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8 Sneaky Ways Alcohol Can Alter Your Complexion (& What To Do)

Hannah Frye
Author:
January 18, 2024
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
By Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Wine Glasses
Image by Sonya Khegay / Stocksy
January 18, 2024

Before we dive into the relationship between alcohol and skin health, let's make one thing clear: We're not going to use this article to make you feel bad for having a glass of wine or a round of social drinks with friends (social connection is a pillar of longevity, after all). 

That being said, alcohol isn't exactly healthy for your skin either. You probably already know that going without a cocktail will help your liver, but are you aware of the complexion benefits that come with it? We've covered this topic in depth before, so consider the below a scannable version to take with you this Dry (or Damp) January. 

8 ways alcohol impacts your skin

Here are the most common ways regular alcohol consumption can impact your skin's function and appearance:

  • Dehydration: "Alcohol causes dehydration, and dehydration can cause the skin to look pale, dry, and more prone to wrinkling," board-certified dermatologist and founder of MaeiMDRebecca Marcus, M.D., tells mbg.
  • Inflammation: Alcohol also triggers inflammation1 in the body, which can manifest as broken blood vessels and facial flushing.
  • Stress & anxiety: "Hangxiety" is real. This kind of stress (and any psychological stress, for that matter) can lead to an increase in sebum production2, thus raising the risk of post-party breakouts.
  • Lack of sleep: Alcohol affects your body's natural production of melatonin3 and can cause or ramp up symptoms of sleep apnea4, such as snoring. Not to mention, you may wake up early post-drinking, even if you went to bed late, thanks to the impact on blood sugar
  • Collagen loss: Sugar, and simple carbohydrates that are easily digested into sugar, can damage collagen in the skin through a process called glycation5—not every alcoholic drink is loaded with sugar, but plenty of cocktails are!
  • Dark circles: Blood vessel dilation from alcohol can make the under-eye area look more purple or red, depending on your skin tone. Compounded with a lack of high-quality sleep, these deep half-moons may look extra prominent after a night out, which isn't surprising.
  • Pre-existing skin conditions: Alcohol is a common trigger for rosacea and eczema flare-ups, so those with pre-existing skin conditions should take extra caution. In fact, ​​one study showed that alcohol intake was associated with an increased risk of rosacea

Tips to minimize the impact

So, is swearing off alcohol forever the only option for better skin health? No, definitely not. Like most aspects of well-being, it's all about moderation. You can minimize these negative results by doing just that: pacing yourself. 

You can even dress up your cocktails with skin-boosting antioxidants via pure fruit concentrates (just make sure there's no added sugar or artificial flavors), pair your cocktail with a tall glass of water, and try to stick to your regular skin care regimen, even on nights you've been drinking. Even if you only have the energy to remove your makeup before tucking into bed, that's better than nothing!

The takeaway

It's no secret that alcohol isn't great for your skin, but how it impacts your complexion isn't often explicitly discussed. Frequent drinking can lead to skin dehydration, inflammation, and dark circles, as well as impact your sleep and stress levels, which have a domino effect on your skin's appearance. Still, alcohol is not going to make or break your skin health when consumed in moderation. If Damp January is more your speed, consult this list of the healthiest alcohols to build a better-for-you beverage.

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