Grape seed extract, sometimes referred to as GSE, is considered to be one of the most effective natural skin care ingredients available. It provides a broad spectrum of benefits to human skin and to the internal systems as well. Grape seed extract has been carefully studied by biochemists and physicians to confirm these assertions and, in fact, the more it is the studied, the more benefits are discovered. Grape seed extract is now accepted as a compound which protects, heals and beautifies skin.
At the heart of grape seed extract’s effectiveness is the presence of oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs). These are a type of flavonoids, which usually act as pigments in plants. OPCs are found in high concentrations in tree bark (particularly some species of pine trees) and in the outer shell of seeds. Some biologists have suggested that the purpose of OPCs in these structures is to protect the plant – and particularly its seeds – from the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and oxidation. It has been determined that OPCs, when introduced into the human system, provide strong antioxidant benefits. This means that they bind with free oxygen radicals in the human system; these radicals can cause damage and aging in cells. More than any other source of OPCs, grape seeds contain not only high concentrations of OPCs but a variety of complex structures of this compound. These OPCs have been shown to have 50 times more antioxidant power than even the well-known abilities of vitamin E. In addition to the OPCs, a chemical compound called resveratrol is also found in grape seed extract. Resveratrol is produced by plants to help fight infection and acts as a botanical antibacterial and antifungal agent. This gives grape seed extract an ability to provide an elaborate variety of effective processes to protect and repair skin tissue when applied topically.
Grape seed extract is made from a by-product of the wine industry. As grapes are prepared for winemaking, the grapes are crushed (although the term “mashed” would be more accurate). After the juice is drawn off, a mixture of seeds and skins remains. The seeds are separated out, ground, treated and filtered to provide the grape seed extract. The grape seed extract is light, with small molecules, and is able to be absorbed easily into the skin. This allows it to take effect quickly, efficiently and effectively.
When applied topically, grape seed extract acts as an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), which works in a variety of ways. It nourishes and strengthens the skin cells, particularly the collagen and elastin structures. This helps to keep the skin firm and youthful in appearance. AHA also improves the moisture barrier of skin cells, which allows them to accept and retain necessary moisture so that they remain healthy. In practical terms, this means that scarring which would normally occur from cuts or stretching (such as during pregnancy) can be reduced. Another effect is the strengthening of the walls of capillaries, the very fine blood cells just under the skin’s surface. As a result, the appearance of varicose veins can be reduced.
The resveratrol component of grape seed extract acts in at least two ways. The most powerful effect of resveratrol is as an anti-inflammatory agent. Swelling resulting from dermatitis, infection, cut or over-exposure to the sun’s radiation can be reduced as a result. Since, in plants, resveratrol acts as an antibacterial and antifungal agent, these benefits become available to human skin by topical application.
The term "anti-aging" is sometimes not well-defined. In the case of grape seed extract, this refers to the results of its antioxidant actions. The oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs) acts to scavenge, or bind with, free oxygen radicals in the skin’s cell system. Left alone, the free oxygen radicals cause the cells to weaken and die prematurely, a process which causes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Although the moisturization effects of AHA, described earlier, helps to "plump up" or fill out the skin cells and reduce the appearance of these lines and wrinkles, the antioxidant process of the OPCs keeps these lines and wrinkles from occurring in the first place.
Grape seed extract is a powerful tool in the field of skin care. This complex ingredient is recognized as being effective across a broad spectrum of skin types, ages and conditions and is used in many skin care products.