Recent research indicates that alcohol consumption jumped 14% in the U.S. in 2020 (hello, crap year). Many imbibed as a temporary salve to deal with the stress of COVID-19, but the increase in alcohol intake is also having an enduring and negative impact on the skin.Sure, antioxidants in red wine have some health benefits, but, on the whole, alcohol is pretty terrible for the skin. (So, yes, more bad news in a year filled with it.) But there are ways to temper its effects. Read on to educate yourself about exactly what alcohol does to your skin—and some simple ways to mitigate its effects.
The bad news: This is what alcohol does to your skinAlcohol is a toxin that, when consumed, negatively impacts skin cell activity. Drink it on the regular and it can cause…
Dehydration.Alcohol is a diuretic that causes the body to rapidly lose water, including the fluid that keeps skin plump. In the short term this means that after downing two or more drinks, you may wake up to dull, flakey skin. Over the long haul, however, regular drinking can cause the skin to become chronically dehydrated and more vulnerable to sagging and wrinkling.
Puffiness.Alcohol can trigger an inflammatory response in the skin, resulting in skin puffiness—especially around the eyes.
Redness.The same inflammatory effect can also cause dilation of capillaries in the skin, resulting in face flushing. This is why heavy drinkers often develop red cheeks and noses.
Breakouts.Alcohol can impact your body’s microbiome (the ratio of good to bad bacteria), an imbalance that may trigger acne and eczema flareups in the skin. Alcohol can also enlarge pores, increasing the likelihood of developing blackheads and whiteheads.
The good news: How to minimize alcohol’s impact
Alcohol is never going to be a health food, but there are ways to enjoy it on occasion, while minimizing its negative effects.
Clear things upGenerally-speaking, clearer alcohols (e.g. vodka, gin, tequila) are processed and flushed through the body faster than dark liquor or sugary cocktails. And if the alcohol moves quickly through your system, it incurs less damage.
Avoid sugary additivesSugar is one of the primary inflammatory triggers so keeping your cocktails simple (a shot glass of tequila or vodka mixed with La Croix) will help alleviate next-day puffiness and redness.
Choose red wine over whiteSorry, Chardonnay lovers, but red wine does usually boast a higher number of antioxidants like polyphenols and resveratrol, which may help counterbalance the alcohol’s negative effects.
Drink only every other day (or less)
This one is obvious. The less you drink, the better it is for your overall health and wellness.
Up your water intake
Drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you down will help flush the alcohol out of your body faster—and re-hydrate and replenish the fluids the alcohol drains out of your body (and skin). Similarly, eating while you are drinking may mitigate alcohol’s effects because it passes through the digestive system, along with the food, diluting its damaging impact.