It’s no secret that grapes, right along with the wine they produce, have long been celebrated for their nutritional properties and healing powers. The fruit has even been given “superfood” status, thanks in large part to the fact that it’s loaded with antioxidants, which studies have linked to everything from improved heart and brain health to lower risks for certain cancers. But look more closely at the research and you’ll see that much of it focuses on the grape’s seed, along with its oils and extracts, as that’s where the greatest concentration of antioxidants can be found. So it’s not surprising that those very seeds and their derivatives have become a secret weapon in spa products and treatments designed to polish, soothe, and even repair and protect clients’ skin.
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Why it’s a skincare all-star: The skin-boosting benefits of the phytonutrients found in grape seeds and their oils and extracts are impossible for spa pros to ignore. “Grape seeds are packed with essential fatty acids and vitamins D, C and E, as well as antioxidants that can protect the skin from free radical damage,” notes Szilvia Hickman, owner and senior vice president of Ilike Organic Skin Care. “In addition to its amazing moisturizing effects, grape seed oil also has firming, tightening and nourishing benefits.”
As if all that weren’t enough, grape seed oils and extracts boast anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful in soothing skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, dermatitis and eczema. Some evidence suggests grape seed extract may even protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays, as well as reverse or minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s no wonder, then, that the nutrient-packed ingredient can be found in everything from antiaging serums to hair treatments to body lotions. Plus, the seeds themselves can be ground up and used as a gentle yet effective exfoliant.
Perhaps best of all when it comes to topical skincare applications, grape seed oil has a light texture that’s quickly and easily absorbed, says Hickman. “Rather than a greasy residue, it leaves a silky-smooth finish,” she notes. “It’s also considered hypoallergenic and therefore suitable even for clients with the most sensitive skin.”
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In the treatment room: The team at GrapeSeed Spa at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa in Temecula, California, believes in the power of grape seed so much that the ingredient has been incorporated into the establishment’s name, as well as most of its treatments. Of all the indulgent offerings, however, the GrapeSeed Renewal body scrub (50 min./$145) stands out as its biggest crowd-pleaser, says spa director Stevi Smallwood. “The scrub is a cocktail of pink Himalayan salt and crushed grape seed, which is both hydrating and great for skin tightening and antiaging benefits,” notes Smallwood. “Guests enjoy indulging in this exfoliating treatment before a massage. They always comment on how refreshed they feel afterward!”
Nichole Ramsey, regional director of operations for The Woodhouse Day Spas in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, says grape seed oil’s skin-softening and moisturizing powers make it ideal for use in the Honeybee & Berries Deluxe Manicure (50 min./$50) and Pedicure (50 min./$60). “At the end of the pedicure, a massage is performed using FarmHouse Fresh’s Quinsyberry Botanical Oil, which is infused with grape seed oil,” notes Ramsey. “The grape seed oil plays a significant role in helping to strengthen and repair damaged skin—it leaves skin glowing and hydrated but, because it absorbs completely, there’s no greasy residue.”
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The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon, features grape seeds in its signature Grape Seed Cure exfoliating treatment (90 min./$185). The luxe service begins with a crushed grape seed scrub and an organic honey and wine wrap to purify and exfoliate the skin; it’s finished with a shea butter hydration body massage. “The treatment gently exfoliates and delivers fantastic skin benefits,” says spa director Tara Calton. “It’s the star of our menu—the most popular of all our services. Guests love it because they feel so amazing afterward.”
Grape Seed Products
- Grapes, grape leaves and the sap from grape vines have been used since ancient Greek times for health purposes, but grape seed extract wasn’t developed until the 1970s.
- Most grape seeds used to produce grape seed extract and oil are obtained from wine manufacturers.
- Although their bitter taste makes them less than appetizing, grape seeds are edible on their own.
- Studies have found that topically applied grape seed extract helps skin wounds heal more quickly and with less scarring.
- Grape seed is available as a dietary supplement in capsules, tablets and liquid formulas.
- Grape seed oil is light and easily absorbed, making it a preferred carrier oil for many massage therapists
- Oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs) are considered one of the most powerful antioxidants found in grape seeds. They’re related to resveratrol, another potent antioxidant in grapes.
- Grape seed extract may have heart-health benefi ts, including lowering systolic blood pressure and heart rate.
- The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is supporting preliminary research on grape seed extract for Alzheimer’s disease, and The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is supporting preliminary studies on grape seed extract for preventing prostate, lung and colon cancer.
–by Angela Melero