If you’re searching for the perfect complement to your skincare regime, you might also be wondering what impact consuming red wine may have on your skin health and appearance.
Is the latest anti-aging secret an alternative to an injection, an expensive serum or a way to avoid going under the knife?
While I was in medical school, attention focused on the potential benefits of red wine which was referred to as, “the French paradox.” At the time, epidemiological studies found that French people had fewer heart attacks than those in North America—despite consuming a diet rich in saturated fats as well as having higher rates of smoking cigarettes. This type of diet was thought to be a risk factor for people developing heart attacks. It’s no surprise that smoking cigarettes is a significant risk factor for having a heart attack as well.
The French Paradox
One explanation for this French paradox was believed to be their higher consumption of red wine than Americans and Canadians. Red wine contains a potent antioxidant, resveratrol. It was thought that by drinking more red wine, thus consuming more resveratrol might be an explanation for the French paradox. In recent years, skepticism has grown over the idea of this paradox and it might be do to other factors including how health data is recorded.
Heavy alcohol consumption, including red wine, is widely regarded as having negative impact on cardiovascular disease. As well, heavy alcohol consumption can age your face and have a host of other negative consequences on your health (heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, as well as increase your risk of many types of cancer—esophageal, breast, throat, liver and colon).
In recent years, research has revealed that drinking red wine in moderate may have some potential health benefits. The CDC defines 5 oz of wine as one drink equivalent1. The CDC recommends that men consume 15 or fewer drinks per week and women 8 or fewer.
Not surprisingly, regular consumption of red wine can also result in weight gain. There’s roughly 120 calories in a 5 oz glass of red wine. So even 8 glasses of this size weekly will result in an extra consumption of almost 1000 extra calories per week!
Red wine has long thought to be healthy in moderation—with potential benefits ranging from improved heart health to increased bone density2 If you’re weighing the pros and cons of using red wine to improve your skin, here’s what you need to know.
Red wine’s health benefits stem from its high antioxidant content3. Antioxidants play an important role in aging and age-related diseases. In fact, consuming 1–2 glasses per day has been shown to help lower the risk of environmental damage to the skin’s surface.
Some of the most common antioxidants in red wine are polyphenols, a large class of chemical compounds found naturally in plants. They add astringency and bite to foods, which contributes to the back palate of red wine. These compounds fight the damaging effects of free radicals, which helps slow down the cells’ natural aging process. Numerous studies have demonstrated the wide-ranging health benefits of polyphenols—from keeping the brain young to improving hormonal health4.
Compared to grape juice, red wine has a significantly higher concentration of polyphenols, including red wine’s claim to fame—resveratrol—due to the fermentation process. While red wine, white wine, and grape juice are all made from red grapes, making red wine requires using grape skins and seeds, which contain the highest polyphenol content.
The benefits of resveratrol have been primarily studied in animal-based trials in mice. Mice were exposed to concentrated levels of resveratrol for a year, and researchers found that resveratrol was possibly linked to inhibiting the unwanted effects of aging5.
With that said, you shouldn’t start drinking a bottle of Merlot a day, and most experts agree that resveratrol can be better sourced from other areas of your diet. Drinking red wine isn’t the most effective way for your body to absorb antioxidants especially since it contains alcohol, but there are alternative sources of resveratrol including blueberries, peanuts, dark chocolate, and cranberries.
Red wine might help combat visible signs of aging—such as wrinkles and fine lines—due to its high antioxidant content. Animal-based control studies have shown that topical red wine treatment helps reduce acne breakouts and provides protection against UV rays6. In addition, red wine can help rejuvenate dry, dull skin to help you achieve a healthier, more youthful appearance.
Another benefit is drinking red wine is related to pre-cancerous skin lesions. Drinking red wine reduces your risk of actinic keratosis, a condition characterized by the development of pre-cancerous lesions on the skin’s surface7.
Overall, while more research is needed to ascertain the potential effects on red wine on your skin, but the current research suggests that it’s probably okay to relax and enjoy a glass of red wine, when consumed in moderation.
If you’re not a fan of red wine, it might still possible to reap its wide-ranging skincare benefits. Red wine contains natural alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), which cleanse the pores, clear up acne, and help you avoid future breakouts. Thanks to its incredible anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, some have suggested using red wine as a toner, or as an ingredient as a DIY face mask or exfoliator. At this point, I do not recommend trying the red wine facial.
The potential anti-aging benefits associated with red wine can help you skip the guilt next time you’re out at dinner, but you can always have too much of a good thing. Although red wine has been championed by some as a beauty hack, it’s still alcohol, which can be notoriously rough on our complexions. So, if you’re planning to incorporate red wine into your skincare routine, keep in mind that drinking more than recommended can have the opposite effect on your appearance and overall health.
For healthy adults, moderation means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men over the age of 65, or two drinks a day for men under the age of 65. A drink is defined as 5 ounces or 148 mL. Avoid red wine if you’re pregnant, have a heart and/or liver disease, or if you’re currently taking any medication. It’s always best to ask your doctor about specific recommendations before adding red wine to your diet.
While red wine might be able to help slow down the natural aging process, wrinkles and fine lines will still happen. When they do, remember that there are options to help you achieve a healthy, glowing complexion.
Whether you’re looking to eliminate tired under-eye bags or revitalize your skin, Dr. Morrow can help. With over seven years of experience in cosmetic injectables, Dr. Morrow offers professional dermal fillers, lip fillers, Restylane® Skinboosters, Belkyra, and other cosmetic treatments to help you reach your skincare goals. Contact us today to discuss your treatment options for beautiful, youthful skin.
- Alcohol Use and Your Health. CDC. link
- Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart? Mayo Clinic. link
- Snopek, L. et al. July 2018. Contribution of Red Wine Consumption to Human Health Protection. National Library of Medicine. link
- Pandey, K. et al. Nov–Dec 2009. Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. link
- Red wine compound found to slow down neural aging in mice. Medical News Today. link
- Fabbrocini, G. et al. April 2011. Resveratrol-containing gel for the treatment of acne vulgaris: a single-blind, vehicle-controlled, pilot study. National Library of Medicine. link
- Hughes, M et al. April 2009. Food intake, dietary patterns, and actinic keratoses of the skin: a longitudinal study. link