaging. Is it a gift from the god’s, probably not. Sunscreen and proper nutrition still rank higher on my list. However, this isn’t just another fad. My skin looked its best when I was a vegetarian and I ate a lot of beans and foods that contain higher concentrations of resveratrol. I expect this to stick around for awhile and will be adding it to my own permanent skin care routine.
Fabbrocini. 2011. Resveratrol-containing gel for the treatment of acne vulgaris: a single-cling, vehicle controlled, pilot study.
Keen and Brueger. Phytoalexins and chemicals that elicit their production in plants.
Sahebkar et al. 2015. Lack of efficacy of resveratrol on C-reactive protein and selected cardiovascular risk factors. International Journal of Cardiology.
National Institutes of Health. 2002. Trans-resveratrol: Review of Toxicologal Literature.