More Good News For Red Wine Lovers

We've long been receptive to good scientific news about the health benefits of alcohol, and here's one more talking point for team red wine: the resveratrol found in red wine can help clear acne, a new study shows. Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, may be used in combination with existing over-the-counter acne medications in the future to zap zits more effectively than ever before.

Dermatologists at the University of California, Los Angeles have just published their results about resveratrol's effects on acne in the journal Dermatology and Therapy. They studied experimental subjects whose acne was treated with either benzoyl peroxide, resveratrol, or both. (You are probably familiar with benzoyl peroxide — it's a common ingredient in ordinary drugstore acne treatments.) Although in my experience I've found that benzoyl peroxide kind of works, it will also bleach your clothing, sheets, and towels in the process. Additionally, benzoyl peroxide is an oxidant, so there's some concern that long-term use may actually accelerate the aging of your skin. And even if it doesn't contribute to aging, benzoyl peroxide can be extremely drying.

Resveratrol, a member of a class of compounds called "polyphenols," is found in red grapes used to make wine, and has been touted for its antioxidant properties and possible anti-aging effects. Because oxidants (a.k.a. "free radicals") can do damage throughout the body as they accumulate in the course of normal cellular function, potent antioxidants like resveratrol may go beyond cosmetic uses to reverse or prevent cancer, heart disease, and even Alzheimer's disease (though more research to this effect is definitely needed).

But at least when it comes to your skin, the UCLA dermatologists found that using resveratrol and benzoyl peroxide together did in fact work much better to fight acne-causing bacteria than using either one alone. The oxidants in benzoyl peroxide were effective in killing bacteria, and the antioxidants in the resveratrol kept them from growing back (even at lower levels of benzoyl peroxide concentration, which would help to reduce its drying effects).

Since nearly 85 percent of humans will have trouble with acne in their lives, often extending into adulthood, new treatment options for acne are hugely welcome. The semi-bad news is that scientists generated this result by applying resveratrol topically. So unless you had plans to bathe in that box of red you just lugged home, it might not help with your acne. However, it's certainly possible that ingested resveratrol will improve your skin. Besides, we already know about red wine's other potential health benefits — research shows drinking a glass of red wine has the same benefits as getting an hour of exercise, and it's good for your teeth — so you really might as well pour yourself a glass. Feel free to indulge while we wait for the now-inevitable red wine-containing acne products to hit the beauty product aisle. Cheers!

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