A zit is usually the unannounced and unwelcome visitor at the most inopportune moments, from a work meeting to a hot date. The fight for clear skin can seem like a never-ending battle that starts at your pharmacy’s skin care aisle and ends with you at home red-faced, irritated, and with even more breakouts. To lay all your skin care woes to rest, scientists have found a way to combine one of the most touted health miracles — red wine — and topical acne medication — benzoyl peroxide — to effectively treat acne-causing bacteria, and reduce breakouts, according to a recent study published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy.

“We initially thought that since actions of the two compounds are opposing, the combination should cancel the other out, but they didn’t,” said Dr. Emma Taylor, lead study author and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, in a news release. Current acne treatments like retinoids, antibiotics, Accutane (isotretinoin), and benzoyl peroxide are available on the market to treat mild to moderate acne. Topical treatments that include benzoyl peroxide, an oxidant, reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria by causing the skin to dry and peel by creating free radicals. UCLA researchers wondered what would happen if they combined benzoyl peroxide with resveratrol — an antioxidant in red wine that stops the formation of free radicals — to fight Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), the acne-causing bacteria.

Taylor and her colleagues sought to determine whether resveratrol in combination with benzoyl peroxide may be a potential treatment for acne vulgaris, or acne by growing colonies of the acne-causing bacteria, and adding concentrations of resveratrol and benzoyl peroxide both alone and together. The cultures for bacterial growth or killing were monitored for 10 days. The lab experiment would determine whether the combination of an oxidant and antioxidant would cancel each other out, or potentially be able to stop bacterial growth together.

The findings revealed benzoyl peroxide was able to initially kill the bacteria at all concentration levels, but the effect was short-lived; it did not last over the first 24 hours. The red wine antioxidant did not have a strong killing capacity, but it did stop bacterial growth for a longer period of time. However, the combination of the two compounds proved the most effective in reducing bacteria counts. “It was like combining the best of both worlds and offering a two-pronged attack on the bacteria,” said Dr. Jenny Kim, senior author of the study and professor of clinical medicine in the division of dermatology at the Geffen School, in the news release.

To test the toxicity of the two compounds, the researchers also cultured human skin cells and blood cells. Benzoyl peroxide was found to be much more toxic than resveratrol, which may help explain why the skin has a tendency to become red and irritated when benzoyl peroxide is used as a topical treatment in high dose or concentration. The combination of the two compounds did prolong the antibacterial effects on acne, and minimized its toxicity to other skin cells.

This finding corresponds to a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology which found over a 50 percent reduction in acne activity and type of lesions when patients used a resveratrol gel. The Global Acne Grading System score, which measures acne activity such as number and type of lesions, was used in the study. The Italian researchers concluded the resveratrol gel had clinically and statistically significant decreases in acne lesions, although they do believe this warrants further investigation.

Red wine is making a big comeback not only for our heart health, but our skin health. It’s time to raise your glass and say cheers to clear and healthy-looking skin!

Sources: Champer T, Kim J, Taylor EJM, Yu Y. Resveratrol Demonstrates Antimicrobial Effects Against Propionibacterium acnes In Vitro. Dermatology and Therapy. 2014.

Ayala F, Battimiello V, De Vita V, et al. Resveratrol-containing gel for the treatment of acne vulgaris: a single-blind, vehicle-controlled, pilot study. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2011.