Do you enjoy a nice glass of red wine with your dinner? Well, next time you take a delicate sip of your Merlot and feel it slide down your throat, remember that someone, somewhere is dipping their dirty ass in a barrel of Bordeaux at the same time.
New York Magazine has a delightful story about the practice of vinotherapy, or, more simply, the act of getting naked, rubbing yourself down with some lotions and then sitting in a wine bath for an hour while poor book clubs everywhere are left dry, forced to actually discuss the symbolism in Great Expectations.
Amar'e Stoudemire, forward for the New York Knicks, is the latest public figure to extol the virtues of vinotherapy (he does it in an antique tub on his days off), but sitting yourself into a bathtub of red isn't new at all, models and other celebrities have been doing it for years (well, since the '90s, which I guess is years now). Who knew that bathing in the stuff you usually drink after a hard day at work (or an easy day at work, you know, to celebrate) had some kind of benefit?
Here's what vinotherapy is supposed to do:
The goal of vinotherapy is to treat clients with products rich in the red wine grapes' polyphenols, which are compounds found in grape seeds, branches, vines, and the marc (what remains after pressing the grapes) that are often leached out and discarded in manufacturing process. Polyphenols help protect the grape from the elements, and, according to Caudalie [a French skin-care company), when applied to a person's skin, help mask free radicals, which the company claims is the source of four out of five facial lines. The most powerful of the polyphenols, say vinotherapy proponents, is resveratrol, a compound they say contains anti-aging properties and enhances blood circulation. Vinotherapie treatments include body wraps, scrubs, massages with the grape skin (which slough off dead cells), and those barrel baths, in which clients soak in a combination of water and red vine leaf stock.
First of all, I keep hearing about this free radicals stuff (and always confuse it with The New Radicals and then wonder what 90s one-hit-wonders have anything to do with my facial lines) and continually refuse to buy it, because that sounds like something fake. Second of all, for all of you wondering, you can't get the same benefits by just drinking red wine. And also, it may not actually work at all. (Weird.)
Thomas, the Caudalie founder, says the combination of the tannins and resveratrol found in the red vine leaf extract improves the body's circulation by strengthening blood vessels, but she admits her company has not done clinical tests on how the resveratrol actually enters the bloodstream. "I don't know how it works specifically," she says, "but when you sit in a tub for 20 minutes, your body is naturally going to absorb ingredients."
That is the most convincing argument I have ever heard for anything. "We have no evidence that this works, but if you sit in a bath whatever is in it will get inside you so that is good enough. Also, please give us like $65 and tip for the 20-minute experience." The last time I took a bath, I bought one of those Crayola bath dyes and colored the entire thing blue and felt very rejuvenated afterwards. Probably because I had just soaked in a hot bath and not because anything had "entered my blood stream." (I was also blue for two days.)
Dr. Richard Semba, who published a study about the (dubious) health benefits of resveratrol earlier this year agrees that whatever these rich people are doing is idiotic:
"I don't know much about the cutaneous absorption of resveratrol," he says when reached by phone. "I'd imagine it is not very possible, and it sounds like a crazy idea."
I doubt anyone reading will try this, but if you're interested, you should know that just soaking in actual wine isn't useful. It has to be done a certain way or you will just fuck up your skin and probably turn your anus into a withered husk:
"Alcohol is not good for the skin," says Thomas [Founder of Caudalie]. "It'll only dry the skin out." Also, Stoudemire's bathing location — an antique tub — doesn't maximize vinotherapy's alleged full benefits. "To help with blood circulation, you need very fine mini-jets, like a jacuzzi, to work with the muscles and improve blood circulation," claims Thomas.
Just drink it, okay?
Image via Shutterstock.