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Resveratrol - the anti-ageing elixir of life?

August 28th 2015 / Anna Hunter

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It’s the reason that we justify red wine as “good for us”, but just what can this mighty molecule do for our skin? We give you the lowdown on resveratrol

Ever gorged on dark chocolate or cracked open a bottle of red on the grounds that the antioxidants will negate any naughtiness? Gobbled up berries or feasted on nuts for their rumoured healing powers? Admittedly the latter is less likely, but while antioxidants are big news from a nutritional point of view, it’s in the dermatological domain that their rejuvenating potential is really making waves, and there’s one in particular that is exciting doctors, skincare companies and cream queens alike: resveratrol. But just what is this revved up anti-ageing ingredient, and should we be using it? Pour yourself a glass of red and we’ll do the asking.

What is resveratrol?

GP and Dove DermaSeries dermatology expert Dr Anita Sturnham explains:

“Resveratrol is a natural phenol and phytoalexin produced by various botanicals. In nature, resveratrol functions as part of a plant’s defence system. Resveratrol is an antimicrobial substance produced by plants in response to stress, infection, or strong UV radiation. In recent years, resveratrol has become the subject of intense interest due to its powerful antioxidant and anti-ageing properties and its potential skincare benefits.”

How does it work?

It’s your fairy godmother as far as antioxidants are concerned - Dr Anita thinks that its protective powers show great promise:

“Studies suggest that resveratrol exerts its potent antioxidant and anti-ageing effects by scavenging existing free radicals and also by preventing new free radical formation. These free radicals are thought to be responsible for cellular damage and skin ageing. The antioxidant ability of resveratrol is known to be both potent and efficient. In fact, in some studies it has even been shown to be greater than that of vitamins E and C.”

We’ve heard about its supposed health benefits in the food we eat, but what are the advantages of adding it to our skincare regime?

Move over blueberries, it seems that the humble grape could be a contender for superfood status. Dr Anita thinks that there’s something in it:

“A glass of red wine a day has been reported to be good for your heart and now it seems that a dose of the resveratrol ingredient found in red wine may also help to keep our skin looking youthful and radiant.”

“Resveratrol is found in abundance in the skin of red grapes and is transferred into red wine during the fermentation process. Over the years scientists have discovered potential health benefits of red wine, particularly in studies looking at ways to reduce heart disease.”

The issue with reaping the rewards of resveratrol by marinating in Merlot or gorging on Green & Blacks is something that we’re all no doubt aware of - the bad will outweigh the good unless we exercise stringent levels of self-control. A more potent, concentrated dose can be found in just a teaspoon of Fountain- The Beauty Molecule, £24.99. The jury’s out on whether it can indeed delay ageing from the inside out, but with as much water-soluble resveratrol as 26,000 red grapes in just one nip (71,500 in the Extra Strength formulation), it certainly throws the kitchen sink at the task in hand.

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On the surface, resveratrol is gaining ground too, as Dr Anita emphasises. “Although the evidence is still inconclusive, the anti-ageing and complexion improving qualities of resveratrol appear to make it an excellent active ingredient for skincare.”

“Topical application of resveratrol to protect against UVB-mediated skin damage as well as inhibit UVB-induced oxidative stress has been observed and in a number of additional studies it has also been shown to prevent UVA damage and abnormal cellular proliferation.”

Clinical dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams agrees that it’s a molecule to watch:

“While there are no conclusive studies that tell us whether resveratrol is more effective taken internally or externally, I like resveratrol as a topical ingredient, as it fulfills two functions: it acts as an antioxidant in it’s own right and it increases the production of a whole host of our own, natural antioxidants in the skin.

"It’s a great addition to a skincare regime, but in my opinion the best way to use it is in combination with more traditional antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. I recommend to my patients to use their vitamin C and E serum in the morning and to use the resveratrol product in the evening.”

Is it suitable for every age and skin type?

Dr Anita has no reservations about the application of resveratrol: “I would recommend products that contain resveratrol for those of any age with any skin type”.

Which products contain resveratrol? Are they any good?

“I am a big fan of Caudalie and SkinCeuticals products. These are Dermatologically approved products which are safe to use even for sensitive and problem skin types.”

Resveratrol is making an appearance in more and more lotions and potions, and while this seems to be a step in the right direction as far as protecting the structure and appearance of the skin goes, it’s crucial to invest in a high quality product that both contains sufficient levels of resveratrol and a sophisticated enough formulation to allow it to be absorbed. SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E, £120, is causing stir both thanks to its high quality 99% pure 1.0% resveratrol content and unique hydrotrope delivery system that stabilises the notoriously flighty resveratrol and ensures that it penetrates the skin. Clinical studies have so far showed very positive results, with average skin density increasing by 18.9% and observed improvements in clarity, smoothness, firmness, elasticity and density over 12 weeks. I’ve been trialling it for a month, using it in the evenings without a moisturiser or serum, and have definitely noticed that my skin is much softer and reassuringly less grey despite lack of sleep. Texture-wise it also slips on like a dream, which is a bonus in my book.

Bordeaux based (where else?) French skincare company Caudalie have also harnessed, stabilised and patented resveratrol sourced from grapevine stalks (200kg of vine stalks apparently yields 50g of pure resveratrol). Given that the molecule is attributed to helping the vine live for up to 100 years, adding resveratrol to our daily regimes surely must bode well for our visages. Caudalie Premier Cru, £92.50, is the Rolls Royce of the brand’s resveratrol based anti-ageing range, as it fuses resveratrol with just about every anti-ageing ingredient you could name (hyaluronic acid, peptides, ceramides… the works). It doesn’t come cheap, but like a fine wine, it ages well (or at least helps you to) and may help to prevent your face reaching a certain ‘vintage’.

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When should we be using resveratrol? Should we use it everyday?

According to Dr Anita, you’ll reap the most benefits with frequent use: “If we think about the anti-oxidant properties of resveratrol it makes sense that these products are used as part of your daily skin care regime.”

Are there any drawbacks to using resveratrol?

Dr Stefanie has a word of warning regarding daytime application - as ever, sunshine is the enemy. “One of the disadvantages of resveratrol as a topical preparation is that it is not particularly photo-stable, so it’s better to use it in the evening.”

Is it really the future of anti-ageing skincare?

Dr Stefanie is hopeful:

“Research into resveratrol excites me, as it demonstrates the overlap between skin health and longevity, which is my special interest! When I advise my patients on lifestyle changes to prevent premature skin ageing, I always make sure to incorporate only measures that also have a positive effect on their life span! The two should always go hand in hand in my opinion.

“I am always on the lookout for new promising skincare ingredients, but at the moment, resveratrol is the one I find most interesting (not in isolation, but in combination with other antioxidants as well as vitamin A derivatives).”

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