Last Updated on May 31, 2021
It’s common knowledge that alcohol isn’t exactly good for your skin. And if you like to hit happy hour after work, you’ve probably experienced this first-hand.
Most of us have had an occasional morning-after with a puffy, dry face (along with other symptoms of a dreaded hangover). But if tipsy nights out have become a regular part of your routine, here’s what you should know about drinking and your skin.
How Alcohol Affects the Skin
We all know that drinking isn’t necessarily good for you. But what does alcohol do to your skin? To unpack this question, we’ll need to consider how alcohol impacts your body as a whole.
Alcohol Causes Inflammation
Inflammation also impacts the well-being of your arteries and organs overall, which can have a domino effect on your health—once again including your skin.
Drinking Dehydrates Your Body
Alcohol is classified as a diuretic. This means that every time you drink, your body is flushing out extra water. And unfortunately, this can cause your skin to appear dull and zapped of its moisture over time.
Excessive dehydration from alcohol might not seem like a big deal in the short term. But chronically dehydrated skin will become much more visibly aged and damaged over 10 or 20 years, compared with healthy, hydrated skin.
Oxidative Stress from Alcohol Can Speed Up Aging
A not-so-obvious way that alcohol affects the skin is through oxidative stress, which happens when there are too many free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress damages every type of cell in your body, including your skin.
We’re exposed to free radicals every day through food, pollution, smoke, sunlight, and yes, alcohol. According to research, alcohol not only releases a flood of free radicals into the body, it also impairs your antioxidant defense at the same time.
To put it simply, alcohol creates a double-whammy effect when it comes to oxidative stress. And combined with inflammation and dehydration, this can make for some very unhappy skin.
Which Types of Alcohol Are Most Harmful?
Because cocktails often contain a mixture of syrupy drinks and alcohol, they can be loaded with sugar—and all that extra sugar could mean inflammation, accelerated aging, and acne.
Additionally, glucose and fructose can damage collagen in the skin in a way that’s difficult for your body to repair.
So, if you’re worried about your skin, avoid cocktails as much as you can. Steering clear of these drinks can help reduce some of the negative side effects that drinking has on your skin.
If you enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner each night, you may wonder: Does drinking wine age your skin?
Like any type of alcohol, white wine is best enjoyed in moderation—especially if you want to keep your skin in tip-top shape. And although your favorite champagne may taste light, it likely contains a significant amount of sugar.
Beyond this, white wines can cause facial flushing, and have even been linked to incident rosacea. Combined with the dehydrating and inflammatory effects of alcohol, this can lead to wrinkles and other skin problems over time.
Because bourbon and whiskey are potent, dark liquors, they can make for terrible morning-after skin (not to mention awful hangovers!)
Dark liquors contain compounds called congeners, which are theorized to cause worse hangovers than other types of alcohol. And these killer hangovers can amplify the parched, red, and puffy skin that you’re used to seeing after a night out.
How to Protect Your Skin from Alcohol-Induced Damage
If you like to drink sometimes, learning about the effects of alcohol on skin may feel disheartening. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect your skin from the effects of a night of drinking.
1. Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
If you’re worried about alcohol’s effects on skin, the single best thing you can do is drink less.
In general, moderation is the golden rule. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), moderate drinking means up to one drink per day for women, or two drinks per day for men. But depending on your situation, you may choose to drink less than this.
2. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is key in shielding yourself from the damage caused by the effects of alcohol on skin. As discussed above, alcohol is a diuretic, and can dry you out. Here are some tips for combatting dehydration when you drink:
- Avoid mixing alcohol with caffeine, as caffeine also has diuretic properties.
- Drink a glass of water in between your alcoholic beverages.
- Consume electrolytes the morning after.
3. Choose Your Alcohol Wisely
The least damaging types of alcohol for skin are lighter drinks with no additives—such as gin, vodka, or tequila.
It’s important to note that you can’t completely avoid the impact that drinking has on your skin. But if you choose to drink, reducing your intake, picking the right type of alcohol, and drinking plenty of water are the best places to start.
What Happens To Your Skin When You Stop Drinking?
Knowing what alcohol can do to your skin may have you wondering, “What happens when I stop drinking completely? Will my skin bounce back?”
Although the answers to these questions may vary from person to person, here is a general timeline of what to expect:
The First Week
For the first week after your last drinking session, your skin might still be reeling. Don’t fret too much, however—after this, your skin will usually start to regain its healthy glow.
During this time, redness and blotchiness caused by alcohol will diminish, and sunken eyebags will plump up again as your body rehydrates.
When you put a stop to alcohol use, you’re reducing chronic inflammation, dehydration, and oxidative stress in your body—and this means significant changes for your skin as time goes on.
Your skin will regain moisture and appear more even-toned. Additionally, breakouts caused by heavy, sugary drinks will start to dissipate. In the long term, you’ll see a youthful, healthy glow return to your face.
Unfortunately, if you’ve been drinking heavily for a long time, some damage may be irreversible. In this case, try to cut back on alcohol as much as you can to help your skin rebound.
The Bottom Line on the Effects of Alcohol on Skin
So, what does alcohol do to your skin?
In short, you may experience breakouts, dry skin, and accelerated aging because of inflammation, dehydration, and oxidative stress from drinking.
Luckily, cutting back on alcohol can help you reduce the damage. Save your margarita nights for once a week (instead of every day), and you’ll start to see a healthy, vibrant glow return to your skin.
If you’re struggling with alcohol use, but are having a difficult time cutting back, Ria Health offers resources that can help. We offer medical support, regular coaching sessions, prescription anti-craving medication, and more—all from your smartphone.
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