How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Skin?

Having one too many once too often will make your skin feel (and look) hungover too.

November 25, 2021 3 minutes read

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It's no secret – alcohol is not exactly a health elixir. Even though everybody's skin is different and will react differently to alcohol, those reactions will be negative, with no exception. From dehydration to aging, alcohol has numerous adverse effects on our skin.

In this article, we'll dive deeper into how exactly alcohol affects our complexion and explore some options to ease the damage.

How Exactly Alcohol Affects Your Skin

In general, we all know that alcohol has a negative impact on our overall health. But how does it impact our skin? Well, besides smoking, drinking alcohol on a regular basis will definitely take its toll on your skin.

Alcohol is one of the most harmful and aggressive compounds for the skin, causing water loss and vitamin deficiencies – basically all the nutrients necessary for proper functioning and renewal of skin cells. In the long run, it weakens the skin and interferes with its natural ability to defend itself from numerous environmental stressors.

Here are some of the most common effects of alcohol on the skin:

#1: Dehydration

Alcohol acts as a diuretic, increasing urine production and dehydrating your whole body, including your skin [source]. Therefore, alcohol deprives the skin of the moisture and other nutrients necessary for a healthy and supple complexion. As a result, our skin will get dehydrated and look dry, dull, and lackluster, with more pronounced wrinkles and fine lines.

#2: Inflammation

Regular alcohol consumption is often associated with chronic inflammation [source], since it impairs liver and gut function, responsible for keeping the inflammation processes in the body in check. Therefore, it can wreak havoc and disturb the normal function of all the organs in the body. Skin-wise, it's often responsible for causing or exacerbating existing skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and adult acne [source].

#3: Aging

Alcohol induces oxidative stress in the body by impairing the antioxidant defense and causing the production of free radicals [source]. In addition, it reduces cellular turnover and collagen and elastin synthesis in the skin, leading to premature skin aging and the appearance of wrinkles and skin sagging. According to a 2019 study, both smoking and alcohol (more than eight drinks per week) resulted in pronounced facial lines, more visible blood vessels, and mid-face volume loss.

#4: Redness

If you're prone to flushing and redness, alcohol is not your friend as it can only exacerbate the problem. This is because alcohol acts as a vasodilator, which means it relaxes and widens blood vessels [source]. In some cases, it can even lead to the bursting of capillaries, which is reflected in the form of red spots, especially in the cheeks area.

How to Lessen Alcohol-Induced Skin Damage

If you're still enjoying your occasional glass of wine or whisky after a hard day at work (or whenever your heart desires), knowing about these negative effects of alcohol on your whole body and your skin can be a real party-breaker. However, there are some things you can do to lessen the damaging impact of alcohol on your health and still enjoy your guilty pleasure:

#1: Drink Enough Water

Drinking enough water and making sure you're staying hydrated is the essential first step to reducing alcohol-induced damage on your skin. This is because alcohol dehydrates you, as we already mentioned above. So, replenishing your body with fluids is the first step in shielding yourself and your skin against the adverse effects of alcohol.

So, if you're planning to have one or two, make sure to have one or two glasses of water between your beverages. In addition, it would be helpful to replenish your electrolytes the next day with a fruit juice, banana, and avocado sandwich.

#2: Sleep With Two Pillows

It's known that alcohol disrupts sleep and causes fluid retention in the face, resulting in dark circles and puffy eyes in the morning. To counteract that, you can try sleeping with your head slightly raised. So, if it doesn't bother you, sleep with an extra pillow to prevent fluid accumulation. In addition, since alcohol already disturbs your body's natural REM cycle, it would help to eliminate other disruptors and sleep in a cool and dark room.

#3: Do Your Nighttime Skincare Routine

Following your night out, skincare is probably the last thing you think about when you get home. However, to keep your skin healthy and supple and protect it from the damaging effects of alcohol, you should pay special attention to your nighttime skincare routine and give your skin some extra TLC it deserves.

Since alcohol dehydrates and irritates your skin and can potentially cause acne, you should focus on skincare ingredients that will hydrate, soothe, and moisturize your skin. So look for products that contain glycerin, hyaluronic acid (always apply it to damp skin), niacinamide, triglycerides, and ceramides. In addition, never go to bed with your makeup on as it can clog your pores and irritate your skin even more, causing breakouts. Therefore, the p.m. cleansing routine before everything else is a must.

#4: Don't Drink Every Week

Hopefully, it goes without saying that if you want to spare your skin, and your overall health and well-being, from alcohol-induced damage, you should skip drinking altogether or at least keep it to a minimum. So, if you're a weekend party drinker and like to have fun with a cocktail or two, switch it up every second week and have a Virgin bloody Mary or an alcohol-free seltzer drink instead.

Takeaway...

A few drinks here and there may seem harmless to you, but they will surely cause long-term skin damage over time. In the long run, too much alcohol disrupts the skin's natural protective barrier, making it more susceptible to UV damage (i.e., skin that ages faster) and inflammatory skin conditions, such as rosacea and psoriasis.

So, in sum, try to avoid drinking alcohol altogether if you can. Or, at least, save your Mojitos and Cosmopolitans for special occasions only when you have something to celebrate. Your skin, as well as your whole body, will be endlessly grateful!

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