When considering the effects of alcohol, most people tend to wonder about blood alcohol poisoning or the legal ramifications of drinking and driving, understandably. However, one aspect of alcohol that often goes overlooked is the affect it can have on one’s skin and overall appearance. Just as eating too many sugary foods can lead to regular breakouts, excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to aging.
What Does Alcohol Do to Your Skin?
There’s a reason a hangover makes you look as bad as you feel. Ultimately, alcohol dehydrates the skin, leaving it sallow, sunken, and dull. Saltier drinks, such as beer, can cause the skin to become swollen and puffy, indicating that you need to drink more water to get rid of the high levels of sodium in your system.
Depending on the ingredients, certain alcohols can definitely be more harmful for your skin than others.
red wine – Known for containing resveratrol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient, red wine is the least damaging alcohol for the skin and has actually been linked to cardiovascular benefits. However, red wine can exacerbate certain skin issues, such as rosacea as it releases certain histamines that cause a flushed, red appearance.
White wine – More sugary than the red alternative, white wines also lack any health benefits and can even leave drinkers feeling hungry and more prone to snacking!
Beer – While beers tend to contain less alcohol than liquors, most beers are salty and contribute to dehydration and swollen, puffy skin. Beers also contain some anti-aging properties and antioxidants, however, the lower alcohol content tends to encourage drinking more than a few beers in one sitting.
Mixed Drinks (Margaritas, Mojitos, etc.) – Mixed drinks tend to include a wide variety of additional ingredients that make them taste better, but cause more skin damage. Sugar weakens the skin, making it more prone to wrinkles and sun damage. Adding sugary drinks such as Red Bull or Coke can cause increased insulin production and inflammation. Other mixed drinks, such as margaritas, contain excessive salt and sugar, causing the skin to become dehydrated, swollen, and more prone to wrinkles.
Dark Liquors (Rum, Tequila, Whiskey, etc.) – When served straight, dark alcohols have less harmful ingredients than mixed drinks, however, dark liquors have gone through a fermentation process that creates more congeners, which are essentially impurities that have been linked to more severe hangovers.
Clear Liquors (Gin, Vodka, Tequila, etc.) – Shots of clear alcohol can be less damaging than those with extra ingredients, such as sugar and salt. However, shots can be easy to lose track of throughout a night, encouraging drinkers to have more than a few!
As with any type of alcoholic drink, the more you imbibe the more dehydrated and damaged your skin the next morning. Chronic alcohol abuse can also lead to significant skin issues, such as persistent redness or flushing as the blood vessels become enlarged in order to accommodate the high alcohol intake. Alcoholism can also cause liver damage, which can lead to the development of spider veins, jaundice (yellow appearance of the skin and eyes), hyperpigmentation, and the increased risk of skin cancer.
While the occasional after work drink or celebratory champagne isn’t going to cause noticeable skin damage, a night of excessive drinking can put your skin through the stress of dehydration, which can weaken the structure and overall cell turnover. If you are concerned about the aging affects of alcohol, remember to drink responsibly!
Guest Post Submitted by Dr. Melda Isaac from MI-Skin Dermatology Center in Washington, DC