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How Alcohol Affects Your Skin

Glass of red wine

You may think there’s no harm in a glass of red wine (or more, no judgement) with dinner. All that resveratrol is supposed to be great for your heart, right? Well, while a little bit of wine in moderation isn’t necessarily bad for you, it could negatively impact your skin and lead to everything from acne to premature aging. 

“Given that the skin is an outward reflection of what is going on inside the body, it is not too surprising that alcohol can affect how the skin looks,” Dr. Jennifer Vickers, a dermatologist with Sanova Dermatology in Texas, tells nécessité. “If you spend a week binge drinking in Las Vegas, for example, you know you will not only feel the effects but you will seem them.” Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes dehydration.

Dehydration can definitely contribute to dull, puffy skin, dark circles under the eyes, and acne breakouts.

Alcohol also triggers inflammation in the body. Inflammation can present in all kinds of ways, including poor digestion and bloat, but in terms of skincare it translates to redness, acne, and even wrinkles. Evidence suggests that constant inflammation from nightly alcohol can “cause telomere shortening,” Dr. Vickers says — aka, premature aging of skin cells.  

It can’t be ignored that wine and mixed drinks are pumped full of sugar, too… and as much as I wish it wasn’t so, sugar is one of the worst things you can feed your face. “Foods and drinks with high glycemic loads (high sugar content or refined carbohydrates) have been correlated with an increase in acne,” the dermatologist explains.

Drinking also messes with your sleep patterns; and since sleep is the skin’s time for rest and renewal, less sleep or poor quality sleep can interrupt this natural process. This explains why your face doesn’t exactly look refreshed the morning after passing out from a night of indulgence — it’s more likely to be dull, rough, and swollen.

Besides all the ways a drink or two can directly impact the body, getting tipsy can also trigger some rookie skincare mistakes… like falling asleep in your makeup. And we’ve all been there before, right? “This could lead to acne, clogged and enlarged pores, and irritation — not that I have ever done anything like that,” Dr. Vickers laughs. (See? It happens to everyone once in a while.)

Those with skin issues like rosacea, dermatitis, and eczema should be especially mindful. “Alcohol, especially wine, can be a trigger for flushing and outbreaks, and lead to persistent redness and broken capillaries on the face,” the dermatologist tells us. “Alcohol can also cause skin conditions, such as psoriasis, to flare.”

After researching alcohol’s detrimental effects on the skin, I decided to experiment with sobriety in the name of skincare. (I’m nothing if not vain — I’ll give almost anything up for the glow!) Two weeks later, I noticed fewer pimples, an even complexion, more moisturized skin, and — this was a big one — brighter eyes. Dare I say they had a well-rested twinkle? To Dr. Vickers, this is nothing surprising. “Without alcohol, you will feel better, your health will improve, and your skin will follow.”

Of course, “everything in moderation” is a platitude for a reason. If you love your nightly glass of cabernet, there’s no reason to give it up — it’s all about balance and boundaries. “Having a drink or two a couple of nights a week is probably okay,” Dr. Vickers agrees. “Just hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!”

Photo Credit: @siogalloway

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