No, bathing in wine isn’t just a oenophile’s hyperbolic wish to immerse themselves in their favorite drink. Athletes and other proponents of the 20-year-old method called vinotherapy are quite literally taking a dip in Bordeaux-infused bathwater to reap the purported health benefits.
For some, the science behind drinking wine for health and anti-aging is what dreams are made of. Research has found that reds can be quite heart-healthy, thanks to the antioxidant flavonoids that help increase levels of HDL (also known as “good” cholesterol), protect against artery damage, and prevent blood clotting. Resveratrol, another potent antioxidant in wine, has been associated with warding off cancer, preventing age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, and increasing longevity. All good reasons to drink up.
But soaking in it? “Why not?” is the sentiment echoed by wine-lovers everywhere (including new-school vinotherapy fans in Japan). After all, the skin can absorb up to 60 percent of what you put on it. While it’s unlikely that a wine bath would allow any antioxidant compounds to enter the bloodstream, many claim the treatment can boost circulation, reduce wrinkles, and even eliminate cellulite.
As it turns out, pouring some merlot into a hot bath isn’t the best way to take advantage of wine’s phytochemicals (its active compounds). In fact, it might do more harm than good, since alcohol can dehydrate and temporarily stain the skin. So, how to do a wine bath right? Grab some grapeseed oil, a byproduct of winemaking and a key ingredient that inspired traditional vinotherapy in the first place. Red wine grapes’ antioxidant power comes mainly from their seeds, branches, and vines, where their polyphenol content is richest.
It’s simple. Just add ¼ to ½ cup grapeseed oil and 10 drops of your favorite essential oil into a warm bath, hop in, and soak for as long as you’d like. Because grapeseed oil easily absorbs into the skin, you won’t feel greasy once you dry off—just super smooth, hydrated, and soft.
Okay, so maybe this method might not fulfill any lifelong dream of getting a bathtime buzz, but it sure beats burgundy-stained skin and a tainted tub.
Illustration by Foley Wu