Life Extension Magazine November 2011
Topical Resveratrol Combats Skin Aging
By Robert Goldfaden and Gary GolDfaden, MD
By Robert Goldfaden and Gary GolDfaden, MD
Years of clinical study have shown that resveratrol, when taken orally, may boost healthy life span by activating “longevity genes.”
What may surprise you is mounting scientific data suggesting that topical resveratrol may provide significant protection against skin aging as well.
Dermatology researchers have found that topical resveratrol possesses 17-fold greater antioxidant potency than idebenone, an expensive and powerful antioxidant drug used in certain anti-wrinkle creams.
In this article, dermatology experts Robert Goldfaden and Gary Goldfaden, MD, provide Life Extension® readers with the most recent data on topical resveratrol’s rejuvenating, protective effects on the skin.
Intensifying Interest in Resveratrol for Skin Protection
In nature, resveratrol functions as part of a plant’s defensive arsenal. Resveratrol is an antimicrobial substance produced by plants in response to stress, infection, or strong UV radiation. In recent years, resveratrol in particular has become the subject of intense interest due to its powerful antioxidant and anti-aging properties.
It appears that resveratrol exerts its potent antioxidant effects on two distinct levels: (1) by scavenging existing free radicals and (2) by preventing their formation.
The antioxidant ability of resveratrol is known to be both potent and efficient. In fact, it has been shown to be greater than that of vitamins E and C. One study demonstrated that resveratrol was 95% efficient at preventing lipid peroxidation, compared to 65% for vitamin E and 37% for vitamin C.1
In a recent study, the antioxidant strength of 1% resveratrol was compared to that of 1% idebenone. Idebenone is a powerful pharmaceutical antioxidant. Its benefits include shielding the skin from environmental damage, improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reducing dryness, and smoothing skin texture. The results of the study revealed that resveratrol had a stunning 17-fold greater antioxidant capacity than idebenone!1
Topical application of resveratrol to protect against UVB-mediated skin damage as well as inhibit UVB-induced oxidative stress has been observed in a number of additional studies.2-4 It has also been shown to prevent UVA damage and abnormal cellular proliferation.5
Resveratrol is also able to form soluble, complex molecules with certain metal ions, inactivating the ions so they cannot produce free radical formation. This action, in combination with its powerful antioxidant capability, makes resveratrol highly effective in combating the damaging effect of free radicals that leads to skin aging. Resveratrol is also reported to stimulate healthy cell proliferation as well as collagen synthesis by protecting the dermal matrix from harmful enzymes and improving the function of fibroblasts that create healthy collagen.6
Tea Extracts’ Benefits for Skin Health
Scientific studies have shown that the polyphenols in tea extracts are highly effective at reducing the inflammation and oxidative stress that can destroy the health of your skin cells.7-9 Tea contains catechins, a very powerful group of water-soluble polyphenol antioxidants that are easily oxidized. Green tea, which is manufactured from fresh, unfermented tea leaves in which oxidation is minimal, has catechins present in significant quantities.
Epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG makes up the bulk of the total catechin content in green tea (about 10-50%) and is the most powerful of all the catechins, with an antioxidant capacity roughly 25-100 times more potent than that of vitamins C and E.10 The protective strength of this powerful antioxidant can safeguard your skin from the ravages of UV exposure and DNA damage.11 EGCG has also been shown to help maintain or improve skin health by enhancing viability of skin fibroblasts.12 In addition, green tea extract enhances the activity of the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which helps quench excess superoxide radicals and other reactive oxygen species that lead to premature aging.13 This benefit is naturally important to elderly adults whose skin gradually loses its capacity to produce sufficient quantities of SOD to adequately neutralize free radical attack.
White tea, which is made from the buds and young leaves of the tea plant, is steamed or fired to inactivate the polyphenol oxidase, and then dried. Therefore, because of its minimal oxidation, white tea also retains a very high concentration of polyphenols.14
The process used in the manufacture of black tea intentionally maximizes the interaction between the catechins and polyphenol oxidase. Because black tea is allowed to completely oxidize before drying, it is generally rich in thearubigins and theaflavins, but relatively low in monomeric catechins such as EGCG that provide greater antioxidant potential.14
In addition to their potent polyphenol activity, tea extracts also possess vitamin C activity15 that aids in the formation of new collagen,16,17 which improves both skin tone and structure. The vitamin C activity of tea also enhances the powerful free radical–fighting capabilities of vitamin E18 and helps promote lighter and brighter skin.19 The outstanding free radical–quenching ability of topical tea extracts combined with their many other benefits in countering the normal effects of aging make them highly desirable ingredients in any skin care regimen.
Red tea in particular possesses impressive antioxidant capacity.20 Unlike green, black, and white teas, however, that come from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, red tea is not a true tea. Red tea (or rooibos) is made from the oxidized and dried leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant that only grows in one spot on Earth—the Cederberg Mountain region of South Africa in Western Cape Province. This unique herb has been used by the native Khoisan bushmen as a natural remedy to cure all sorts of ailments ranging from infantile colic to asthma.
Red tea contains many different bioactive polyphenols. Among these are aspalathin and nothofagin, which belong to a unique class of flavonoids called dihydrochalcones that occur very rarely in plants. In fact, red tea is the only known natural source for aspalathin. Unique in terms of their chemical structure, aspalathin and nothofagin are primarily responsible for red tea’s impressive antioxidant power.20 Aspalathin in particular has demonstrated an even greater antioxidant activity than the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea.21 Although the free radical–fighting potential of nothofagin is impressive, it’s not quite as potent an antioxidant as aspalathin.21
Chrysoeriol is another important polyphenol in the rooibos herb. This compound is known for its potent antioxidant capacity, as well as its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.22 Chrysoeriol has been shown to be an effective inhibitor of the matrix metalloprotein that damages collagen and elastin and cause premature skin aging.23
Rutin, also found in red tea,24 has strong antioxidant properties as well.25 Known as vitamin P1, rutin has the ability to chelate metal ions such as iron, making it highly effective at limiting the Fenton reaction that produces skin-damaging free radicals.26 Rutin also appears to stabilize and intensify the activity of vitamin C, which is vital to healthy collagen production. These and other antioxidant polyphenols in red tea such as quercetin, luteolin, and orientin make rooibos a uniquely powerful skin care ingredient that fights aging on many levels.24
While resveratrol’s anti-aging power has been firmly established when taken orally, a growing body of evidence shows it can slow skin aging when applied topically. Recent research reveals it has 17 times greater antioxidant activity than idebenone, a powerful pharmaceutical antioxidant used in anti-wrinkle creams. When topically applied, polyphenols from green tea, white tea, and black tea extracts also offer a wealth of benefits for the skin. Red tea from the Aspalathus linearis (rooibos) plant of South Africa offers further topical support for youthful, healthy skin.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at
1. Baxter RA. Anti-aging properties of resveratrol: review and report of a potent new antioxidant skin care formulation. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008 Mar;7(1):2-7.
2. Aziz MH, Afaq F, Ahmad N. Prevention of ultraviolet-B radiation damage by resveratrol in mouse skin is mediated via modulation in survivin. Photochem Photobiol. 2005 Jan-Feb; 81(1):25-31.
3. Afaq F, Mukhtar H. Botanical antioxidants in the prevention of photocarcinogenesis and photoaging. Exp Dermatol. 2006 Sept; 15(9):678–84.
4. Adhami VM, Afaq F, Ahmad N. Suppression of ultraviolet B exposure-mediated activation of NF-kappaB in normal human keratinocytes by resveratrol. Neoplasia. 2003 Jan-Feb;5(1):74-82.
5. Chen ML, Li J, Xiao WR, et al. Protective effect of resveratrol against oxidative damage of UVA irradiated HaCaT cells. Jhong Nan Da Xue Xue Bao Yi Ban. 2006 Oct; 31(5):635–9.
6. Available at: http://www.everypatent.com/comp/pat6147121.html. Accessed August 2, 2011.
7. McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity of South African herbal teas: rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia). Phytother Res. 2007 Jan;21(1):1-16.
8. Ojo OO, Ladeji O, Nadro MS. Studies of the antioxidative effects of green and black tea (Camellia sinensis) extracts in rats. J Med Food. 2007 Jun;10(2):345-9.
9. Gawlik M, Czajka A. The effect of green, black and white tea on the level of alpha and gamma tocopherols in free radical induced oxidative damage of human red blood cells. Acta Pol Pharm. 2007 Mar-Apr;64(2):159-64.
10. Pillai SP, Mitscher LA, Menon SR, Pillai CA, Shankel DM. Antimutagenic/antioxidant activity of green tea components and related compounds. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 1999;18(3):147-58.
11. Katiyar SK. Skin photoprotection by green tea: antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects. Curr Drug Targets Immune Endocr Metabol Disord. 2003 Sep;3(3):234-42.
12. Borawska MH, Czechowska SK, Markiewicz R, Hayirli A, Olszewska E, Sahin K. Cell viability of normal human skin fibroblast and fibroblasts derived from granulation tissue: effects of nutraceuticals. J Med Food. 2009 Apr; 12(2):429-34.
13. Li YM, Chan HY, Huang Y, Chen ZY. Green tea catechins upregulate superoxide dismutase and catalase in fruit flies. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 May;51(5):546-54.
14. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/f-w02/tea.html. Accessed August 5, 2011.
15. du Toit R, Volsteedt Y, Apostolides Z. Comparison of the antioxidant content of fruits, vegetables and teas measured as vitamin C equivalents. Toxicology. 2001 Sep 14;166(1-2):63-9.
16. Wha Kim S, Lee IW, Cho HJ, et al. Fibroblasts and ascorbate regulate epidermalization in reconstructed human epidermis. J Dermatol Sci. 2002 Dec;30(3):215-23.
17. Bell E, Rosenberg M, Kemp P, et al. Recipes for reconstituting skin. J Biomech Eng. 1991 May;113(2):113-9.
18. Chepda T, Cadau M, Lassabliere F, et al. Synergy between ascorbate and alpha-tocopherol on fibroblasts in culture. Life Sci. 2001 Aug 24;69(14):1587-96.
19. Draelos ZD. Skin lightening preparations and the hydroquinone controversy. Dermatol Ther. 2007 Sep-Oct;20(5):308-13.
20. McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity of South African herbal teas: rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia). Phytother Res. 2007 Jan;21(1):1-16.
21. Snijman PW, Joubert E, Ferreira D, et al. Antioxidant activity of the dihydrochalcones Aspalathin and Nothofagin and their corresponding flavones in relation to other Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis ) flavonoids, epigallocatechin gallate, and trolox. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Aug 12;57(15):6678-84.
22. Mishra B, Priyadarsini KI, Kumar MS, Unnikrishnan MK, Mohan H. Effect of O-glycosilation on the antioxidant activity and free radical reactions of a plant flavonoid, chrysoeriol. Bioorg Med Chem. 2003 Jul 3;11(13):2677-85.
23. Jin Hui Kim, Young Ho Cho, Sung Min Park, et al. Antioxidants and inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase-1 expression from leaves of Zostera marina L. Arch Pharm Res. 2004;27(2):177-83.
24. Available at: http://www.phytochemicals.info/plants/rooibos.php. Accessed August 5, 2011.
25. Metodiewa D, Kochman A, Karolczak S. Evidence for antiradical and antioxidant properties of four biologically active N,N-Diethylaminoethyl ethers of flavaone oximes: A comparison with natural polyphenolic flavonoid rutin action. IUBMB Life. 1997;41(5):1067–75.
26. Dorozhko AI, Brodskiĭ AV, Afanas’ev IB. Chelating and antiradical effect of rutin during peroxidation of lipids from microsomes and liposomes. Biokhimiia. 1988 Oct;53(10):1660-6. 27.
27. Available at: http://www.antioxidants-for-health-and-longevity.com/how-do-antioxidants-work.html. Accessed July 26, 2011.
28. Shindo Y, Witt E, Han D, Epstein W, Packer L. Enzymic and non-enzymic antioxidants in epidermis and dermis of human skin. J Invest Dermatol. 1994 Jan;102(1):122-4.
29. Fuchs J, Huflejt ME, Rothfuss LM, Wilson DS, Carcamo G, Packer L. Impairment of enzymic 6 and nonenzymic antioxidants in skin by UVB irradiation. J Invest Dermatol. 1989 Dec; 93(6):769-73.
30. Beckman KB, Ames BN. The free radical theory of aging matures. Physiol Rev. 1998 Apr; 78(2):547-81.
31. Darr D, Dunston S, Faust H, Pinnell S. Effectiveness of antioxidants (vitamin C and E) with and without sunscreens as topical photoprotectants. Acta Derm Venereol. 1996 Jul;76(4):264–8.
32. Chiu A, Kimball AB. Topical vitamins, mineral and botanical ingredients as modulators of environmental and chronological skin damage. Br J Dermatol. 2003 Oct;149(4):681–91.
33. Pinnell SR. Cutaneous photodamage, oxidative stress and topical antioxidant protection. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Jan:48(1):1–19; quiz 20-2.
34. Virgili F, Marino M. Regulation of cellular signals from nutritional molecules: a specific role for phytochemicals, beyond antioxidant activity. Free Radic Biol Med. 2008 Nov;45(9):1205–16.
35. Potapovich AI, Lulli D, Fidanza P, et al. Plant polyphenols differentially modulate inflammatory responses of human keratinocytes by interfering with activation of transcription factors NFkB and AhR and EGFR-ERK pathway. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2011 Jul 12.
36. Chalopin M, Tesse A, Martínez MC, Rognan D, Arnal JF, Andriantsitohaina R. Estrogen receptor alpha as a key target of red wine polyphenols action on the endothelium. PLoS One. 2010 Jan 1;5(1):e8554.