How Hungover is your Skin?
The effect drinking alcohol has on our internal organs is well known and understood. But what about the effects it has on our largest organ – our skin?
In our endless pursuit of making our complexions look as healthy and glowing as possible we try countless serums, fancy facials, weird and wonderful tools, and gadgets when all along there’s a very simple fix staring us in the face that could drastically help refresh our skin.
That being to give up, (or at least reduce) the amount of alcohol you’re consuming.
As we all know alcohol is no health elixir and a lot of ‘big nights out’ binge-drinking (especially if they are reoccurring) will not only make you feel like absolute rubbish the next day but can take its toll on your skin in both the short and long term.
So, let's quickly outline what the drinking guideline are.
If a person chooses to drink alcohol here is what is considered a moderate guide:
- Females: Up to 1 drink per day.
- Males: Up to 2 drinks per day.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Trusted Source defines heavy drinking as follows:
- Females: More than 3 drinks per day or more than 7 drinks per week.
- Males: More than 4 drinks per day or more than 14 drinks per week.
*Heavy drinking can increase a person’s risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD).
The occasional moderate drink won’t typically present skin issues, however frequent and excessive drinking can lead to your skin looking tired and aged, create darker under eye circles, cause breakouts, flushing and dry skin as well as highlight fine lines and wrinkles. If you have a sensitive skin concern or a chronic skin condition alcohol can make your symptoms worse.
When considering the health of our skin consuming alcohol results in two main short-term results, dehydration and inflammation.
Short Term Effects
Alcohol is a diuretic which means it promotes the elimination of liquid (water) out of our bodies. This includes the moisture out of our skin. Drinking alcohol is one of the fastest ways to dehydrate our body and skin. The effects of dehydration on the skin include:
- dry skin
- sunken eyes
- decreased elasticity
- dry lips
- fine lines
After drinking alcohol our body finds it difficult to rehydrate, which – while also terrible for your overall health – impacts your skin. The morning after drinking you’ll notice your skin will feel dry or flaky and your complexion will look dull, lifeless and lack any sort of healthy glow.
However, this is not to scare you to never have a glass of your favourite alcoholic beverage every now and then. But perhaps changing your mindset in saving having a drink for special occasions only. Or limiting yourself to only x2 drinks at the next social event.
Also pairing every glass of alcohol with a glass of water. Drinking a glass of water in between every alcoholic beverage will replenish your body with some much-needed H2O. And should also help ward off the dreaded hangover!
Dehydration due to alcohol can also dilate the pores of the skin, leading to an increase of blackheads and whiteheads. If this is poorly treated, it can go on to cause acne and rosacea.
Alcohol creates a histamine reaction to your skin as it causes the blood vessels to dilate and inflames the skins tissues. Have you noticed you flush or feel warm in the face while drinking alcohol? This is temporary for those that don’t consume alcohol often, however regular alcohol intake can lead to permanently dilated blood vessels which cause ectasia or spider veins. This inflammation can aggravate several skin conditions including rosacea, psoriasis, and acne.
Alcohol causes Kiri (AMPERNA® founder and owner) to flush so she now sticks to non-alcoholic beverages, as there’s so many great ones to choose from now.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes flushing, redness, irritation, and pimples. Alcohol can worsen these symptoms and trigger rosacea flare-ups. And according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, drinking alcohol can increase a person’s risk of developing rosacea.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that causes thick scaly itchy patches on the skin. Drinking alcohol can worsen this condition as alcohol weakens the immune system. According to DermNet.org, drinking large amounts of alcohol can also cause psoriasis to become resistant to treatment.
Alcoholic drinks, particularly cocktails and wine are incredibly high in sugar. The sugar in alcohol can crystallise your skin cells, also known as glycation, which leads to visibly deflated skin, damaged cells, and a duller complexion. Sugar has been shown to trigger the hormone IGF-1, which causes an overproduction of oil in your skin. Which is unwelcome news for people who have acne-prone skin.
Other effects drinking alcohol has on your skin include
You may fall asleep faster after a bender, but the quality of sleep is poor. Alcohol disrupts the brain’s circadian rhythm and as the alcohol wears off, the brain becomes more alert than it was before and frequent trips to the bathroom also do not help.
Your complexion will suffer because of a restless slumber, you may notice darker eye circles, puffiness, tired red eyes, dull/lifeless looking skin.
Consuming alcohol has been shown to decrease the level of vitamins and nutrients in your system. Vital vitamins like vitamin A, C and B3 play a crucial role in keeping your skin healthy from the inside and promote the formation of new cells.
Alcohol consumption not only disrupts the microbiome, but it can also affect the skin’s protective barrier. Without that barrier, you can become more prone to infections. Many studies have shown a link between a healthy gut microbiome and the immune system. That includes managing the body’s reaction to substances that can trigger inflammatory skin reactions like that seem in eczema.
Changes to the skin can be more serious and last longer if a person regularly consumes excessive alcohol. If a person heavily drinks alcohol regularly, the short-term effects mentioned above, are more likely to become a persistent problem. Prolonged heavy drinking increases a person’s risk of more serious conditions, such as skin cancer. It can also cause skin changes resulting from alcoholic liver disease.
Some of the long-term effects of heavy drinking on a person’s skin include
Increased risk of skin infections
Bacterial and fungal infections are more likely to occur in people who excessively drink alcohol. This is because alcohol weakens the immune system and can decrease the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Increased risk of skin cancer
This is also due to alcohol weakening the immune system which lowers the body’s natural defence against diseases. Research also suggests that drinking alcohol can worsen the effects of ultraviolet light on a person’s skin, causing more damage than usual.
Skin changes due to alcoholic liver disease
- jaundice, or yellowing of the skin
- darker skin around the eyes
- telangiectasia, or visible blood vessels on the face, neck, and chest
- itchy skin
Don’t Worry, Your Skin Can Bounce Back
If you continue to enjoy alcohol in moderation it is best to choose your drink wisely. Here are 3 quick tips to help your hungover skin bounce back to gleaming healthy glowing skin:
- Generally, the clearer the alcohol the quicker it is removed from your system.
You also should consider spacing the days out you drink alcohol, so your body has a chance to flush the toxins out of your body.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Replenish your body and your skin by drinking plenty of water. Increase your intake the day/night before a social event you plan to have a few drinks at. Have a glass of water in between drinks. And drink water before you go to bed and the next day.
- Reassess your skincare regime. Experts recommend using products that are high in antioxidants as these nutrients play a significant role in protecting skin from damage. Ingredients like vitamin C and hyaluronic acid will help promote some much-needed hydration to your dried out skin.
If you do give up drinking alcohol all together, your overall health will benefit immensely as will the improvements to the health of your skin. Your skin, like any other organ, can regenerate itself. However, the regeneration depends on how much damage has been done. If you have been heavily drinking for 10 to 20 years and stop, it may take a while until you see physical improvements in your skin as opposed to someone who has been moderately drinking for the same amount of time.