This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Red wine has a complicated history when it comes to beauty. On the one hand, the ingredients in a fine glass of pinot noir have been championed for their anti-aging capabilities. But wine is still alcohol, which is notoriously rough on our complexions. We’ve been sipping the fermented elixir — unsure of whether or not it’s actually good for our skin — since our 21st birthdays (or since our cool aunt slipped us a nip during a particularly contentious family dinner) without really considering the potential consequences.
So what’s the truth? Like most things, the answer to whether or not wine is actually bueno for your skin is not exactly black-and-white. It’s gray. Or, red. “The ingredients that are beneficial for skin in red wine are polyphenols, specifically resveratrol,” says Regine Berthelot, the spa director for Caudalie, a line that focuses on the skin-care effects of grape seed. “Resveratrol protects against free radicals, which are a big contributor to fine lines and wrinkles.”
Polyphenols only exist in red wine, however. Fun fact for the non-sommelier set: Both red and white wines are made from white grapes. Only, white wine is made by squeezing just the juices out of the grapes, while red wine is made by crushing everything — skins and seeds, included. And since polyphenols exists in grape seeds, they’re only present in red wine. “The polyphenols are the key to everything,” Berthelot says.
Now this doesn’t mean that you should start putting away a bottle of merlot a day. While Berthelot does say that drinking red wine can be beneficial to your skin, it’s not the most effective way for your body to absorb the polyphenols. “Your skin will always be the last thing to get the nutrients from whatever you’re consuming,” she says. She suggests drinking in moderation — one or two glasses a day — especially since red wine also contains, well, alcohol, which is notoriously bad for your complexion. (And we’re not just saying that. A reminder of the scientific nitty-gritty, for your reference, is right here.)
There’s also zero benefit in applying red wine directly to your skin — even though some blogger somewhere is racking up views with this “hack” — as the alcohol will actually dry it out. “There’s been a trend of red wine baths for anti-aging, but there is no proof that that actually does anything,” Berthelot says.
The best way to get the benefits fo resveratrol is to look for skin-care products that utilize it as an active ingredient. Caudalie isn’t your only option — although it’s a good one. Bite Beauty and Philosophy also make use of grape seeds in their products. And don’t be afraid to sip a glass of red wine every day, says Berthelot. “It’s the French way,” she adds. A glass a day may not keep the derm away forever, but it sure does taste good.
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