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Science Saturday: Polyphenols

Today we’re taking a look at polyphenols! Don’t let the name scare you- they are awesome phytochemicals that are probably in more of your products than you think!

Polyphenols are a group of over 4,000 antioxidants, found in everything from green tea and red wine to chocolate and pomegranates!1 Don’t worry, we aren’t going to dive into all of them today! Found exclusively in plants, they work to protect the plant from damaging effects of UVB radiation from the sun.1 While smearing polyphenols on your skin won’t act as a sunscreen (unless, you know, you’re a plant…), they are still an important part of any skincare routine!

Antioxidants are everywhere, but did you know that there were so many types?!

In skincare, polyphenols work to repair and rejuvenate the skin, keeping it healthy, happy and glorious.1,2 Within the polypohenols, there are 13 different classes, each one with it’s own unique sources and benefits! The classes are:

  • Phenolic Acid2
  • Flavonoids2
  • Anthocyanins2
  • Cathechins2
  • Flavones2
  • Flavonols2
  • Isoflavones2
  • Lignans2
  • Proanthocyanidins2
  • Stilbenes2
  • Tannins2
Green tea is the darling of the science world, because it’s loaded with the polyphenol Catechin! Photo by Jason Leung via

Most of the research done on the benefits of the classes of polyphenols is almost entirely focused on sun damage… and green tea. Man, does science love green tea. But repairing sun damage isn’t all polyphenols do! Flavonoids (found in more things than we can list here)2, proanthocyanidins (found in grapes and pine bark)2 and tannins (found in red wine, teas, and nuts)2 are fantastic for soothing inflammation and irritation in the skin.2,3

Nutty and luscious, flax seeds aren’t just awesome because of their Omega-3’s, they also pack a punch of lignans!

There are also the lignans (found in flaxseed), which have been studied for their ability to synthesize collagen, in addition to antioxidant properties.3 Stilbenes, a more rare class of polyphenols that is starting to gain traction in skincare, have been studied for their use in anti-aging formulas4, as well as their ability to help reduce acne breakouts.5

Red wine is packed with tannins, thanks to the skins of the grapes! Photo by Roberta Sorge via

And while the properties haven’t been tackled by scientists, there is ample evidence that tannins function as astringents, helping to tone the skin and tighten up pores, making skin appear smoother. This is especially good for individuals with larger pores and oily skin- grab a toner with the tannins, like black tea!

In short, polyphenols are pretty awesome, but they certainly aren’t all the same. If you’re interested in finding out what makes each polyphenol super awesome, be sure to check back for more Science Saturday posts!

Wondering where we got our information?
1.Available at: Accessed January 1, 2018.

2. Katiyar SK, Nichols SJ. Skin photoprotection by natural polyphenols: Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and DNA repair mechanisms. Arch Dermatol Res (2010) 302: 71-83. Available at:

3. Draganescu D, Ibanescu C, Tamba BI, et al. Flaxseed lignan wound healing formulation: characterization and in vivo therapeutic evaluation. Int J Biol Macromol. 2015 Jan;72:614-23. 

4. Baxter RA. Anti-aging properties of resveratrol: review and report of a potent new antioxidant skin care formulation. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008 Mar;7(1):2-7.

5. Taylor EJM, Yu Y, Champer J, et al. Resveratrol Demonstrates Antimicrobial Effects Against Propionibacterium acnes In Vitro. Dermatol Ther (Heidlb). 2014 Dec; 4(2): 249–257. Available at:

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