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What’s the Deal With Wine Baths?

Chemists investigate the science behind the hype

smithsonian.com

Wine baths seem to be all the rage these days. NBA star Amar'e Stoudemire swears by the practice, and made headlines last October when he took posted a picture of himself mid-wine bath.

Wine baths or vinotherapy has actually been around since the early 1990s, as Matthew Giles reported for New York magazine in 2014. The industry got its start when vineyard owner Mathilde Thomas teamed up with a French cosmetics company to produce wine-based skin care products and later opened a spa chain that features wine baths, writes Giles.

Wine baths can be pretty expensive. So, is there any science to back them up or is this just a fruitless fad of the rich and famous? That’s a question Chemical & Engineering News’ Matt Davenport aims to answer in this week’s episode of “Speaking of Chemistry.”

The hype behind wine baths stems from the fact that wine contains antioxidants, explains Davenport. These compounds help keep wine fresh, and the idea is that these compounds could help with damage control in human cells and tissue.

However, most of the antioxidants in wine are phenolic chemicals with poor success rates when it comes to passing through skin. And even if they did make it through, scientists are also still ironing out the realities of antioxidants’ impacts on human health. 

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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