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The Antioxidant That Zaps Zits

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For years, we’ve heard that red wine can benefit your heart, but something inside the drink may help your face, too. An antioxidant called resveratrol found in grapes and red wine might help clear up nasty breakouts , a new study from UCLA found.

When the researchers applied the antioxidant resveratrol to a strain of acne-causing bacteria, they found it inhibited the growth of the pimple-producing bugs for a sustained amount of time. And when they combined the resveratrol with benzoyl peroxide—a known acne-fighting ingredient—it reduced the bacterial count more effectively than either one on its own. 

The researchers believe this two-pronged attack is so successful because it combines the benefits of each treatment: Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria quickly, but its effects only last a short time. Resveratrol isn’t as effective at slaying the cells, but it prevents their growth for a longer time.

And when combined, resveratrol might help slow down benzoyl peroxide’s toxic effects and extend its antibacterial activity for a longer time, says study author Emma Taylor, M.D. 

What’s more, resveratrol seems safer for your skin, while benzoyl peroxide can dry it out and irritate it. So combining the two treatments may allow for a lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide, potentially cutting down on side effects. 

More research is needed, but you can try something similar in the meantime. Use an OTC cream that contains resveratrol in combination with a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, and see if your acne improves, says Dr. Taylor. Just make sure to test a small amount on your forearm 72 hours before applying it to your face to make sure you don’t have a bad reaction to it.

And winos, take note: Scientists don’t yet know whether glugging the resveratrol in the form of wine actually does anything for your zits. These topical effects might be different when the compound is ingested, absorbed into your system, and delivered to your skin, says Dr. Taylor.