A bottle of wine shared with friends here, a margarita night out there; there is no doubt that we live in an alcohol-friendly society. And while imbibing now and then can be fun, relaxing, and a way to connect socially – we all know it isn’t without consequence. Overindulgence can lead to a host of issues that affect your body.
When we think about the effects of alcohol on the body, we often think first of the liver, whose job it is to filter out the toxins we ingest. But what about your largest organ? Your skin. What does a night of drinking to do your skin? Let’s take a look.
The first and probably farthest-reaching effect alcohol has on the skin is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production. The more you drink, the more you need to go. Going more frequently flushes the body, and your skin, of needed moisture. Dehydrated skin can lead to skin issues such as swelling, under-eye circles, and blemishes.
Pro Tip: Drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink. Skin is probably the last organ to receive the benefit of water, but if everything else is functioning properly that’ll show up on the outside.
Alcohol inflames the tissue and activates a histamine response, which causes redness. It also lowers antioxidant levels, making it harder to fight off things like free radicals and sun damage. A free radical is any molecule or atom that has an unpaired electron in an outer shell. They are compounds that can cause harm and damage when left unchecked.
Pro Tip: Add an anti-oxidant serum to your daily routine, increase your intake of vitamin c, and eat plenty of amino acid-rich foods like fish and legumes to control inflammation.
Slowing of cellular repair
Not only can alcohol damage the skin in its own right, but it also leads to the slowing of cellular repair. It’s rather like a double-whammy – while the alcohol is drying out your skin on its own, it is also preventing your skin from repairing the damage caused by other things; like stress, a poor diet, and again – free radicals and sun damage.
Is it all bad news?
No. While abstinence is the best policy when it comes to alcohol consumption, limiting drinking can also prevent some damage from occurring. Consider this: when you are in your twenties, alcohol moves through your body more quickly than it does when you’re in your forties or fifties. At twenty years old, it takes approximately three hours for alcohol to move through your system. At forty, that number drastically increases, now taking up to thirty-three hours on average.
Rather than drinking daily or teetotaling, aim to indulge every other day or every two to three days to give your body a chance to flush the alcohol completely.
Controlling the damage
While aiming to limit the amount of alcohol we consume, it’s also reasonable to expect some over-indulgence from time to time. So how can you help limit the damage?
As we mentioned above, drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic drink will help.
If you’re adding sugary mixers, you may want to consider upping that to two glasses of water per one alcoholic drink. Extra sugar consumption can lead to more inflammation. This goes for salty drinks, too. Margaritas are the number one cocktail consumed around the world – but the salt will dehydrate you quickly. Consider drinking alkaline water, which helps to balance acidity and rehydrate the body quicker than regular water.
When you’re day drinking – lounging by the pool, or brunching outside with friends, don’t forget to apply (and reapply) a mineral-based sunscreen. Sunshine and alcohol tend to work together to speed up the dehydration process. Wear a hat, use a spritzer to cool your skin, and drink twice the amount of water you normally would.
Apply moisturizer before bed. Green tinted moisturizers can reduce the appearance of redness. Add a serum as well. The US.K Under Skin Precious Elixir, which is included in The Box By Dr Ava: Skincare Heroes Limited Edition, is an excellent option. Precious Elixirs are proven to promote cell rejuvenation and calm inflammation while leaving your skin vibrant and gleaming.
Are all drinks equal?
Nope. As mentioned above, sugary and salty drinks are probably on the worst offenders list. The general rule is the clearer, the better. For instance, instead of ordering a pitcher of margaritas, try an agave tequila and soda instead. A vodka tonic cocktail is also a good option, and if you opt for a grain-free version, say a potato vodka, even better.
If you’re a wine drinker, reds lead the culprit list for added sugars. White wine, particularly Pinot Grigio, can exacerbate rosacea and make your skin even redder. Stick with rose or champagne, as both have low sugar levels. And if you can’t resist the reds, choose a dry variety rather a sweet one, and stick to a young vintage. Typically as wine ages, it will lose much of its heart-healthy antioxidants.
Going dry for a month, say participating in “Dry January”, is a good idea every now and then. It allows your skin time to reset and heal, and you’ll see more visible results; less swelling, redness, more tone, and a hydrated glow.
You may have heard that during a dry month, your skin might “purge” itself, leading to more breakouts than before. The theory behind this idea is that your skin is now ridding itself of all the toxins and pore-clogging materials left behind by pushing them up and out. While this has been largely debunked, it is true that you can experience breakouts during abstinence. However, the likely culprit here is a change in your gut bacteria. Alcohol changes the flora (bacteria, archaea, and fungi that live in your gut) makeup, so when you stop drinking this also resets itself and may lead to a period of more unstable skin.
Your skin is very resilient. It can bounce back from the occasional night of drinking if you do your due diligence. Just remember that moderation is key, and how you take care of your skin matters. Set a reminder on your phone so that you don’t skip that pre-bedtime routine of wash, tone, apply serum, and moisturize. Your face will thank you in the morning.