Using grapes grown in the vineyards of Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy, French luxury skincare and spa brand Caudalie boasts quite a cult following for its products, touting the powers of grape seed polyphenols for their almighty anti-oxidising properties. “Grape seeds are the most powerful anti-oxidant produced by nature, 10,000 times more effective than vitamin E in fighting free radicals,” says founder Mathilde Thomas.
Aside from absorbing polyphenols through skincare, Thomas also discovered close to 20 years ago that eating the seeds and fruit was incredibly effective in cleansing and beautifying the body and skin from the inside out. She embarked on her first three-day grape detox in 1998, which she details in her bestselling book, The French Beauty Solution, and has been doing the detox once every year since — save for when she was pregnant with her three children — with outstanding results, including increased energy and glowing skin.
Fascinated by the seemingly great beauty benefits that eating only grapes could bring, I decided to put her famed detox plan to the test.
In time for summer, Caudalie has cooperated with Hong Kong produce distributors Fruitmaster, to launch a 3-Day Grape Cleanse Box, which comes with 6kg of fresh grapes and three of Caudalie’s bestselling Vinosource products.
I committed to eat only grapes for every meal for three days and to use the beauty products day and night: a limited edition organic grape water mist, the cult favourite S.O.S. thirst quenching serum, and moisturising sorbet (all three together valued at HK$588), in the morning and before bed. Consulting Mathilde Thomas before trying the detox, she tells me that I’m to avoid wine and sugary grape juice, allowing only juice freshly blended from the grapes myself. I can choose to eat red, green or black grapes, and should opt for organic varieties when possible. Apart from consuming grapes whole (including seeds and skin), she also encourages drinking lots of water and/or green tea, and avoiding coffee.
How it Works
Feeling skeptical about whether eating such a high-sugar diet can really detox the body or just cause it to bloat, we asked about the science behind how it works: there must be a reason why everyone, from celebrities to the layman have become convinced by the cleansing ability of grapes — apparently, all the way back to ancient Roman civilisation.
Grapes are packed with anti-oxidising polyphenols, which are instrumental in helping to firm up the skin and help remove free radicals to develop clearer, brighter skin. Grape water itself is rich in soothing trace minerals and hydrating sugars that also help quench thirsty and tired skin. And unlike a conventional juice cleanse, Thomas tells us, “a grape diet is easier than a juice cleanse as you can chew the skin and the seeds. The grape is a complete food containing vitamins A, C, E and trace elements like calcium, potassium, polyphenols, and grape seed oils, which are in turn rich in omega-6 fatty acids, copper, niacin — you name it. Grape is a super food, and I love it.”
With the cleanse, you are simply surrounding your body with all these benefactors, taking in lots of liquids, and flushing all the bad stuff out. Makes sense. And if I’m strict with it, I might even lose a bit of weight, since 100g of grapes is only approximately 69 calories, bringing my daily intake down to 1,380 calories if I were to eat 2kg of grapes a day.
On receiving the box, I noticed that the grapes sent in the Fruitmaster kit turned out to be all seedless, despite learning that the seeds were the best part for better skin. I went ahead anyway.
On day one, I already woke up with generally clear skin, but I still had a relatively tired complexion, with a dull and somewhat greasy t-zone and tired under eye bags (My target for this cleansing diet was to summon up firmer, naturally dewy and bright skin, less puffiness and a tighter jawline).
For my first meal, I wolfed down a handful of grapes for breakfast, which made me hungrier, and by 11am, I already had a minor headache. This is supposed to be the toxins getting removed, making my body very unhappy with me. Lunch hour was quite painful as the aroma of food wafting through the streets intensified, and I remember craving char siu incessantly that afternoon. As the day progressed, I ate larger, plate-sized portions of grapes, which helped curb the mental hunger pangs. Despite the fact that the grapes sent by Fruitmaster were delicious — just ripe and sweet with a perfect crunch — let’s face it, they’re no steak. Drinking plain green tea together with the grapes helped to balance out the sickly sweetness of eating so many grapes a day, and helped me feel more sated with more warmth in my body. Overall not bad for a first day, but clearly, all I could think about was food.
On day two, my skin drank up the supposed holy grail S.O.S. Thirst Quenching Serum and Moisturising sorbet overnight — no shininess in the morning compared to what I regularly had. They also smelled pleasantly of verdant grapevines.
While the serum was a little sticky for my liking, the moisturising sorbet made my skin feel like it was gulping water after a long run. Food-wise, I began to appreciate the sweetness of each juicy grape, with my body beginning to crave the hydrating taste of the fruit. I started focusing better on work rather than on what I would eat after the cleanse, and my body felt more in tune with the difference between thirst and hunger. Stomach grumbles lessened. Whenever my face felt tired from concentrating on a computer screen for too long, I sprayed the grape water mist (Mathilde Thomas’ favourite go-to product) on my face, which felt nice, but I prefer the quenching sensation of other face mists I’ve used before — the grape water felt a tad sugary to me.
I also messed up here: That evening, I had a relative from out of town who I was obliged to meet for dinner that evening, and rather than rudely eat a bunch of grapes from my own Tupperware box, I gave in to a pescetarian meal, with wine. Oops.
On the final day, I do have to say I was beginning to enjoy the process, feeling slightly more carefree since I didn’t have to wonder where to get a healthy meal near the office as I usually do. With lessened cravings, I actually felt more mobile, light and full of energy, the way vegans annoyingly tell their carnivorous friends the same and expect them to want to jump on the veggie bandwagon. Having been on the other side, I still prefer being able to devour steak and wings, but this lightness and focus from consuming only what my body needs, is what I especially liked.
I was not terribly strict with the grape cleanse, but I ended up losing over a pound of water weight, which doesn’t mean much since our bodies can fluctuate five pounds or more in a day. But more importantly, I felt like I was in tune with what my body needed: after the cleanse, I found that I was craving fewer salty foods, and wanting fresh flavours and juicy vegetables instead for the next couple of days.
My skin did even out nicely (though mostly thanks to the products and extra hydration), looking smoother and brighter so much that I stopped wearing foundation to work, and my neck area became slightly more defined. However, I still needed some concealer: my under eye circles and a few dark spots did not budge, and probably won’t without further prolonged use of the products.
While eating just grapes shifted dramatically from being a chore — garnering sympathetic looks in the office — to actually being quite pleasant, the kit that I received did not contain the ideal types of grapes (aka with seeds) for you to reap the full benefits of the reset. I still benefited overall, but for the most part it goes to show that eating light and hydrating properly — in the actual water you drink and consume through food, as well as layered on top of your skin — can do absolute wonders for you in just a few days. And if Mathilde Thomas herself only does this once a year, then it’s not so bad — if anything, to create an annual reminder for yourself about the importance of hydration and balance.
The Caudalie 3-day Grape Cleanse box costs HK$640 from hk.caudalie.com.