PSA: Your Dry January Commitment Comes With Extra Skin Care Benefits
Those participating in Dry January may notice a series of everyday changes (some of them welcome; others less so). For example, some crave sugary sweets or find it harder to fall asleep during their stint with sobriety. One of the more favorable byproducts? Many swear they have a brighter, more hydrated complexion—like their skin has just sprung to life after a wretched hangover.
We naturally had to investigate, and it turns out, you're not imagining it: Taking a break from booze—a la Dry Jan—is like a rejuvenating spa day for your skin. Allow derms to explain.
How alcohol affects your skin.
"In general, alcohol dehydrates your skin significantly," notes board-certified dermatologist Jeanine Downie, M.D. Since alcohol is a diuretic, it flushes liquid from the body and accelerates dehydration (note: That's why experts recommend lots of water before and after drinking to avoid hangovers). And when your body is dehydrated, the effects tend to manifest on your skin—oftentimes with a dull, rough complexion.
Alcohol can also increase inflammation, as it causes the blood vessels to rush to the surface of your skin (which is why many complain of a flushed, sometimes red face after drinking). "This can flare patients that have underlying rosacea and make their situation much worse," says Downie. In fact, one study found that the risk of developing rosacea increased with the amount of alcohol consumed.
And if you add a sugary-sweet, salt-rimmed cocktail to the menu? Well, that sugar can produce even more of an inflammatory response, while salt encourages fluid retention, which can lead to puffiness—typically around the eyes or nose.
What happens to your skin when you take a break.
So if you've cut out the booze for the time being, you may notice your skin rebounding from all those less-than-favorable effects. Read: Your skin may appear hydrated and dewy, with less swelling and flushing.
Of course, everyone reacts differently to alcohol (some might not notice any stark skin changes after downing a glass of wine, and that's perfectly fine!), so a 30-day break won't always show up on the skin. However, if you're already prone to certain skin conditions, board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD, says you might see more intense effects. "If you are prone to facial redness, rosacea, puffiness and under-eye bags, or very dehydrated skin, you are more likely to react to alcohol," she notes. With that, the opposite is also true: If you're one to react to alcohol in a major way, you'll likely see impressive benefits from cutting it out.
Nonetheless, the Dry Jan experiment can help you decipher whether your skin was, in fact, begging for the break. "As a physician, I love the idea of seeing how all of your body will react if you abstain from it for a bit," Ciraldo notes.
How to reintroduce alcohol when Dry January is done.
As Dry January comes to a close, you may wonder: I want hydrated, calm skin, but I do love a glass of wine or cocktail from time to time. Is there a happy medium? To which we say: Of course there is! We're certainly not going to tell you to quit the booze forever. It's just interesting to know that a break—even for just one month—does have skin-healthy benefits for some.
The key here (as with all aspects of well-being) is balance: If you want to reintroduce alcohol into your lifestyle, perhaps only drink over the weekend (as Downie mentions) or try diluting your drinks. "I highly recommend diluting your level of alcohol content by mixing wine with sparkling water," Ciraldo suggests—a DIY wine spritzer of sorts.
Or, if you're not sure how much alcohol you can tolerate, here's a clever trick to determine what level of booze affects your skin.
"Take a selfie after a night out or when you've had a moderate amount of alcohol," she recommends. "Then take a 15-day break [from alcohol] and redo the selfie. If you see no change at all, it's probably answer enough for you, and you can go back to limited alcohol use." If you see a stark difference in your complexion, though, perhaps those extra sips do wreak havoc on your skin—and if it bothers you, you might want to dial down the cocktails.
Everyone reacts to alcohol differently, but cutting back on booze can generally benefit your skin by tempering dehydration and inflammation. That's not to say you absolutely need to eliminate cocktails forever, but you may find that your skin likes a lesser amount—and a 30-day break can give your skin a clean slate.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.