The good grape: Discover the benefits of grapeseed oil
The seeds of grapes can be compressed into a luxurious beauty oil that’s perfect for the natural skincare beauty.
Grapes are a delicious sweet treat that are full of flavour and refreshing on the palate. They can be enjoyed on their own, or crushed or pressed and made into wine or grape juice. The seeds within the grapes can also be compressed to make a light, luxurious oil that’s a perfect pampering product for those who embrace natural beauty.
Grapes are grown on a perennial woody vine and can be found in regions with warm temperate climates, like New Zealand, Australia, Italy, parts of Europe, North Africa and regions within Asia. Each grape contains about four seeds, and when pressed around 14–20 per cent of oil is extracted. The oil has culinary uses as a healthy cooking oil, and it can also be found in lotions, serums, creams, shampoos and lip balms.
A bunch for brunch or beauty
Grapes have been enjoyed for over 6000 years, since the time of the ancient Greeks. A little more recently, the natural therapeutic virtues of grapeseed oil were discovered. Researcher Evangelia Sotiropoulou from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, says in the 14th century, during the reign of Ferdinand IV, King of Castile and León, grapeseed oil was discovered as a natural beauty product to help problem skin. It was called “royal oil”.
But the merits of grapeseed oil weren’t widely known until centuries later. Until recent times, in many countries when grapes were crushed for winemaking, the pomace (which contains the skins, pulp, seeds and stems) was simply discarded as a by-product. Now the miniscule grape seeds can be pressed or manipulated to extract the grapeseed oil.
In a changing world where repurposing, reusing and recycling is becoming the catchcry for those concerned with depleting natural resources — as we all should be — utilising far more of the by-product of grapes is a powerful win for the environment. And there is certainly plenty of product to access, with wine being a favourite tipple for many.
Grapeseed oil contains micronutrients called polyphenols found in plant-based foods, which help to fight premature ageing and more.
Winemaking is big business the world over, and there are reportedly 25,950 million hectolitres (a measure of 100 litres) of wine produced each year, creating 1,089,900 tonnes of seeds.
Grapeseed oil is a very versatile product. It’s a healthy substitute for baking oil and stir-fry oil, as it has a very high smoke point. This means food can be cooked to optimal crispness without burning. It’s also popular with chefs, because unlike some oils which can have a pungent nutty or earthy taste, grapeseed oil has a very subtle palatable flavour. It complements and enhances a dish rather than overshadows it, so the food can shine.
As well as being eaten in cooking, or applied to the skin or hair, grapeseed oil can be consumed in liquid or capsule form. Kate Dear, Dermatology Research Fellow at the Skin Health Institute, says it has a host of other health benefits, including lowered blood pressure and heart rate.
Dear adds that grapeseed oil also has several constituents that may be anti-carcinogenic. “In particular, polyphenols have been reported to exert anticancer effects on tumour cells in the skin, as well as the mouth, stomach, gastrointestinal, liver, lung and mammary gland cells,” she says.
Grapeseed oil absorbs easily into the skin because of its light texture, boosting hydration rapidly, and it won’t leave behind an oily residue.
It’s an antioxidant and it also has antimicrobial properties; it’s also inexpensive and easy to acquire. Grapeseed oil contains micronutrients called polyphenols found in plant-based foods, which help to fight premature ageing and more.
As a natural beauty product, grapeseed oil is nutrient-rich and contains a host of properties that are beneficial to the skin, according to naturopath Annamaria Tizzone from Studio You. “It’s a very emollient skin conditioner, with superior lubricating and skin protective qualities,” she says.
Try regular massage with grapeseed oil mixed with lavender or rosemary oil as part of your natural beauty routine.
“Grapeseed oil is high in vitamins A, C and E and omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. It’s also high in linoleic and oleic acid, and this oil has the ability to be quite easily mixed with water.”
So, for those who enjoy creamy water-based cleansers, grapeseed oil is a great natural alternative. Just mix a small amount with a little water for a light and luxurious beauty product.
If you are looking for a soothing scalp treatment, Tizzone suggests a grapeseed blend. “Slightly warm grapeseed oil over a double boiler or use a bowl over a hot bowl of water to warm it. Pop in a teaspoon each of jojoba, grapeseed and avocado oil, add a few drops of rosemary oil, and massage into the scalp.”
The good oil?
While grapeseed oil is widely accepted as a beautiful natural skincare product, it’s not without controversy, because of the way some of it is produced. Sometimes commercially produced grapeseed oil is manufactured with a toxic chemical solvent called hexane, which is also a cleaning agent.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to source grapeseed oil that’s been cold-pressed. The traditional way of cold-pressing whole grape seeds is in a hydraulic press. With cold-pressing, you are sourcing a 100 per cent natural product without potentially harmful additives or processing methods.
The cold-pressed variety is definitely preferred by natural beauty experts. Sourcing an oil from plants that are grown and manufactured without herbicides or pesticides and processed without chemicals is always a better option. Tizzone says she always recommends organic and cold-pressed grapeseed oil. “You’ll be sourcing the best-quality oil, processed cleanly, and the grapevines also haven’t been plied with harmful chemicals,” she says.
Finding the best-quality product means not only checking its integrity, but its colour and aroma. Tizzone says ideally it should be mid-yellow to green. “Also always check the oil has a slight vinegary sweet aroma and doesn’t smell or look ‘off’. You wouldn’t eat oil that is rancid, you also shouldn’t put it on your skin.”
High in vitamin E
Grapeseed oil is rich in vitamin E, a fat-soluble compound that is a powerful skin hydrator. The vitamin E and essential fatty acid linoleic acid work in harmony to nourish and fortify the skin barrier.
Vitamin E fights free radicals, which of course cause harmful oxidative stress on the body, leaving it more susceptible to a range of health conditions and disease. Free radicals, when coupled with the environmental impacts of sun and wind, can be very damaging to the skin, contributing to dry skin and premature ageing.
Light and fruity
Grapeseed oil is a great addition to your summer natural beauty regime because it’s lightweight. Its subtle consistency is also beneficial if you are prone to breakouts. Grapeseed oil is non-comedogenic, says Tizzone, so it won’t clog your pores. “It’s ideal for oily or acne-prone skin, and it’s very low-irritant so also works well on sensitive skin,” she says. As an added benefit, grapeseed oil can also lighten skin discolorations like sunspots and acne scars, due to the combination of active ingredients like linoleic acid and vitamin E.
While it is a potent hydrator for most skin types, for very dry skin, Tizzone suggests it might not be the best option. “If you have dry flaky skin, you might find that it’s not enough. I’d choose an alternative natural oil.”
Tizzone adds that if your skin type isn’t suitable for grapeseed oil and you’d still like to reap the nutritional benefits, try layering it. “Use grapeseed oil as a serum underneath and layer it over the top with a thicker oil that’s more emollient, like hemp seed oil or avocado oil,” she says.
Hydrating your hair helps to prevent dryness and brittle ends — especially if you use drying implements like hair straighteners and blow-dryers. Grapeseed oil is a natural hair tonic: the vitamin E it contains promotes strong hydrated locks.
It may also help to promote hair regrowth. It’s not just men who experience hair loss as they age. Postmenopause, some women begin to notice hair thinning and loss. The good news is grapeseed oil may help to alleviate this. A Japanese study on mice showed the proanthocyanidins extracted from grapeseed oil has the potential to induce hair growth. If it works on mice, it may work on humans, too. It can’t hurt to try it.
Fight skin inflammation
Grapeseed oil may also help to reduce skin inflammation. Dear says the phytosterols and polyphenols in grapeseed oil inhibit the release of arachidonic acid (AA) which is responsible for the production of leukotrienes and prostaglandins, substances that activate an inflammatory response.
“It is likely that grapeseed oil has anti-inflammatory effects, but whether the anti-inflammatory effects can be noticed in human skin from the small amount of oil used on the skin is not known,” she says.
It may also be helpful for healing cuts and wounds. A study by the University of Diyala in Iraq showed grapeseed oil improved wound healing in rabbits. The study by the College of Veterinary Medicine determined grapeseed oil hastens wound healing by releasing inflammatory cytokines from surrounding tissue cells. In other words, it speeds up the wound-healing process.
Soothing massage oil
The benefits of massage are well documented. Massage offers relief for tired muscles, boosts circulation, can help with flexibility and leads to improved range of motion.
Grapeseed oil is a popular massage oil, whether on its own or blended with other oils, because of its light texture, easy absorption and intense moisturising properties. It also has a very subtle aroma, which means it won’t overpower other additives blended with it for massage.
Try regular massage with grapeseed oil mixed with lavender or rosemary oil as part of your natural beauty routine.
Who should avoid it?
Generally, grapeseed oil is safe to consume and use topically on the skin. If you have sensitive skin, as with any new product you haven’t used before, it pays to play it safe. Spot-test a small patch with a few drops of grapeseed oil.
While grapeseed oil is safe to use on the skin, Dear says if you are taking grapeseed oil orally, there are some situations where it should be avoided. “People taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin or aspirin should avoid grapeseed oil.”
Fast beauty fixes with grapeseed oil
- If you suffer from dry itching scalp or dandruff, rubbing a little grapeseed oil into your scalp can help to alleviate symptoms.
- When you step out of the shower, rub a little grapeseed oil into your body from top to toe.
- Make grapeseed oil part of your regular beauty regime. Gently rub a couple of drops on your face before bedtime.
- Add a few drops to a cotton wool pad and wipe gently over the skin to remove make-up.
- For a quick facial pick-me-up, mix a little grapeseed oil with yoghurt, apply to your face, and pop a couple of cucumber or potato slices on your eyes to reduce puffiness. Rinse off after 15 minutes in cool water.
Grapes for beautiful skin
Dating back to the Middle Ages, the Doctrine of Signature’s premise is that herbs or foods resembling various parts of the body can be used to treat ailments of those body parts. For example, walnuts (which resemble the human brain) are beneficial brain food. Naturopath Annamaria Tizzone from Studio You says the same can be said for other foods. “For example, tomatoes are good for the heart and grapes look juicy, plump and full, much like healthy skin should look,” she says.
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