Polyphenols is a term used to classify a large family of antioxidants that includes approximately 4,000 different compounds. These chemicals can be found in foods like grapes, pomegranates, green tea, and even red wine. They are powerful for fighting illness and disease when included in your diet. To boot, when applied topically, the benefits of polyphenols can help to repair damaged skin and restore elasticity to prematurely aging skin.
Here are just a few polyphenols sources found in food:
The polyphenols contained in the pomegranate include significant amounts of tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid.
The anti-aging benefits of pomegranate have been clinically shown to include a photoprotective effect on skin cells. In one study, skin that was treated with pomegranate-derived products showed less collagen loss and skin protein breakdown. This may help to maintain elasticity of youthful skin.1,2
Another way pomegranate polyphenols help to protect aging skin is by facilitating skin repair and promoting new skin cell regeneration for anti-aging effects.
One study showed that cosmeceuticals (cosmetics + natural pharmaceuticals) containing pomegranate extracts were effective in stimulating the production of type I procollagen, and inhibiting collagen breakdown in skin cells.3
Further studies revealed that oral administration of one polyphenol compound from pomegranate, ellagic acid, was able to reduce hyperpigmentation caused by UV rays on the skin.4
Ellagic acid was also shown to inhibit wrinkle formation and skin inflammation caused by exposure to UV rays.5
This familiar fruit contains polyphenols, including flavonols and proanthocyanidins. These powerful chemical compounds are well known to offer anti-aging effects to the skin caused by free radicals. What is a free radical? Free radicals are unstable molecules in the body, produced as a byproduct of environmental toxins, exercise and UV rays. These molecules are unstable because they are missing one electron. For this reason, they are harmful to the body, as they will steal an electron from elsewhere in the body to regain balance.
Able to reduce oxidative stress both inside and outside of cells, the polyphenols found in cranberry extract may help to slow sun-accelerated skin aging.6,7
The polyphenol antioxidants willingly donate the missing electron to free radicals, stabilizing them and eliminating the oxidation they cause which damages the body.
Grape Seed Extract
This extract contains highly concentrated antioxidant compounds, including flavonoids. One of the most notable antioxidants found in grape seed extract includes resveratrol. This compound is also found in the skin of red grapes, and it is the active health boosting ingredient in red wine. Other antioxidants in grape seed extract include a rare form of proanthocyanidins called OPCs (Oligomeric Proanthocyanidin Complexes).8
OPCs are powerful plant-derived compounds known to destroy free radical molecules in the skin. They reduce the risk of damage to healthy cells and genetic material (DNA), which can speed premature aging.
Clinical studies have confirmed the ability of resveratrol, derived from grape seed extract, to protect skin cells from cellular breakdown caused by ultraviolet (UV) oxidation. This photoprotective property has been confirmed by clinical research to help prevent premature aging caused by free radicals.9
Other studies have suggested that the protective action of resveratrol in human skin is due to the binding of specific polyphenol antioxidants within the epidermis (top layer of skin) and thus may be helpful in reducing the risk of developing age associated skin disorders.10
Additionally, clinical studies have shown that grape seed extracts were able improve blood flow and circulation, which may help to maintain the rosy tone of youthful skin.11,12
The natural antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties of the oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs) may help to reduce common skin problems, including recurrent redness or breakouts.13
Also known as Camellia sinensis, this popular beverage works wonders on aging skin – not just inside, but outside, too! Green tea leaves contain polyphenols called catechins which include catechin, gallocatechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate – the most recognized of all the polyphenols in green tea, known as EGCG.14
While the antioxidants provided by green tea are powerful free radical scavengers, that is not all the polyphenols green tea can offer. In one study, researchers found that green tea extract in cosmetics not only significantly improved skin elasticity, but also increased moisture levels when applied topically to the skin of participants. Skin smoothness and prolonged moisturization were also observed.15
The polyphenolic compounds present in green tea also provide natural anti-inflammatory effects to the skin. When applied topically, these compounds may help address many different inflammatory conditions of the skin, including acne, dermatitis, and rosacea.16
Additionally, the polyphenols in green tea are known to offer photoprotection from solar ultraviolet radiation that can cause inflammation, oxidative stress, and DNA damage – all precursors to premature aging.17, 18
2 Afaq F, Zaid MA. Protective effect of pomegranate-derived products on UVB-mediated damage in human reconstituted skin. Exp Dermatol. 2009;18:553–61.
3 Aslam MN, Lansky EP. Pomegranate as a cosmeceutical source: pomegranate fractions promote proliferation and procollagen synthesis and inhibit matrix metalloproteinase-1 production in human skin cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Feb 20;103(3):311-8. Epub 2005 Oct 10.
4 Kasai K, Yoshimura M. Effects of oral administration of ellagic acid-rich pomegranate extract on ultraviolet-induced pigmentation in the human skin. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2006 Oct;52(5):383-8.
5 Ji-Young Bae, Jung-Suk Choi. Dietary compound ellagic acid alleviates skin wrinkle and inflammation induced by UV-B irradiation. Experimental Dermatology 2010; 19: e182–e190.
6 Masaki H. Role of antioxidants in the skin: anti-aging effects. J Dermatol Sci. 2010 May;58(2):85-90. Epub 2010 Mar 17.
7 Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Terri A. Camesano. Cranberries and Their Bioactive Constituents in Human Health. Advances in Nutrition.
8 Grape seed. University of Maryland Medical Center. 2016. Accessed December 22, 2016.
9 Mary Ndiaye, Carol Philippe. The Grape Antioxidant Resveratrol for Skin Disorders: Promise, Prospects, and Challenges. Arch Biochem Biophys. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 Apr 15.
10 Bastianetto S, Dumont Y. Protective action of resveratrol in human skin: possible involvement of specific receptor binding sites. PLoS One. 2010 Sep 23;5(9):e12935.
11 Oligomeric proanthocyanidins – OPCs – Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review, November, 2003.pdf
12 Clifton PM. Effect of Grape Seed Extract and Quercetin on Cardiovascular and Endothelial Parameters in High-Risk Subjects. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2004;2004(5):272-278.
13 Fine AM. Oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes: history, structure, and phytopharmaceutical applications. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Apr;5(2):144-51.
14 Molan AL, De S. Antioxidant activity and polyphenol content of green tea flavan-3-ols and oligomeric proanthocyanidins. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Sep;60(6):497-506.
15 Gianeti MD, Mercurio DG. The use of green tea extract in cosmetic formulations: not only an antioxidant active ingredient. Dermatol Ther. 2013 May-Jun;26(3):267-71. Epub 2013 Mar 13.
16 Katiyar SK, Ahmad N. Green tea and skin. Arch Dermatol. 2000 Aug;136(8):989-94.
17 Joi A. Nichols, Santosh K. Katiyar. Skin photoprotection by natural polyphenols: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and DNA repair mechanisms. Arch Dermatol Res. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Sep 18 Patricia OyetakinWhite, Heather Tribout. Protective Mechanisms of Green Tea Polyphenols in Skin. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2012; 2012: 560682. Published online 2012 Jun 26.