Turns out acne isn’t one of those things—like patchy facial hair or an inexplicable love of scrunchies—that goes away after puberty. The bacteria that cause acne—nasty little buggers called Proprionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes—stick around like student loans to plague us well into adulthood. Awesome, right?
Fortunately, we just got some promising news—and not just about our future President Yeezus. In acne news, anyway, there’s been a possible, wine-related, breakthrough. According to a study by researchers at UCLA, benzoyl peroxide (the stuff behind products like Clearasil and Proactiv) and resveratrol (the much-touted heart-healthy antioxidant found in red wine) actually work well, together, to treat acne.
That doesn’t mean you should slather on some Clean & Clear, crack a bottle of Merlot, and start chugging. The study was done in petri dishes over the course of 10 days, with cultures of P. acnes and various amounts of benzoyl peroxide, resveratrol, or a combination, applied. The benzoyl peroxide that dries out our skin is an “oxidant,” meaning it actually makes free radicals that help to kill acne-causing bacteria. Resveratrol, on the other hand, is an “antioxidant,” meaning it kills free radicals that cause cell and tissue damage. Yeah, it’s confusing. The fact that these two basically work in opposite ways kind of suggests they should cancel each other out, like oven-roasting a popsicle.
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Turns out they work differently, but well together, like pouring hot fudge on ice cream (we tend to understand science best through dessert metaphors). The benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria quickly, but not lastingly. The naturally antimicrobial resveratrol, on the other hand, doesn’t initially kill as much P. acnes bacteria but actually inhibits further growth—and protects your skin cells from too much damage. It’s like you send in benzoyl to wipe out the bad bacteria, and then resveratrol sets up camp to keep them from coming back—all while helping repair and lovingly reassure your traumatized skin cells.
Again, there’s still a lot to figure out. Resveratrol has been used in skin products for a while, as has benzoyl peroxide. Study author Emma Taylor (of the Division of Dermatology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine) definitely noted the promise of the findings in developing “more effective and less irritating topical acne therapy,” and that’s all well and good (and we can all look forward to a lot of expensive tubes of cream hitting the market). But we’re wondering if there’s a chance that the resveratrol we all get from drinking our recommended one (or three?) glasses of red wine a day might actually be something we can now count as part of our skincare regimen. It might end up being the case that drinking red wine and slathering on some Clearasil does a better job than the Clearasil alone. At the very least, it might make you feel a bit better about your acne. As will this commercial.