What would the ideal anti-aging skin care product look like? To begin with, it would need to provide protection against sun damage from UV exposure.[i] Of course any sunscreen does that, so what we really want is something that can help reverse the effects of UV exposure, which include mutations in the DNA of skin cells. This is where the idea of working at a molecular level comes into play. While many products talk about “DNA repair” the evidence for a role for resveratrol is particularly strong. There are several ways that resveratrol functions in this regard, the best known of which is its powerful antioxidant effects.
Healthier DNA means not only more attractive skin but a lower risk of skin cancers. The use of antioxidants such as resveratrol to lower risk of skin cancer is known as chemoprevention. There is evidence that it may help prevent many other types of cancer as well.
Another measure of aging has to do with integrity of sequences on the ends of the chromosome known as telomeres[ii]. Each time a cell replicates, the DNA must “unzip” to provide a template for the chromosomes in the new cell. It is prevented from unraveling by telomeres, which are sort of like the caps on shoelaces, but with each cycle the telomeres get shorter.. Restoring telomeres is a major effort in anti-aging, and it appears that resveratrol may activate the enzyme that restores telomeres (telomerase), thereby improving cellular health and longevity.
Nothing will magically undo every DNA mutation or the visible manifestations of them in the skin (such as discoloration, wrinkles, and other blemishes) so our ideal product should help with those too. One way that resveratrol improves skin is by inhibition of the enzyme that makes pigment, which results in lightening of dark spots and overall brightening[iii]of the skin.
Facial redness[iv]is another manifestation of the type of inflammation associated with accelerated aging. Resveratrol has also been shown to reduce facial redness with a twice daily application for 6 weeks, and continued improvement beyond that.
We all know that good skin is built by good collagen and elastin (a type of collagen.) These proteins are constantly being rebuilt by enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases, referred to as “MMP’s.” Regulation of MMP activity is critical to skin health and aging. It should come as no surprise then that resveratrol is implicated in regulation of MMP via SIRT activation[v], improving the skin’s stress response to UV exposure. This translates into healthier collagen and more elastic skin.
Sometimes however collagen rebuilding is overly exuberant, resulting in thickened scars. An extreme form of scarring is keloid, and treatment of keloids remains a challenge for plastic surgeons. An effective weapon may be found in resveratrol, which has been shown to inhibit the cells (fibroblasts) that are overly active in keloids, while having no adverse effect on normal fibroblasts.[vi]
Acne is another common problem, and not one limited to teenagers. While there are effective treatments for acne such as benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin (Retin-A), these can cause irritation. Resveratrol is proving to be a useful adjunct to acne treatment,[vii]with more than one mode of action: It is antibacterial with specific effects on the type of bacteria associated with acne, while its anti-inflammatory properties reduce the redness and irritation.
A later life issue is changes in the skin with menopause. These include thinning due to lowered collagen production, dryness due to lessened moisture retention, and others. Given the controversies with estrogen replacement therapy, the need for a product providing estrogen-like effects in the skin is substantial. Resveratrol is one of the few ingredients capable of stimulating collagen production through estrogen-like effects.[viii]
If resveratrol is going to accomplish all of these anti-aging feats in a skin care product, it has to permeate the skin and reach the cells active in regeneration (bioavailability.) resveratrol is uniquely suited to traverse the barrier of hardened surface cells known as the stratum corneum because of a few features. One is the small size of the molecule, probably the smallest of the antioxidant polyphenols; the other is that it is hydrophobic, meaning that it is more comfortable in lipids (fatty molecules.) These types of molecules are able to penetrate better.
[iii]Park J, Boo YC. Isolation of Resveratrol from Vitis Viniferae Caulis and Its Potent Inhibition of Human Tyrosinase. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:645257
[iv] Ferzil G, Patel M, Phrsai N, Brody N. Reduction of facial redness with resveratrol added to topical product containing green tea polyphenols and caffeine. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013 Jul 1;12(7):770-4.
[v] Lee JS, Park KY, Min HG, Lee SJ, Kim JJ, Choi JS, Kim WS, Cha HJ. Negative regulation of stress-induced matrix metalloproteinase-9 by Sirt1 in skin tissue. Exp Dermatol. 2010 Dec;19(12):1060-6.
[vi] Ikeda K, Torigoe T, Matsumoto Y, Fujita T, Sato N, Yotsuyanagi T. Resveratrol inhibits fibrogenesis and induces apoptosis in keloidfibroblasts. Wound Repair Regen. 2013 Jul-Aug;21(4):616-23.
[vii] Fabbrocini G, Staibano S, De Rosa G, Battimiello V, Fardella N, Ilardi G, La Rotonda MI, Longobardi A, Mazzella M, Siano M, Pastore F, De Vita V, Vecchione ML, Ayala F. Resveratrol-containing gel for the treatment of acne vulgaris: a single-blind, vehicle-controlled, pilot study. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2011 Apr 1;12(2):133-41.