The Beauty of Wine

Reasons to toast vino's rejuvenating powers.
by O'Rya Hyde-Keller

You cheered when news broke that a glass of red wine a day is actually good for your heart. Turns out it’s not just imbibing the stuff (in moderation, of course) that may have health benefits. Lately, wine has been popping up on the ingredients lists of moisturizers, face masks, and body scrubs—and for good reason: The same properties in wine that can help your heart and prevent cancer may also sustain your skin.

So what’s the reason for vino’s skin-benefiting power? Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant abundant in the leaves, twigs, and bark of grapevines. Like other antioxidants, resveratrol neutralizes free radicals churned up by exercise, digestion, and breathing and in response to pollution, UV radiation, and other harmful substances in the environment. Free radicals—unstable molecules missing an electron—attack healthy cells in order to replace that electron and thereby damage the skin. Antioxidants fight back: “They slow down cell damage and the progression of wrinkles and appearance of aging in the skin,” explains Jeanette Jacknin, MD, dermatologist and author of Smart Medicine For Your Skin (Penguin Putnam, 2001).

While resveratrol research is still in its infancy, the substance has shown major promise as an extremely aggressive antioxidant. One recent study found it to be 17 times more effective at scavenging free radicals than idebenone, which had been considered one of the most potent antioxidants. And wine—especially red wine—is one of the most concentrated sources of resveratrol you can find. “Red wine, which is fermented with the skins, seeds, and twigs, tends to contain much larger quantities of the beneficial substances than white wine, which is fermented only from the pressed juice of the grape,” says Jacknin.

In addition to resveratrol’s robust potential to stymie free radicals, it may also help your skin in other ways. Studies conducted on animals show that resveratrol may protect against UV damage that results in dark spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin. “It’s a key point to note, however, that resveratrol has been shown to prevent this damage, as opposed to reversing it,” says Lauren Fornes, licensed aesthetician and founder of, which reviews beauty products for efficacy and purity of ingredients.
Resveratrol may also help people who battle blemishes, since grapes produce the combative substance when under attack from bacteria. “These antimicrobial properties make it great for people who are prone to acne and blackheads,” explains Fornes. In fact, a recent study in The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy showed that resveratrol slowed the growth of bacteria associated with acne.

And there’s even more good news from the grapevine: In addition to resveratrol-packed red wine, grapeseed extract is another potent antioxidant, according to recent research. The extract is available as grapeseed oil, expelled from grapeseeds separated from the skins and juices of grapes during the winemaking process—that is, after the barefoot stomping.

“Grapeseed oil is really wonderful for all skin types,” says Kristin Fraser Cotte, founder and president of The Grapeseed Company, which produces a line of 80 percent organic grapeseed oil skincare products. “It’s light, absorbed easily, and full of vitamins and antioxidants, including resveratrol, that diminish fine lines and wrinkles. Plus, it’s a local, natural resource that would otherwise be thrown away by winemakers.”

Let’s face it, regardless of what wine can do for our skin, there’s something wonderfully indulgent about slathering it all over our bodies. Fornes’ recipe for the ultimate home spa treatment? A wine-based mask, a glass of vino, and a long, hot bath. Maybe next time you’re looking for that perfect pinot, you should check the skincare aisle first.

O’rya Hyde-Keller is a Providence, Rhode Island–based freelance writer who’s sure her recent Napa Valley wine-tasting trip did wonders for her skin.

Sake for Skin’s Sake
Wine made from grapes isn’t the only skin-benefiting booze. Several Japanese companies have begun using rice wine (sake) in their skincare products. “Sake contains kojic acids, which decrease the formation of melanin pigments that form freckles and age spots,” explains Jeanette Jacknin, MD, dermatologist and author of Smart Medicine For Your Skin (Penguin Putnam, 2001). “It also keeps moisture in your skin.” Sounds like a trend we’ll be seeing more of in natural beauty aisles.

Your Beauty Wine Cellar
Arcona Wine Hydrating Mask
Lauren Fornes, founder of, highly recommends this moisture-binding mask containing grape and wine extracts—and pure resveratrol—to replenish dry skin. ($38, 2 oz;

The Grapeseed Company
Rose and Grape Serum
Use this grapeseed oil–based serum in place of moisturizer. Or, if you have particularly dry skin, layer it underneath your moisturizer for daylong rejuvenation. ($30, 2.3 oz;

Napa Soap Company
Cabernet Soapignon
You may actually want to wash your mouth out with this bar soap made with Napa Valley red wine and grapeseed oil, as well as olive, coconut, palm, and sweet almond oils. ($8.95, 8 oz;

Yüm Gourmet Skincare
Liposome Red Wine Moisturizer
Organically grown red wine extract pairs with apricot kernel, jojoba, and sweet almond oils to create a deeply moisturizing face crème perfect for extra-dry or mature skin. ($61, 2 oz;

100 Percent Pure
Pink Champagne Body Cream
Red wine extracts and certified organic ingredients such as avocado butter and white tea make for a deeply moisturizing lotion laden with vitamins and antioxidants. ($17, 7.5 oz;