Grape seed oil is great for skin, whether it’s used inside or out. On the inside, its nutrient content lowers blood pressure, prevents cellular oxidation, helps diabetes and fights inflammation in the body. On the outside, grape seed oil fades age spots, acne scars, helps relieve dermatitis, sunburn and improves the appearance of wrinkles and stretch marks. Below, I have listed the four nutrients believed responsible for grape seed oil’s skin beautifying abilities and discuss the mechanics of each, including relevant research and anecdotal evidence, and describe how to use this 100% natural product to improve the look and feel of your own skin.
Skin Enhancing Nutrients
- Vitamin E
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that not only helps to protect cell membranes from oxidative stress caused by free-radicals, but is necessary for structural and functional maintenance of skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle. Vitamin E is also essential to creating red blood cells, helps to maintain stores of Vitamins A and K, as well as the minerals iron and selenium. Externally, Vitamin E is very emollient and helps skin retain its natural moisturizers, and it bolsters the skin’s defense against UV (ultraviolet) radiation. So, vitamin E really is “essential for the maintenance of healthy skin.”1 And you don’t even have to apply vitamin E to your skin manually to receive its external benefits. Vitamin E can be naturally supplied to your skin via sebum secretion.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential polyunsaturate fats, which our bodies cannot manufacture. Omega-3 fatty acids help fight depression, improves cognition, eases the pain of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), helps joint stiffness, decreases elevated triglycerides (blood fat) and more. Omega-3s are responsible for the health of cell membranes, which not only act as barriers to harmful substances and pathogens, but controls the passage of nutrients into and waste out of the cells as well. Because omega-3 is responsible for cell membrane integrity, it influences our cells’ ability to hold water; a healthy barrier translates to moister, softer, smoother and wrinkle-free skin. Dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, MD, has stated in his book, The Wrinkle Cure, that omega-3s also reduce the body’s production of inflammatory compounds – natural compounds involved in the aging process, that affect how healthy the skin looks and feels. Fortunately, grape seed oil is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Proanthocyanidins are oligomeric flavonoids mostly found in the skin and seeds of grapes. They are powerful antioxidants, produced by plants as a form of defense against predation (or so scientists have conjectured). And it appears that proanthocyanidins found in grapes are the most effective for counteracting disease. In one study, using rabbits, the extract of grape seed proanthocyanidins significantly reduced the development of aortic atherosclerosis. Grape seed proanthocyanidins have been shown to protect the heart against myocardial injuries induced by isoproterenol, a drug used as an inhaled aerosol to treat asthma. Several studies have demonstrated that proanthocyanidins have anti-cancer and anti-tumor activity. The study entitled ‘Grape Seed Proanthocyanidins Induce Apoptosis and Inhibit Metastasis of Highly Metastatic Breast Carcinoma Cells’, (Carcinogenesis, August 2006) verified that grape seed proanthocyanidins “possess chemotherapeutic efficacy against breast cancer including inhibition of metastasis.”3 Proanthocyanidins have also been shown to inhibit enzymes that produce histamine and help to ease allergies. In addition, they can protect against the oxidative damage caused by smoking tobacco, environmental pollution and the free radicals that form in our body during normal metabolism.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids are essential polyunsaturated fats, some pro-inflammatory some anti-inflammatory. These are the fats that most people get too much of, without sufficient omega-3s to balance them out. Fortunately, the omega-6s found in grape seed oil (and other vegetable sources) are mostly the anti-inflammatory variety: Linoleic Acid (LA) and Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA). Grape seed oil is loaded with these omega-6s and, in various studies, they have demonstrated an impressive array of disease fighting capabilities, including combating diabetes, obesity, slowing the growth of certain cancers, protecting heart health, fighting inflammation and eliminating eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Scientists have known for a long time that LA and GLA are important nutritional factors in aging, but the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers learned that arachidonic acid (ARA), a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid also found in grape seed oil, was critical to maintaining skin health. The scientists discovered that if they disabled the gene responsible for an enzyme that helps the body manufacture ARA their mice subjects developed severe ulcerative dermatitis. A quote from their study: “The animals were very itchy, they scratched themselves continuously, and they developed a lot of bleeding sores. … When arachidonic acid was added to the animals’ diet, the itching went away.”4 So, even though the gene that allows the body to synthesize its own ARA was turn off, digesting ARA effectively relieved the subjects’ severe dermatitis. This is important to know, because the human body also manufactures ARA from LA. It’s entirely possible that some forms of dermatitis in humans are caused by a defect in the same or similar gene that the scientists at the University of Illinois deactivated in their mice subjects. For more than 20 years, a multitude of studies have suggested that people with eczema may possess a defect that inhibits their ability to form GLA naturally from the dietary source LA. And in those studies, whether the subjects were adults or children, supplementation with GLA was immediately successful, with those treated suffering less inflammation, drying, scaling, and overall severity, compared to control groups.
It’s also important to know that topical application may be just as effective as internal intake, when it comes to essential fatty acids (EFA). According to researchers at Oregon State University, “Topical application is also a successful route of EFA delivery to the skin. Symptoms of EFA deficiency (EFAD) in both animals and humans can be reversed by either topical application or ingestion of oils rich in [linoleic acid].”5
There are plenty of studies to explain why the nutrients in grape seed oil help dermatitis and smooth wrinkles, but all of the information on stretch marks, age spots and acne scarring is anecdotal. There is no clinical research backing up the experiences of topical users, like myself, regarding those benefits. And though the Oregon State University findings only apply to Vitamin E and the EFAs – omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, grape seed oil’s other skin enhancing abilities must be the product of its other nutrients. Sunburn prevention is a good example. Despite the lack of clinical research, grape seed oil’s alleged ability to prevent sunburn could logically be assumed the result of its high smoke point: 420 degrees Fahrenheit (216 degrees Celsius).
In my experience, and I’ve been using grape seed oil for a few years now, age spots and acne scars will have noticeably faded within 4 weeks with daily use. However, everyone is different and your experience with grape seed oil may differ from mine; you may see results sooner or later than I did. In any case, with judicious use of grape oil I have seen a vast improvement in my skin’s look and feel. I’ve never used it for stretch marks, but others have and reported great results, especially when used during and/or after pregnancy. Do a Google search and you’re bound to find many blogs on that topic.
How to Use Grape Seed Oil
My preferred method of applying grape seed oil is mixed with a cream or lotion, depending on the season. Nevertheless, in summer, when it’s humid and hot, I use one or two drops straight and only on my dry areas. I massage the oil between my fingers and then pat into the skin. I have combination skin: an oily T-zone, normal cheeks and dry as a bone (most of the year) around the mouth and chin. Grape seed oil has definitely helped me to keep these three different skin types in check, while healing my imperfections at the same time. Just remember, if you choose to use grape seed oil straight, a little goes a long way; never use more than a few drops at a time, even if you are using it on your body. You can always apply more as needed. As I mentioned earlier, I use the patting method of application when using the oil straight, on my face, but I employ a circular massaging motion when applying to my body or when I’ve mixed the oil with lotion or cream. In truth, the only thing that really matters when applying grape seed oil, and other treatments, to the skin is that one’s hands are clean.
Grape seed oil has a very light and delicate flavor, which makes it a great addition to any dish that requires oil or fat. It doesn’t overpower the flavors in a dish, only enhances them. Grape seed oil makes a great replacement for olive, canola and other cooking oils, whether you’re making soup, frying meat or sauteing vegetables. Personally, I believe my bean and soup recipes taste quite a bit better than they did when I was using olive oil, but you and your taste buds may feel the opposite is true; there’s no way to know until you try it.
A few years ago, I created a video called the Benefits of Grape Seed Oil and the one question that kept popping up – in the comments section on YouTube, our Facebook fan page, and in emails – was “What grape seed oil brand [did I] recommend?” I’ll answer that question in no uncertain terms here: I do not recommend any particular brand of grape seed oil. I do believe that one should always, always, always choose food-grade, 100% pure grape seed oil, even if you only intend to use it externally. BUT there’s no need to spend $20 on a bottle of gourmet grape seed oil, unless that’s simply what you want. I’ve experienced great results using inexpensive brands purchased at run-of-the-mill grocery stores in my town; so, my advice is buy what you can afford. If you have any other questions on this topic, please, comment below or send me an email.
1 Michels AJ, PhD. “Vitamin E and Skin Health”. Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University, February 2012. Web. December 18, 2015
2 Mercola, Joseph, MD. “Your Practical Guide to Omega-3 Benefits and Supplementation”. Mercola, n.d. Web. December 18, 2015
3 Mantena SK1, Baliga MS and Katiyar SK. “Grape Seed Proanthocyanidins Induce Apoptosis and Inhibit Metastasis of Highly Metastatic Breast Carcinoma Cells.” Carcinogenesis, August 2006. Web. December 18, 2015
4 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Lack of omega-6 fatty acid linked to severe dermatitis.” Science Daily, April 14, 2010. Web. December 17, 2015
5 Angelo, Giana, PhD. “Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health”. Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University, February 2012. Web. December 17, 2015
Perricone, Nicholas, MD. “The Wrinkle Cure: Unlock the Power of Cosmeceuticals for Supple, Youthful Skin”. Warner Books, 2000. Print.
Karthikeyan K1, Bai BR and Devaraj SN. “Cardioprotective effect of grape seed proanthocyanidins on isoproterenol-induced myocardial injury in rats.” International Journal of Cardiology, February 14, 2007. Web. December 18, 2015
Barron, Jon. “Healthiest Oil Comparison Chart with Smoke Points and Omega 3 Fatty Acid Ratios”. Baseline of Health Foundation, April 17, 2012. Web. December 17, 2015