The Effects of Alcohol on Skin

December 8, 2021

partygoers risk the effects of alcohol on skin

With holiday celebrations right around the corner, you may be looking forward to enjoying a few more cocktails than usual at holiday parties and gatherings with friends and family. While it’s okay to enjoy some alcohol in moderation, it’s important to understand that alcohol can negatively impact whole body and skin health. According to Dr. Seena Monjazeb of U.S. Dermatology Partners Houston Clear Lake, “If you’re going to enjoy some cocktails at your holiday party, plan ahead to make sure you’re protecting your skin. Then, you should give yourself a little extra time for pampering after you’ve been drinking to repair and rehydrate your skin.” In this blog, Dr. Monjazeb will talk a little about some of the common adverse effects of alcohol on the skin, how to prevent these concerns, and some skincare basics to renew skin after alcohol damage.

How Does Alcohol Effect Skin Health?

When it comes to the negative effects of alcohol on the skin, Dr. Monjazeb says, “Alcohol has two main negative effects, dehydration and inflammation, that can both cause a variety of skin issues. The way the body processes alcohol creates a byproduct called acetaldehyde that is toxic and drying to the skin. Alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning it strips moisture from the body. This dryness can hit the skin especially hard since the body will draw moisture from the outer protective layers first to keep the rest of the organs functioning well. Inflammation is the second major skin health issue connected to alcohol consumption. When skin feels warm and looks red while drinking, this is the result of inflammation. Inflammation can lead to flare-ups in chronic skin conditions, itching and discomfort, and a whole host of other skin health concerns.”

Some common skin health concerns connected with alcohol consumption include:

  • Dark circles – this is one of the most common skin issues connected with alcohol consumption. Dark circles can develop because of a combination of dehydration and inflammation. Additionally, alcohol can diminish the quality of sleep, which is a common cause of dark circles around the eyes.
  • Puffiness – in addition to dark circles, dehydration related to alcohol consumption can also lead to puffiness around the eyes.
  • Flushing – when a specific enzyme involved in breaking down the toxic components of alcohol doesn’t work properly, the skin may flush more deeply due to the toxins staying in skin cells. This specific enzyme issue is hereditary, and it is much more common for people who are of Asian descent.
  • Red nose – many people notice their nose getting red and they may feel congested or experience a runny nose when they drink alcohol. This is a reaction similar to allergies that typically occurs within a few hours of drinking. This reaction is more common when drinking beer and wine, which contain higher levels of histamines.
  • Slower cell turnover – in addition to alcohol diminishing the quality of sleep and causing dehydration, the body’s natural regenerative processes can be slowed, including skin cell turnover. This can leave skin looking dull.
  • Photosensitivity – if you already have skin that’s sensitive to sun exposure, alcohol can increase that sensitivity, leading to burning, itching, and redness.
  • Flare-ups in common skin conditions – dehydration and inflammation from drinking can lead to flare-ups in psoriasis, rosacea, acne, and dandruff. It’s important to manage your conditions with appropriate skincare before and after consuming alcohol.
  • Skin aging – slower skin cell turnover, lack of moisture, and inflammation are the perfect mix of effects that can easily lead to accelerated signs of skin aging, especially fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Skin cancer – drinking alcohol is often connected to cancers of the mouth and throat, but alcohol consumption is also linked to common types of skin cancers. The research suggests this occurs when drinking alcohol impedes the body’s ability to effectively repair cellular damage from the sun.

Preventing Skin Damage

According to Dr. Monjazeb, “There are some effective dermatology treatments that can help to repair damage from alcohol consumption and just about anything else we put our skin through, but it’s always best to protect the skin before damage ever occurs. By taking a few simple steps, you can minimize damage from alcohol consumption and keep your skin looking great after your holiday parties and all year long.”

Some of the top tips to prevent skin damage from alcohol include:

  • When you are drinking, alternate alcoholic beverages with water at a one-to-one ratio. This will help to keep you hydrated, which can decrease the adverse effects of drinking.
  • Eat a full meal before drinking or while you drink to allow the alcohol to metabolize with the food, decreasing the impact of alcohol on the body.
  • Swap out the additive-heavy beers and dark liquors for clear spirits. Lighter-colored liquors contain the fewest added ingredients, so they can be processed more quickly. This leads to a less negative impact on the whole body and the skin.
  • Get your beauty rest. Sleeping well helps promote healthy skin cell turnover and healing, so after enjoying some cocktails, be sure to get plenty of rest. Before you crawl into bed for beauty rest after drinking, put down an extra pillow. Sleeping slightly propped up can help you get more restful sleep, and it helps prevent fluid accumulation across the face that can lead to puffiness.
  • Wear moisturizing, lightweight cosmetic products to keep skin hydrated while masking any skin redness and flushing.
  • Exercise regularly. This helps to improve blood flow and remove toxins from the skin.
  • Drink less often, especially as you age. Your skin will need longer to recover after drinking, so only consume alcohol every few days to give your skin and body plenty of time to heal and renew.

Repairing Skin Damage from Alcohol

When it comes to getting skin looking its best after drinking, Dr. Monjazeb recommends, “You need to take good care of your skin every day, but especially if you’ve been drinking alcohol. If you come home tired from a holiday party or night out with friends, it may be tempting to fall straight into bed, but it’s essential to take a few minutes to do at least a quick nighttime skincare routine. Make sure to carefully remove any makeup. Then, apply a rich, deep-hydrating moisturizer and eye cream. In addition to jump-starting the rehydration process, the moisturizer will also help to soothe skin and reduce inflammation.”

In addition to taking care of your skin after drinking, it’s important to rehydrate quickly. Drink plenty of water in the days after alcohol consumption, and make sure to apply moisturizer and eye cream in the morning and evening. If you notice dullness or dryness, you may want to use a heavier moisturizer even during the day. If you notice any flare-ups in chronic skin conditions after drinking, take steps to treat the symptoms as soon as possible. Talk to your dermatologist if you need specific recommendations.

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Learn More at U.S. Dermatology Partners

If you want to restore and revitalize your skin after drinking during the holiday season and year-round, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team has you covered. Our knowledgeable dermatologists can help you create an at-home skincare routine to improve skin health and vitality after drinking, and we provide a wide array of in-office treatments from chemical peels and facials to more advanced cosmetic dermatology procedures. When you’re ready to get started, simply fill out our online scheduling request form, and one of our team members will be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.

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