You may find this number surprising, but there are more than 10,000 varieties of grapes grown around the world. And that number only refers to wine grapes!
Long before wine growers started putting labels on bottles, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were growing grapes - more than 6,000 years ago. Over the years, ancient civilizations learned that different parts of the grapevine had unique properties, and they began using them for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
Grape leaves were used to stop bleeding from wounds, as well as to treat inflammation and provide pain relief. Folk healers were known to use the sap from grapevines to make ointments to treat skin and eye problems. Unripened grapes were used to soothe sore throats; ripe grapes were utilized for treating everything from infections to cholera, smallpox, nausea, and many other diseases.
While the ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t have the biochemistry or medical knowledge to know why grapes helped in the healing process, they did know they worked. Today, we do have that knowledge, and have learned that the magic happens within the grape seeds.
Within the humble grape seed exists highly concentrated levels of vitamin E, linoleic acid, flavonoids, and a chemical called oligomeric proanthocyanidin complex (thankfully abbreviated to OPC). Research has shown that this combination of ingredients found within grape seeds is a powerful antioxidant used for a variety of conditions, from heart disease to aging skin.
The focus on treating aging skin is paramount, but it’s interesting to note that the ancient Greeks had it right about using the grape plant for medicinal purposes. One study provided firm evidence that grape seeds contained wound healing properties for skin.
While most people who eat grapes discard the seeds, that is where all the healing properties are found; especially the natural plant compounds OPCs. Their ability to attack free radicals and protect the skin makes grape seed extract one of the key ingredients in many different cosmetic products.
As you grow older, your skin begins to lose its elasticity and starts to show the telltale signs of aging. These include sagging skin, age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. In addition to growing older, other factors can cause the skin to show signs of aging, factors that include exposure to sunlight and environmental toxins.
But in order to understand how the antioxidant properties within grape seed extract help fight the skin’s aging problems, you should first understand what free radicals are and why they’re bad for skin.
Free radicals are simply harmful atoms or groups of atoms that damage skin cells. Because they have unpaired electrons, free radicals are unstable and are highly reactive. They can result from your body’s natural processes or from environmental causes, including exposure to chemicals, heat and UV radiation.
As the free radicals enter the body’s skin cells, they can cause oxidation, which attacks the cell’s DNA. It’s often called oxidative stress. This damage impairs the skin’s collagen production as well as the elastin, which gives skin its elasticity.
Products that have potent antioxidants, like those containing grape seed extract, can help fight those free radicals and help prevent damage. Grape seed extract is one of the more powerful antioxidants, being 50 times more powerful than vitamin E.
Grape seed extract doesn’t just help protect cells from free radicals; it scavenges throughout the body collecting free radicals. This discovery was made in 1986 by Professor Masqueller and patented in 1987. He discovered that grape seeds have an intense free radical scavenging effect (FRSE) on free radicals.
Another study found that grape seed extract protected cells from the toxic effects of oxidative stressors. This is significant, as it helps to avert potential cell damage, and is one of the reasons why grape seed extract is such a powerful antioxidant.
One of the most notable properties of antioxidants is that they work to repair cells from the inside out. The benefit to your skin is that fine lines and wrinkles are minimized, keeping the skin radiant and youthful.
As the ancient Greeks learned using grape leaves, grape seed extract helps enhance the wound healing abilities of skin cells, thanks to the alpha hydroxyl acid they contain. It does this by helping skin cells retain moisture, and by applying topical creams and ointments that contain grape seed extract wounds tend to heal faster while helping to minimize scarring.
Another benefit of applying formulations with grape seed extract is relief from psoriasis and eczema. The collagen and elastin within the skin work to keep it healthy, and the components within grape seed extract work to boost that health.
Grape seeds contains proanthocyanidins, which help to block enzymes that could hurt the chemical structure of the collagen and elastin. As an anti-inflammatory, grape seed extract could be useful in treating inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis. And the flavonoids in the extract prevent allergic reactions on the skin like eczema.
In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties within grape seeds help reduce skin swelling from dermatitis, cuts, infections, and sunlight exposure. The extract also contains antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Grape seed extracts contain an abundant amount of polyphenols, which are known to be excellent binders of collagen fibers within your skin. This helps to maintain the skin’s elasticity.
Grape seed extract also has some mild astringent qualities, which is another reason it’s used as an ingredient in anti-aging cosmetic formulations. But because it’s non-comedogenic, it’s also used in products targeting oily, acne-prone skin. Grape seed oil benefits also keep skin hydrated, supple, and calm, which is what makes this versatile ingredient so central to the cosmetics industry.