The market for skincare products that lighten and brighten skin is huge! Whether you’re looking to directly target dark spots or you’re just after an overall brighter complexion, these products are the way to go.
The playground of brightening products has been ruled by ingredients such as hydroquinone, arbutin, azelaic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin C for quite some time now. However, there’s a new kid on the block ready to give these ingredients a run for their money – enter resveratrol!
Resveratrol? Isn’t that the ingredient that gives wine its health benefits?
Why, yes it is!
However, it is also creeping into many skincare products due to its excellent anti-aging effects!
But, what is resveratrol and how can it brighten skin? Let’s find out…
What Is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is the powerful antioxidant found in grapes, red wine, and berries, as well as a number of different plants. It has over twice the antioxidant activity of vitamin C and has a wide variety of benefits for the skin.
For example, it possesses anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties, is antibacterial and can help reduce the severity of acne. Resveratrol has also been shown to prevent sun damage from both UVA and UVB radiation, which means that it may help prevent premature aging.
It’s a bit of an all-rounder then?
However, there is one benefit of resveratrol that is often overlooked – it’s ability to reduce pigmentation and brighten skin!
Resveratrol As A Treatment For Pigmentation
One particular benefit that resveratrol has over some other brightening treatments is that it prevents the production of melanin in a variety of different ways.
Melanin is the substance that gives our skin its natural colour and provides us with some amount of natural UV protection (although, definitely not enough to forgo sunscreen!)
Most treatments for pigmentation target an enzyme called tyrosinase which plays an important role in the production of melanin. Specifically, these treatments reduce the activity of or ‘inhibit’ this enzyme which means that it is less able to initiate melanin production. For this reason, they are referred to as ‘tyrosinase-inhibitors’.
Resveratrol has a similar molecular structure to the substance that tyrosinase naturally binds to in order to initiate melanin production. This means that it can inhibit tyrosinase by acting as an alternative substance for the enzyme to attach to, thus reducing the amount available to initiate melanin production.
I guess you could say that resveratrol ‘catfishes’ poor tyrosinase – what a sneaky little trickster!
As well as directly inhibiting tyrosinase, resveratrol can indirectly inhibit tyrosinase by regulating signalling pathways, preventing the transcription of tyrosinase, and regulating tyrosinase after transcription.
In other words, it regulates the way that the different proteins and genes that are involved in the production of pigment communicate with each other. Furthermore, it regulates the activity of tyrosinase within cells if the genetic information has already been shared.
In fact, research has demonstrated resveratrol to be a more powerful tyrosinase inhibitor than other popular pigmentation treatments, including hydroquinone, arbutin, and vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
Yes, that’s right! Resveratrol may be a better brightening treatment than three of the biggest players! Did you hear that, vitamin C?!
As resveratrol is a potent antioxidant it can also prevent hyperpigmentation caused by inflammation and free radicals. This may make it an ideal treatment for those who experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) as a result of acne.
Related: The Complete Guide To Resveratrol In Skincare
Research On Resveratrol: What Studies Say
The twice-daily application of 1% resveratrol was found to visibly lighten the skin of pigs, without causing irritation, after 8-weeks of use. Other research has demonstrated that resveratrol can reduce the amount of melanin produced after human exposure to UV radiation.
A more recent study found that resveratrol, in combination with baicalin and vitamin E, was able to significantly improve hyperpigmentation after 4 weeks of use, with increased improvements after 8 and 12 weeks of use.
In addition, the resveratrol formulation led to significant improvements in fine lines, wrinkles, skin firmness and elasticity, skin tone, radiance, and skin roughness.
The future is looking pretty bright (pun intended) for resveratrol!
Does Resveratrol Has Any Side Effects?
However, one potential disadvantage of resveratrol is that it has poor stability and is easily oxidised. For this reason, it is often combined with other skincare ingredients to increase stability. Such examples include the combination of resveratrol with acetic acid to form resveratryl triacetate and with glycolic acid to form resveratryl triglycolate.
When combining skincare ingredients, sometimes more is more!
Acetic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that can reduce pigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase as well as by increasing the rate of skin cell turnover and exfoliating skin.
The addition of acetic acid to resveratrol increases its stability and prevents melanin production in a similar way to resveratrol itself. In addition, resveratryl triacetate causes less irritation than resveratrol alone.
When a 0.4% resveratryl triacetate solution was applied to recently tanned skin twice-a-day for 8 weeks, it led to significant skin lightening compared to a control product. This lightening effect was also observed when the same treatment regime was used on areas of natural hyperpigmentation (e.g. age spots).
0.8% resveratryl triacetate not only reduces pigmentation and lightens skin, but can also improve fine lines and wrinkles after 8-weeks of twice-daily use.
Resveratryl triglycolate is a combination of resveratrol and glycolic acid. Like acetic acid, glycolic acid is an AHA that helps bring pigment to the surface of the skin so that it can be shed faster, and may, itself, inhibit tyrosinase. It is also very effective at penetrating the skin.
When compared with each other, the combination of glycolic acid and resveratrol inhibited tyrosinase activity more effectively than glycolic acid alone. However, it was only slightly more effective than resveratrol and resveratryl triacetate.
One recent study demonstrated how 0.4% resveratryl triglycolate significantly reduced UV-induced pigmentation and lightened skin when used twice-daily for 8-week].
One benefit of resveratryl triglycolate over resveratryl triacetate is that it is water-soluble and, thus, dissolves in cosmetic products with more ease.
Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid: What It Is, What It Does & How To Use It
What Are The Best Resveratrol Products For Brightening Skin?
Resveratryl triglycolate and resveratryl triacetate don’t appear to be available in skincare products yet, but there are still resveratrol products that have been stabilised in other ways. Here are some examples of resveratrol products that may help brighten skin.
- Skinceuticals Resveratrol B E ($153.00): available at Blue Mercury and Dermstore.
- The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% ($7.90): available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, Escentual, Feel Unique and Ulta
Fun fact: Skinceuticals Resveratrol B E was used in the 2014 study, mentioned earlier, that used resveratrol in combination with baicalin and vitamin E.
The Bottom Line
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that has been overlooked as a brightening treatment. However, it appears to be better at preventing melanin production than a number of the most commonly used products.
There are some concerns regarding the stability of resveratrol which may be why only a few brands have incorporated it into their products. However, recent research has identified a way to stabilise resveratrol by combining it with either acetic acid or glycolic acid.
While reservatryl triacetate and resveratryl triglycolate are not yet available in skincare products, their increased stability may make it easier for more brands to introduce resveratrol into their future products.
So, will resveratrol become the new it-girl of brightening ingredients?!
At least not while it’s stuck in the shadows of other, more popular, ingredients.