Think: Late mornings, leisurely bike rides, and French pastries.
As a Brit, I am all too familiar with the annual tragedy that is summertime in the UK. Every year, without fail, bikinis, sandals, and dresses gather dust while umbrellas and wellies wear thin from overuse. But even by our standards, the weather this summer was abysmal; a grim montage of blustery BBQs, flooded festivals, and washout weddings. As storms raged outside our London apartment, my boyfriend and I finally cracked: We booked flights to Mykonos and didn’t look back.
And it’s safe to say that our holiday didn’t disappoint. Our days were spent languidly relaxing by sun-speckled waters, greedily gorging on feta and tzatziki, and meandering back to our hotel each night with full bellies and cheeks flushed pink from one too many glasses of local wine. One thing that was not on my bingo card for this holiday, however, was that I’d be voluntarily smothering grapes all over my face rather than drinking them.
On the last day of our adventure on the Grecian island, I decided to book myself in for a facial at Ciel Spa, a retreat perched atop a rugged cliffside that appeared to be a welcome relief from the hectic old town and raucous beach clubs.
While browsing the spa menu, my curiosity was piqued by the option of an “Aegean grape facial.” According to the spa’s website, this facial was intended as an “antioxidant treatment with red grape stem cells” with results including “deep hydration, improved elasticity, anti-aging protection, and wrinkle reduction.”
I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Was I reading this right? It had never even occurred to me that grapes could be such a skincare powerhouse. Were grapes nature’s best-kept beauty secret? I was about to find out.
The benefits of grapes for skin
Vinotherapy—or the use of grape seeds, stalks, and skins in beauty treatments—has become increasingly popular thanks to an increase in understanding of the benefits that grapes can have on skin.
“Studies have shown that the phytochemicals in grapes can enhance wound healing,” says board-certified dermatologist Lauren Eckert Ploch, MD. “They also have antioxidant activity greater than many vitamins we associate with antioxidant activity, like vitamins C and E.”
Much of the power of grapes comes from an antioxidant called resveratrol, which works to “neutralize fine lines and established wrinkles while softening hyperpigmentation,” says Lenga Grigoriadou, founder of Lenga Oenotherapy, a wine-based line of skin care. It does this by stimulating the production of Sirtuin 1 proteins in our cells, which staves off cellular aging and enhances the health and longevity of the skin.
Grape juice also contains another superstar antioxidant polyphenol called delta-viniferin, which “protects the skin from the attacks of free radicals, enhances radiance and color tone, and promotes firmness by activating collagen synthesis,” says Lenga.
So though drinking too much wine can leave skin dull and dehydrated, there are radiance-inducing reasons to apply it topically.
What happened when I tried a wine facial
After a ferociously windy and dusty quad bike ride along a steep, mountainous dirt track, I finally made it to Ciel Spa, and it’s safe to say that the view was well worth the treacherous journey. It honestly felt like I had stepped straight into a painting; a palette of sapphire and turquoise blues swirled together like brushstrokes, and the whole scene was put into sharp relief by the luminously bright, whitewashed houses dotted across the cliffside. It was a scene of surreal beauty, and I was hypnotized by it. I snapped out of this trance when Joanna, my spa therapist, warmly welcomed me before ushering me over to my treatment bed beneath a canopy.
My Aegean grape facial began with Joanna massaging Lenga Oenatherapy’s Facial Cleansing Milk ($12), composed of grape and chamomile extract, into my skin using upward motions. The creamy cleanser glided effortlessly onto my sensitive skin, causing zero irritation. What’s more, it smells divine. It’s got the heady, slightly herbal aroma of grapes combined with an indulgent cocktail of natural oils and essences, and I felt like I could get drunk just from inhaling it.
Next came a second cleanse with a tonic lotion designed to completely remove residual dirt and makeup, which prepped my skin for a gentle, physical exfoliation. Then it was time for a facial massage using Lenga’s Dry Oil ($20), which is composed exclusively of six natural oils: grape, almond, argan, prickly pear, apricot, and macadamia. Because it’s a dry oil, “it doesn’t leave your face oily or block your pores,” Joanna assured me. And she was right: Post-application, my skin didn’t feel heavy with grease—it was silky-smooth and well-moisturized.
Finally, she smothered my fave with a hydrating mask that contains a superstar ingredient known as delta-viniferin, “an antioxidant polyphenol found in grape juice that protects the skin from the attacks of free radicals, enhances radiance and color tone, and promotes firmness by activating collagen synthesis,” says Lenga. Then, she topped things off with a hydrating serum and moisturizer.
By the time I emerged from my Aegean grape facial, I felt deeply replenished. While the experience itself was dripping in decadence, there was more to it than that. When I looked in the mirror, I was genuinely taken aback by how glowing and healthy my skin looked—there was a visible, immediate difference in my complexion.
When I reunited with my boyfriend, he was equally impressed with the results—so much so that he couldn’t stop caressing my face and saying that it felt “like a marshmallow” (a surprisingly accurate way to describe the bouncy, velvety quality of my post-facial skin). The results lingered for a few days, too—even after our flight home, my face still felt cushiony soft.
Though you’ll have to jet to Greece to get your hands on Lenga Oenatherapy’s products, there are plenty of other resveratrol-rich formulas that can help you recreate this dreamy facial without ever leaving your bathroom.
The resveratrol in this cleanser comes in encapsulated form, meaning that it releases slowly into the skin over time for maximum effects. It pairs the ingredient with niacinamide (to brighten skin) and peptides (which deliver a plumping effect), so you’ll get benefits that go beyond just clean skin every time you wash your face.
French skin-care brand Caudalie is lauded for its wine-inspired products, and this brightening formula is well worth adding to your routine. It combines resveratrol with glycolic acid, a chemical exfoliant that melts away dead skin cells to resurface the skin and allow for peak penetration of whatever products you put on next.
Resveratrol is one of three potent antioxidants in this overnight serum (it’s paired with baicalin and pure vitamin E), which work together to scavenge free radicals and stave off visible signs of skin aging. If you’re going to splurge for one resveratrol-rich treatment to add to your routine, make it this one.
Caudalie’s resveratrol products are so good that it wasn’t enough to include just one of them on this list. The brand’s Resveratrol-Lift Firming Moisturizer pairs its antioxidant benefits with a vegan collagen alternative to visibly lift and firm skin, plus hyaluronic acid and shea butter for hydration. As an added bonus, the formula is infused with microscopic pearlizers that provide an instant lit-from-within radiance that will have you swearing your skin is fresh from an actual facial.
Similar to the mask that was used during my pro-grade treatment, this formula pairs grape seed and wine extracts with ultra-nourishing ingredients like carrot oil, vitamin E, and shea butter. For a boost of brightness and hydration, add it to your routine 2-3 nights per week.
Korres’ “skin drink” packs a triple threat of grape-derived ingredients—grape extract, resveratrol, and grape seed oil—into its formula, and they all come straight from Santorini. It’s essentially a Greek island vacation in a bottle, and is a great final step for your DIY wine facial.