Life Extension Magazine®

Woman washing face before using topical resveratrol

Topical Resveratrol Combats Skin Aging

Years of research confirm resveratrol’s power to boost longevity when taken orally. Dermatologists are now discovering that when applied topically, resveratrol also protects against skin aging, with 17 times the antioxidant potency of the expensive anti-wrinkle drug idebenone.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Robert Goldfaden and Gary GolDfaden, MD.

Topical Resveratrol Combats Skin Aging

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.

What you need to know

  • The skin’s youthful appearance deteriorates over time due to intrinsic factors such as oxidative stress and extrinsic factors like ultraviolet exposure, smoking, and air pollution.
  • Under ideal circumstances, the body uses its own supply of antioxidants to defend itself against the free radicals that affect the skin’s appearance. These intrinsic antioxidants can be depleted by chronological aging as well as by UV light exposure.
  • Resveratrol’s anti-aging power has been well-established in oral supplement form.
  • A growing body of evidence shows resveratrol 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.
  • Additional polyphenols found in green tea, white tea, and black tea, and the herb Aspalathus linearis extracts, have been shown to combat skin aging via multiple pathways.

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

Tea Extracts’ Benefits for Skin Health

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

Topical Resveratrol and Other Polyphenols Combat Skin Aging

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

Polyphenols: Nature’s Answer to the Free Radical Onslaught
Polyphenols: Nature’s Answer to the Free Radical Onslaught

An abundance of studies shows that free radicals can wreak havoc on various cellular structures, such as your DNA, proteins, and cellular membranes. Virtually any compound in your body that contains an oxygen molecule, such as hydrogen peroxide, can trigger free radical production. This destructive process happens about 10,000 times every single day, in each of the trillions of cells in your body.27

In your skin, free radical damage ultimately leads to the breakdown of collagen fibers, resulting in fine wrinkles and a loose, sagging appearance.

Under ideal circumstances, your skin uses its own natural supply of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants to defend itself against free radical attacks.28 It is well known that exposure to UV light depletes naturally occurring antioxidants as, of course, does chronologic aging.29,30 Without adequate antioxidant protection, the free radicals generated by your body eventually overwhelm your skin, resulting in premature aging.

Topical application of antioxidants, including polyphenols, has been scientifically shown to provide protection from sun-induced damage, slow down skin aging, reduce inflammation, and ultimately improve skin appearance.31-33

Polyphenols are a dynamic group of approximately 8,000 organic compounds that are widely distributed in the plant kingdom. Polyphenol antioxidants have the ability to neutralize reactive oxygen species such as peroxyl, hydroxyl, and superoxide radicals by donating one of their electrons, thus stabilizing the molecule and breaking the oxidative chain. In addition, some polyphenol antioxidants appear to be capable of affecting cell-to-cell signaling, receptor sensitivity, inflammatory enzyme activity, and gene regulation, which gives them added free radical-quenching ability.34-36


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