Does drinking alcohol affect your skin? I bet you’ve thought about it. Curiously, it’s not as easy to answer this question if you go simply by personal observations. Unlike smoking, which quickly leads to noticeable changes and eventually results in the distinctive “smoker’s skin”, alcohol-induced changes can vary a lot.
Obviously, on top of alcohol consumption, other factors will play a role as well. There are people among the in-crowd who could probably drink a homeless addict under the table, but they certainly don’t look at all alike. Setting such extreme examples aside, however, there is research data on what skin changes occur in alcohol drinkers.
First thing we need to know, is that drinking any kind of alcohol makes your skin dry and dehydrated. Ethanol found in all alcoholic drinks suppresses the synthesis of a particular hormone which normally would delay the excretion of liquid by the kidneys. So even if you only had a little, you will lose some extra fluids. It’s not a bad thing, actually, it’s how your body protects itself by trying to remove the toxin out of its systems, and, as many useful inner workings of our body, it costs us some. Water is essential for your health and losing it affects your skin’s youth and beauty, too. If you drink alcohol regularly and fail to compensate for the loss of water, there is a risk that your skin will quickly become dry, and then thin, and then you’ll start getting premature fine lines in the most fragile areas: around the eyes, for example, and on the neck.
What can be done about that? Drink water! Have a glass of clean drinking water for every alcohol unit you consume (a small glass of wine, a half-pint, a 25 ml shot of whisky, etc.). Try to limit your alcohol consumption, if possible, even if you only drink occasionally.
Another thing that alcohol affects is facial blood vessels. You can probably guess, that the effect is not exactly beneficial. Have you even noticed how people’s faces go red with drinking? Sometimes it happens after just one sip, especially with hard liquor, sweet wines, red wine and cocktails with various additives and spices. This redness can by quite persistent as well, in some cases the skin remains flushed after only one glass for as long as a couple of hours. And if the party goes on and on, your face may just go redder and redder—as you will undoubtedly notice with displeasure later on all those blurry photos and videos that’ll inevitably flood your Facebook & Instagram feed.
If you already have some problems with your capillaries, beware: even a single alcohol-induced “flash” can add new spider veins on your nose, forehead and cheeks. For rosacea-prone skin even occasional drinking can cause serious complications and erase all treatment and skin care efforts.
In fact, even if your blood circulation is perfectly healthy, drinker’s blush is not good for you. With regular drinking complexion becomes uneven and all pre-existing skin problems get worse. Particularly, acne and all kinds of skin inflammation can flare up, and their treatment will become more difficult.
Can anything be done about that? Well, start with avoiding drinks that make you go red. White wine is a safer option as far as reddening is concerned, and alcohol contents is a factor, too. It is a good idea to add some ice to your glass and sip instead of throwing it back.
Perhaps, the most common and familiar aftereffect of alcohol is facial swelling. It’s when you look at yourself in the mirror the morning after and the creature that’s staring back at you, all round-faced and narrow-eyed, does not at all resemble last night’s belle of the ball. It is a curious (and rather unfair) paradox: your body loses water when you drink alcohol, but some water is retained in deep skin layers. Alcohol makes your blood vessels more permeable, you see, and some of the liquid oozes out into the surrounding tissues creating pools of excessive liquid there. If it only happens occasionally, the swelling will go down in a few hours, but if you overindulge regularly, the swelling becomes persistent as well. Days go by and turn into weeks, and you get more and more used to a slightly puffy face, and it doesn’t help that alcohol has the ability to compromise your critical perception. The change is always obvious on the photographs, though.
What to do about that? Frankly, if the swelling persists, skin problems should be the least of your concerns. Persistent morning after puffiness can mean that your body is unable to cope with the amount of alcohol you consume anymore. It may be time to change your drinking habits and seek professional help.
Basically, however much some of us may enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, even if we’re only talking about the skin, alcohol is, in fact, harmful and even toxic. If you want to keep your skin youthful, radiant and healthy, consider quitting alcohol altogether or, at least, keeping its intake to a minimum. Even in small doses alcohol can damage your skin and make the existing problems worse.
Most people, however, allow themselves a glass or two on occasion, and that’s not likely to change soon. We live in a drinking culture, after all. So here are some tips that’ll help reduce the damage and still look human the next day.
- Whatever else you do, remember to drink water! Make it a rule to chase every single, however small, alcoholic drink with a glass of clean drinking water.
- Eat! Alcohol is absorbed quicker and easier when you drink on an empty stomach, and the damage to your skin will be worse in this case too. Try to avoid salty snacks, steer clear of pub grub, and opt for food that’ll work as a sponge, sucking in alcohol: salads, roasted veg, light meat or fish dishes are good choice. You’ll need some fats, too: they’ll slow down alcohol absorption, too. Eating cheese (or even some bread and butter) with your wine, like the French, is totally justified from the healthy point of view! Fats will reduce the redness too.
- Choose your poison. If some drink makes you go particularly red, choose something else instead. Mixing drinks is never a good idea, and nice champagne is better than “girly” cocktails with herbal infusions and berry liqueurs.
- Always, always wash your face before bed. After a drinking party, it is especially important to cleanse your skin thoroughly and, if you still have any energy left, to apply a moisturising and soothing mask. This will help eliminate the impurities and the toxic products of alcohol on your skin.
- Most importantly, drink responsibly. Remember, it’s not just your looks, it’s your whole life on the line.