Skincare FAQ

Resveratrol for Skin Lightening: Is It Better Than Hydroquinone?

Hyperpigmentation is among the most prevalent skincare concerns, making skin lightening agents some of the most sought-after ingredients. You may have heard about azelaic acid for reducing hyperpigmentation and tretinoin for skin brightening, but is resveratrol just as good for skin lightening?

Long story short, yes, resveratrol helps lighten the skin, providing an even tone, and the good news is that numerous studies confirm it. Before we get to the good bit, here’s what you should know about resveratrol and how it can brighten skin. 

What is resveratrol

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red grapes, dark chocolate, berries, peanuts, and some red wines. You know how free radicals damage skin cells and lead to tissue damage. Well, resveratrol scavenges free radicals, shielding the skin against oxidative stress. Resveratrol also possesses anti-inflammatory properties and helps prevent and reduce sun damage.

Now, the benefits of resveratrol for skin lightening don’t stop at its antioxidant power. In fact, compared to other skin lightening agents, resveratrol can lighten skin and reduce pigmentation by multiple mechanisms. This is why you should include this multitasker in your skincare routine ASAP, especially if you are looking to tackle dark spots or hyperpigmentation.

You are just about to find out how precisely resveratrol lightens skin and how it helps reduce hyperpigmentation.

Resveratrol for skin lightening and hyperpigmentation

In skin lightening, resveratrol works by decreasing melanin synthesis by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase.[1] Tyrosinase is an enzyme responsible for producing the skin-darkening pigment called melanin — the substance that gives skin color. Thus inhibition of tyrosinase is the site of action of the most effective treatments for skin lightening and hyperpigmentation, such as hydroquinone or azelaic acid.

Studies have confirmed that resveratrol inhibited tyrosinase activity more strongly than arbutin — one of the most popular skin lightening agents.[1] Since resveratrol interferes in melanin production, it can express potent depigmenting as well as skin lightening effects. As such, resveratrol may be ideal for treating hyperpigmentation and skin discolorations.

On top of its melanin-inhibiting power, resveratrol can also reduce skin pigmentation as a result of UV exposure, free radicals, and inflammations. Because resveratrol is a potent antioxidant, it increases the skin’s defense against UV or other external aggressors, reducing the amount of melanin produced after sun exposure.[2] The same goes with free radicals, those molecules that attack the skin cells and cause damage that reflects as pigmentation, dullness, and unevenness in skin tone. By scavenging free radicals, resveratrol can reduce cell damage, preventing skin discolorations. 

How effective is resveratrol for skin lightening?

One study comparing the effects of skin lightening agents, including hydroquinone, vitamin C, arbutin, and resveratrol, found that resveratrol is the most potent tyrosinase inhibitor.[3] Moreover, clinical studies concluded that topical treatment with 1% resveratrol twice a day, five days per week for eight weeks, resulted in noticeable skin lightening effects without irritations.[1]

How to use resveratrol for skin lightening?

Resveratrol is most effective for skin whitening when used topically in a concentration of at least 1%.[1] For better results, resveratrol should be applied twice daily. Resveratrol is also considered safe and has a well tolerable profile with minimal side effects. 

Furthermore, resveratrol is often used in conjunction with other skin brightening agents for enhanced benefits. For instance, it was seen that resveratrol provides better skin lightening effects when used with glycolic acid.[4] It’s assumed that resveratrol reduces the production of new melanin while glycolic acid removes the skin cells that previously accumulated melanin. This combination was found to decrease the pigment level by 32% in eight weeks.

Retinol with resveratrol is another mix that works like a charm. Retinol works on the same principle as glycolic acid by removing the pigmented cells, but it also enhances resveratrol’s skin penetration power, making it more effective. Whether you choose to use resveratrol alone or with glycolic acid, retinol, or vitamin C, make sure you do a patch test before. Like most ingredients, resveratrol can cause irritations for people with sensitive skin, especially when it’s used with other active ingredients. 

Best resveratrol products for skin lightening

  1. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel – This one uses the combination I mentioned earlier, resveratrol with glycolic acid, plus other antioxidants and acids to improve skin texture and brighten skin tone – Available at Amazon for $190
  2. SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E – For a night serum with 1% pure resveratrol this is it – Avaiable at SkinCeuticals for $153
  3. The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% – This serum uses 3% resveratrol with ferulic acid to target dark spots and skin discolorations – Available at Sephora for $7.90
  1. Boo YC. Human Skin Lightening Efficacy of Resveratrol and Its Analogs: From in Vitro Studies to Cosmetic Applications. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(9):332. Published 2019 Aug 22. doi:10.3390/antiox8090332
  2. Lee TH, Seo JO, Baek SH, Kim SY. Inhibitory effects of resveratrol on melanin synthesis in ultraviolet B-induced pigmentation in Guinea pig skin. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2014;22(1):35-40. doi:10.4062/biomolther.2013.081
  3. Na JI, Shin JW, Choi HR, Kwon SH, Park KC. Resveratrol as a Multifunctional Topical Hypopigmenting Agent. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(4):956. Published 2019 Feb 22. doi:10.3390/ijms20040956
  4. Jo DJ, Seok JK, Kim SY, Park W, Baek JH, Kim YM, Boo YC. Human skin-depigmenting effects of resveratryl triglycolate, a hybrid compound of resveratrol and glycolic acid. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2018 Apr 16. doi: 10.1111/ics.12458. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 29663438.
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