Your dermatologist might talk about benzoyl peroxide, moisturisers, and antibiotics like there’s no tomorrow, but the best weapons for strengthening your skin may be sitting on your shelf right now: namely, everyday fruits and vegetables.
Most people don’t realise this fact, but consider strawberries. If you start using Benzoyl Peroxide, the cycle will go something like this. 1) Your pimples will become less prominent for a week or two, 2) the free radicals designed to kill p.acnes bacteria will backfire and lead to clogged skin pores and 3) your acne will revert back to normal within weeks.
Meanwhile, one cup of fully ripe strawberries contains 97% of the RDA for vitamin C, which keeps stress levels low and speeds up the healing of old acne by increasing collagen formation. Strawberries are an excellent food for antioxidants, which build a natural armour into your skin against sunlight and air pollution.
Finally, strawberries are teeming with thousands of highly varied phytonutrients with highly varied powers, with just one example being an anti-inflammatory flavanol compound called quercetin. You can obtain all those benefits simply by eating a tasty piece of fruit ready made by nature. You don’t waste hours each month with a chemical regime that gets you nowhere.
That’s why if you’re a newbie, then I recommend that you switch your focus from cleansers and moisturisers to a top notch diet, today.
The reality is that topical treatments are great extra weapons, if they’re natural like raw honey, but to cure your acne for good you have to focus on diet and lifestyle…
…and one of the better examples of an everyday fruit that can secretly function as a skin-clearing weapon is the ordinary grocery store grape. In fact, grapes are a real secret weapon because if you casually glance at a nutrition table, they look useless, but nevertheless perform superbly in all scientific studies.
Grapes – deceptively low in basic nutrition
If you want to judge both red and green grapes by their basic vitamins and minerals then they’d place close to the bottom of the fruit pile. Firstly, 100 grams of grapes contains a tiny 18% of the RDA for vitamin C. Compare that to 97% in strawberries, 79% in pineapples, and 43% in raspberries; almost every other fruit contains more.
18% doesn’t sound terrible for one serving of grapes, but for acne-cleaning purposes the RDA of 60mg is far too low (200mg is optimal), so it is actually quite poor.
Why does this matter? Vitamin C is a highly overlooked nutrient for acne; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol, accelerates wound healing, and is also the number one dietary antioxidant in humans. That makes vitamin C one of the big reasons to include fruit in an acne-clearing diet, but grapes lack it.
The rest of the nutrients are lacking as well; 100 grams of both red and green grapes contains…
- Vitamin C – 18% of RDA.
- Magnesium – 2%.
- Vitamin A – 1%.
- Calcium – 1%.
- Iron – 2%.
- Vitamin B6 – 4%.
- Vitamin E – 1%.
- Vitamin B12 – 0%.
- Manganese – 4%.
- Selenium – 0%.
- Potassium – 5%.
- Vitamin D – 0%.
- Zinc – 0%.
- Vitamin K1 – 18%.
There’s nothing of note at all there. Grapes are one of the better fruits for vitamin K, but unlike the pore-unclogging vitamin E or the oil production-lowering vitamin A, vitamin K has no benefits for the skin. Speaking of those two vital nutrients, grapes contain nearly none. There’s little of the elite trio of acne-clearing minerals, magnesium, zinc, and selenium either.
Grapes also aren’t brilliant for antioxidants. Red grapes score 1837 on the ORAC scale while green grapes score 1018, scores which are decent but don’t compensate for the lack of other nutrients. Every type of berry is dramatically superior, including strawberries (4302), raspberries (5065), blackberries (5905), blueberries (4996), and cranberries (9090).
Overall, grapes look useless on the surface, and if this was indicative of their entire ability to clear acne, then they’d be shunted right to the back of the skin-clearing fruit queue alongside cantaloupe and honeydew melons. But when you go deeper, there’s more to the story.
Grapes somehow have a variety of acne-clearing powers
Despite their lack of acne nutrition, grapes perform excellently in virtually all scientific studies performed.
There’s a ton of studies on grapes due to the worldwide popularity of red wine, and for areas of health related to acne there’s almost too many to choose from. First we have the subject of chronic inflammation, an overactive immune system, which is the number one internal cause of acne.
This study fed 46 grams of grape powder equivalent to 252 grams of whole grapes to a group of humans; after four weeks their levels of numerous anti-inflammatory markers including interleukin 10 and adiponectin had shot up.
This study fed grape powder to a group of humans with kidney disease; when fed a placebo they had elevated levels of the classic pro-inflammatory biomarker c-reactive protein, but when fed grapes this increase was eliminated. This led the scientists to conclude that “the use of grape powder as phenolic source could play an important role as an anti-inflammatory agent”. This study, this study, and this study all observed lowered inflammation from grape marc, grape powder extract, and whole grapes respectively.
Next we have fantastic results on antioxidants and blood free radical levels. The ORAC scores of 1837 and 1018 are decent but the studies on humans all dramatically outperform them:
- This human study observed that grape juice had a cancer-protective effect and defended DNA against damage and that the effect was due to a lowering of blood free radicals.
- This study observed a 71% increase in liver levels of the master antioxidant glutathione (learn why it’s vital for acne here).
- This study fed grape juice to 21 humans and observed increases in total blood antioxidant levels leading to the conclusion that “consuming moderate amounts of daily grape juice may favorably affect antioxidant defense systems”.
- This study found that grape skin powder increased glutathione levels in the liver of rabbits while decreasing lipid peroxides, the deadliest form of free radical for acne.
- 50 cardiovascular patients were fed red grape powder for twelve weeks (study); by the end their levels of blood lipid peroxides and overall oxidative stress had fallen “significantly”.
The meaning of this for acne is very simple but extremely important. More antioxidants equals a lower likelihood that the sebum (oil) on your skin will be oxidised and become more potent at clogging skin pores. Less free radicals/oxidative stress means that less bodily antioxidants will be depleted.
Next we have a fascinating study where grapes wiped out a particularly deadly strain of gut bacteria known h.pylori. It’s said that humans are only 10% human; we have 10 trillion human cells and 100 trillion bacterial cells, many of which reside in our gut. An overgrowth of the wrong type of gut bacteria is one of the most overlooked conditions behind acne.
H.pylori is specifically linked to acne via increasing the risk of food allergies and leaky gut syndrome. Grapes wiped it out with ease. Interestingly, the subspecies called the muscadine grape performed particularly strongly.
Grapes also have an excellent topical study where they massively boosted resistance to UV radiation. Antioxidants extracted from grapes could inhibit the formation of free radicals in the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis. The main agent was also identified as the common antioxidant gallic acid which red grapes are especially rich in.
While the grapes in this study were applied directly, they could still strengthen the skin when eaten because other antioxidants in foods like beta-carotene are known to migrate to your face and build up in skin cells there.
Grapes can end oily skin via insulin control?
Finally, we have a truly excellent study related to type 2 diabetes. If you don’t know already, then type 2 diabetes is the end progression of severely impaired insulin sensitivity, high blood sugar, and high insulin levels. All of those conditions result in severely oily skin due to insulin being the most potent hormone at stimulating receptors in the skin’s sebaceous glands, our face’s main oil pumps. That brings us to the study, which compared common fruits for their effects on type 2 diabetes in 66105 women and 36173 men.
Among the 14 fruits tested, grapes and raisins were tied second in their ability to prevent type 2 diabetes from developing when eaten at least thrice per week. They were only beaten by blueberries, and beat tons of theoretically healthier fruits, including oranges, strawberries, and apples. Plums, prunes, peaches and apricots were all inferior to grapes.
This strongly suggests that grapes have an ability to control insulin sensitivity and blood sugar somehow, which should result in less oily skin and less clogged pores.
What’s particularly interesting is that strawberries, a food with far more nutrients and dramatically more antioxidants than grapes, were inferior to both grapes and apples. Clearly grapes have a unique unidentified property, or a unique composition of specific phytonutrients that can keep insulin and high blood sugar in check.
Raisins, nothing more than dried grapes, performed just as superbly, so the stellar results for grapes were not a fluke. This study and this study again suggest that grapes have benefits for high insulin and blood sugar.
Grapes also contain a bonus resveratrol helping
The positive results don’t end there; both red and green grapes (but red more so) are sources of the perhaps the most famous antioxidant ever: resveratrol.
Resveratrol is a phytoalexin compound manufactured in the grape’s skin, designed to ward off fungi and insects. It shows a variety of positive health effects in the human body; countless newspaper headlines have claimed things like “red wine holds the key to long life” and “take resveratrol and live to age 150” over approximately the last ten years.
Normally, you should always approach newspaper hype stories like this sceptically, but this time the hype is real. Resveratrol activates an anti-aging gene known as SIRT-3 which kick-starts the mitochondrial energy source of human cells, the same gene that calorie restriction extends lifespan by activating. Resveratrol in copious amounts of red wine every day is also the reason why the French live so long and enjoy good heart health (possibly).
As for acne, resveratrol functions as a potent antioxidant itself, and is said to be several times more potent than vitamin C. But even better is the fact that resveratrol increases your body’s production of its own antioxidants too, namely superoxide dismutase.
Resveratrol is also known to inhibit numerous pro-inflammatory actors, messengers and chemicals, including sphingosine kinase, COX-2, NF-KappaB and phospholipase D (which is great news for acne).
The best study ever conducted on resveratrol compared a placebo cream to a resveratrol cream and applied them both to each side of an acne patient’s face. After 60 days, there was little difference on the placebo side; a non-significant 6% drop. But on the resveratrol side the total pimple count fell by a massive 54%. Luckily, the evidence suggests that resveratrol’s benefits can be replicated by eating it.
In the media, red wine is most strongly associated with resveratrol and the red grapes that it’s derived from contain decent amounts too. 100 grams contains approximately 0.15mg, with green grapes containing significantly less at 0.02mg.
Grapes actually aren’t the richest fruit for resveratrol at all. Strawberries contain significantly more with 0.35mg, cementing their status as the greatest fruit for clearing acne of all. Many of the best studies were conducted on high concentration supplements as well; the quantities in grapes won’t have as amazing an effect.
But given the positive studies on whole grapes outlined above the resveratrol is a great bonus indeed (full article on resveratrol here). Remember to eat the skins as that’s where the resveratrol is naturally concentrated, in order to keep moulds and fungi from accessing the interior. In fact, over 95% of the average grape’s total antioxidants are in the skin.
Any downsides for acne?
Grapes are not perfect for an acne-clearing enthusiast by any means. Why? The common grocery store seedless grape is one of the highest fruits in sugar, with both red and green containing 15 grams per 100 grams.
Worse still, there’s only a miniscule amount of fiber, 0.9 grams, which is found in the skins. All fruits contain sugar, but fiber absorbs and slows its digestion, minimising the acne-causing consequences like inflammation and formation of AGEs (advanced glycation end products – a type of free radical). The lack of fiber is itself a detriment because fiber provides fuel for acne-friendly strains of healthy gut bacteria.
The sugar is what keeps grapes from being a cream of the crop fruit and instead keeps them somewhere towards the middle alongside apples and bananas…
…but nevertheless, if you organise an acne-friendly diet that has one high sugar fruit slot, one medium sugar fruit slot, and two low sugar fruit slots, you can easily obtain the acne-clearing benefits of grapes without detrimental consequences. One system per day could be a serving of red grapes (high sugar), an apple (10 grams), and a handful each of strawberries (4.9 grams) and raspberries (4.4 grams).
What’s more, grapes contain no defensive plant toxins like oxalates, but they are a member of the high FODMAP fruit club. If you’re sensitive to high FODMAP fruits then grapes could easily trigger a massive outbreak…
…but if you’re not, then sugar is pretty much the only problem. Conventional grapes are dripping with pesticides but luckily, the organic version is cheap (unlike raspberries or blueberries).
What’s most interesting about grapes is that they don’t just have one power. They’re completely different to pineapple, which has the two standout acne gimmicks of being a great source of vitamin C and containing the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain.
Grapes can control and improve a variety of areas which feed through to your skin. Lower insulin equals less oily skin, more antioxidants equals less risk of that oil mutating and clogging pores, and suppressed inflammation equals calmer pimples.
Grapes are great as an all-purpose fruit for improving many areas of health related to acne. They look mediocre on the surface for basic nutrition, but actual results in the human body show a huge discrepancy in our favour.
The strategy – red vs green
If you are going to utilise the nutrition in grapes to get clear skin naturally then the smartest choice is easily red grapes.
The difference between red and green varieties is not enormous; in particular, the basic nutrients like vitamin C and E are virtually identical. But red grapes contain 5 times more resveratrol, with 0.15mg to green grapes’ 0.02mg. Analogs of resveratrol which function similarly in the body are also more abundant in red grapes, analogs which include trans-resveratrol and trans-resveratrol 3-O-glucoside.
In fact, antioxidants are the main difference overall. The red grape has an ORAC score of 1837 compared to 1018 for green grapes. Take a look at the quantities for various scientifically identified antioxidants (winner in bold):
Catechin – 1.41mg in green, 5.46mg in red.
Epicatechin – 0.49mg in green, 5.24mg in red.
Epigallocatechin – greens have 0.02mg, reds have 0.03mg.
Resveratrol – green (0.02mg), red (0.15mg).
Procyanidin dimer B1 – 0.64mg (green), 0.43mg (red).
PCD B2 – 0.06mg (green), 0.36mg (red).
PCD B3 – 0.20mg (green), 0.12mg (red).
PCD B4 – 0.38mg (green), 0.33mg (red).
Epicatechin 3-0 gallate – 0.25mg (green), red (1.68mg).
Trans-resveratrol – 0.03mg (green), 0.15mg (red).
Caffeoyl tartaric acid – 2.74mg (green), 1.14mg (red).
Quercetin 3-O glucuronide – 1.50mg (green), 2.15mg (red).
Procyanidin trimer C1 – 0.07mg (green), 0.38mg (red).
P-coumaroyl tartaric acid – 1.00mg (green), 0.56mg (red).
Green grapes are victorious for 5 antioxidant varieties, but overall, red is the clear winner with 9. Both are great options, but red grapes will give your skin the maximum advantage in clearness and radiance.
The explanation is interesting as well. Both the dark colour and antioxidant content of red grapes is derived from a gene in the plant which produces anthocyanins, one of the most potent classes of antioxidants. Anthocyanins are designed to attract insects to pollinate and keep infections at bay, but also attract mammals such as us to eat them and spread the seeds (which we have now successfully bred away). Green grapes, meanwhile, carry the gene responsible for making anthocyanins but the gene is inactive due to mutations.
The result is that the plant stays green, and has less antioxidants overall. You can see that by observing wild grapes, grapes that have to survive independently without farmer’s agrochemicals keeping insects at bay.
Almost every species of wild grape in the modern world is purple, red, or blue. The Ancient Egyptians and Greeks gave birth to modern wine industry 5000 years ago; their favored variety of grapes was said to be purple.
So if you ever stumble across an obscure variety of grape in the wild (there’s thousands of subspecies across every continent except Antarctica), a darker color is always superior. Remember that colour is also a superb indicator of other plant foods’ antioxidant strength; the common blackberry, which stains your teeth purple if you eat too many, has one of the highest ORAC scores of any fruit (5905).
Avoid hyper-sweet versions!
Whatever you do, do not pick the cotton candy grape. This is the latest phenomenon in fruit, the candy fruit.
Essentially, some farmers are giving up the fight in persuading the public to adopt a healthy diet full of nutritious fruits. They’ve adopted an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” strategy and have used all their talents to breed a new sub-species of grape that’s loaded with so much sugar it tastes like candy floss.
This quote comes from someone who sampled one: “the taste triggers the unmistakable sensation of eating a puffy, pink ball of spun sugar”. When asked why they did this, the agriculture company responsible claimed that they have to compete with candy bars and cookies.
Don’t get tempted into it! If you notice that the grape you’re eating tastes like candy floss then throw it in the bin. The goal with acne and fruits is simple: maximise the nutrient intake while minimising the inevitable sugar intake, so reject cotton candy grapes at all costs.
This illustrates a more important point; even if you don’t accidently buy this specific variety, there’s bound to be other farmers attempting the same sweetening strategy.
Therefore you should use your taste buds to reject any sickly sweet variety you stumble across, and instead choose the brand with maximum flavour and thus maximum antioxidants. The rule applies to all other fruits, especially beloved staples like bananas.
Aside from the sweetness another inferior version is the Thompson seedless grape. This seedless variety wasn’t born through agriculture; it was actually a Persian mutant which had lost its seeds that we discovered 1000 years ago in the wild. The problem is that the same mutation also destroyed its production of anthocyanins and resveratrol. Therefore if you have a choice of many different brands, Thompson’s seedless should be low on the list.
Are organic grapes necessary?
Next there’s the question of organic vs conventional, and unlike bananas or pineapple, grapes are one fruit where the pesticide count is high enough that everyone should avoid it.
Why? The same reason as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and spinach. Grapes are small, and more surface area equals more room for pesticides. That’s why France’s wine industry accounts for 3.7 percent of the country’s total agricultural land, but utilises 20 percent of the country’s pesticide expenditure. Table grapes are not much better. Also, one of the most common grape pesticides, cryolite, is based on fluoride. Back in 1988 there were even union-led boycotts and hunger strikes in protest against chemical-ridden grape farming in California.
Nowadays, the deadliest pesticides are banned, but grapes both red and green still feature in the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen of pesticide-laden fruit and vegetables every single year – in 2016 they ranked sixth. My expectation is that red grapes require less chemicals since they possess more of their own natural defences like anthocyanins, but there’s no data to confirm it.
What’s more, dodgy chemicals have resurfaced; one of the worst is glyphosate, an herbicide commonly applied to GMO corn and soybeans, which we discussed at length in my eBook. Grape farmers don’t spray glyphosate directly onto grapes, according to reports, but instead spray it into the soil below grape plants to wipe out weeds. The bad news is that the plants do absorb chemicals from soil and it does end up in the fruit…
…and consequently, a recent study showed that 100% of conventional Californian wines contain glyphosate residue. Glyphosate is classed as a level 2A “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organisation and as for acne, small levels can devastate your vital gut bacteria. Organic wines contained small amounts but luckily they were 14 times lower than conventional versions.
Therefore I strongly advice all acne patients to purchase organic grapes, or experience the consequences of pesticides including chronic inflammation and glutathione depletion.
Luckily, organic grapes are pretty cheap, at least here in England. Some reports have actually claimed that organic produce is drenched in pesticides anyway and it’s all a big lucrative scam. However, the myth was disproved in recent study on 99 different vineyards in the Mediterranean; the conventional grapes all had detectable pesticide residue but the organic ones all had undetectable pesticide residue.
The organic variety has other bonuses too, such as higher levels of resveratrol due to the plant being forced to rely on its own defences. Basically, mould growth directly stimulates the skins of grapes to increase their resveratrol levels, but when fungicides are applied by farmers, that stimulation is ended.
The verdict on grapes is straightforward; they can lower inflammation, increase antioxidant supplies, and generally improve a variety of areas that feed through beneficially to your skin.
Grapes don’t contain a standout gimmick but are a solid fruit to consume to give your entire skin system a boost. They rank somewhere in the middle of the fruit pack, below pomegranates, strawberries and raspberries, above melons and pears, about equal to apples and bananas. Make sure to purchase the organic version, and choose red grapes for the bonus antioxidants unless you hate the taste.
What’s certain is that any grape and any of the fruits mentioned above are far better for acne than any cake, cookie or chocolate bar. Even the cheapest green grape grown in the most nutritionally deprived wasteland won’t give you soy, corn, a massive dose of sugar (unless it’s the cotton candy grape), trans-fats, wheat, or vegetable oils like canola oil.
Remember: this article is just the tip of the iceberg. Nutritious fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and other assorted nutritious foods like coffee, tea and dark chocolate all possess massive powers for clearing your skin.
Never believe that benzoyl peroxide and Accutane are the only solutions to your acne.
Thanks for reading!