This Is What Happens to Your Skin When You Drink Alcohol

Unfortunately, your skin kind of gets hungover too.

This Is What Happens to Your Skin When You Drink Alcohol
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We don't need to tell you alcoholic beverages are popular in social settings, but did you know consuming a lot of them can cause a number of short- and long-term effects on the skin? If you've ever woken up with not only a headache and an egg sandwich craving after a night out, but a new pimple, puffy eyes, and a particularly dull, lackluster complexion, here's why.

Drinking causes skin dehydration.

One of the main reasons skin takes such a beating from a few too many cocktails is that alcohol is a diuretic, says Y. Claire Chang, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. Diuretics are substances that increase the production of urine, which dehydrates the body and, sadly, causes the skin not only to become dehydrated, but to look drier, feel less plump, and more easily show fine lines.

Alcohol exacerbates inflammation.

"Alcohol increases the inflammation and changes the hormonal milieu in the skin, which can worsen inflammatory skin conditions, like acne and rosacea," Dr. Chang says. "Alcohol alters the blood vessels in the skin, causing them to dilate and worsen the appearance of facial redness. Over time, these blood vessels can accumulate and cause more persistent redness." (She also adds that drinking too much could also lead to premature aging of the skin, but says more studies are needed to corroborate this.)

What are the worst drinks for skin?

Nancy Samolitis, MD, co-founder and medical director of FACILE dermatology + boutique in West Hollywood, California, suggests avoiding wines, cocktails, and chasers that are too sugary, since excess sugar increases the chances of inflammation and acne breakouts.

"Mixers like club soda and pure lemon or lime juice are simple additives," Dr. Samolitis says. "For those who flush easily, taking an antihistamine like Pepcid prior to drinking can reduce redness in some people. There's also a prescription medication for rosacea that can be applied topically."

What are the least offensive drinks for skin?

When you're deciding what to drink, Dr. Chang recommends choosing wine (particularly red wine), which contains antioxidants like polyphenols and resveratrol, which has some health benefits when enjoyed in moderation.

Hoping to sip on something stronger? According to Dr. Samolitis, clear liquors like vodka and tequila have the least amount of sugar and fewest added ingredients, so those might be the safest bets for those who don't want to skip out on good times.

Combat these effects with a good skincare routine.

While Dr. Chang says limiting alcohol consumption really is the best, most helpful way to prevent inflammation and breakouts, if cutting alcohol completely from your diet isn't in the cards, she says to combat the aftermath by staying on top of your skincare routine, and considering using products with beneficial components, like antioxidants.

Antioxidants play an important role, Dr. Chang says, especially in removing free radicals and protecting skin from damage. "Serums and face masks that contain antioxidants, like vitamin C, green tea, and niacinamide, can help calm the skin the day after a long night out."

Along with drinking alcohol in moderation when possible and sticking to a consistent skincare regimen, Dr. Chang says eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and taking measures to de-stress are all integral to maintaining clear, healthy skin.

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  2. Baldwin, H., Tan, J. Effects of diet on acne and its response to treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol 2021;22:55–65. doi:10.1007/s40257-020-00542-y

  3. Snopek L, Mlcek J, Sochorova L, et al. Contribution of red wine consumption to human health protection. Molecules. 2018;23(7):1684. doi:10.3390/molecules23071684

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