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What Alcohol Does To Your Face & Skin + How To Deal, From Derms

Hannah Frye
Author: Medical reviewer:
February 25, 2023
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.
Apple Bodemer, M.D.
Medical review by
Apple Bodemer, M.D.
Dr. Apple Bodemer is board certified in both Dermatology and Integrative Medicine. She is an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, and sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Integrative Dermatology.
February 25, 2023
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Don’t worry, this is a safe space—nobody is going to judge you for consuming alcohol. Grabbing drinks with friends or pairing your dinner with a glass of red wine is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if it brings you joy and sparks a social connection

At the same time, alcohol is not technically healthy for your body, which is why your skin doesn’t look its best after a night out. But is alcohol entirely to blame, or is it another factor? We asked derms to decode the dryness, puffiness, and lackluster complexion a few drinks leaves on your skin, so you can be prepared the next time you step out. 

What alcohol does to the skin:

Alcohol's impact on the skin is not as straightforward as you might think. What goes in your drink, how you spend your night, and even how alcohol makes you feel all contribute to what happens to your skin and how it will look the morning after. To follow, a few compounding factors to consider.


Alcohol is dehydrating. 

“Alcohol causes dehydration, and dehydration can cause the skin to look pale, dry, and more prone to wrinkling,” board-certified dermatologist and founder of MaeiMD Rebecca Marcus, M.D. tells mbg.

For those with already dry skin, this may be even more prevalent. In addition, dehydration could be one of the reasons your head is pounding after one too many cocktails. 


It triggers inflammation.

Alcohol triggers inflammation1, which may result in dilation of blood vessels in the face and subsequent flushing, which may become permanent if it happens repeatedly over long periods of time,” Marcus notes. 

This could look like broken capillaries and red patches that show up while you’re drinking or the day after. 


It can influence stress and anxiety. 

Have you ever had hangxiety? You know, hangover anxiety that comes along the second you wake up after a night out? This could feel like party regret, haste to get your affairs in order, or stress surrounding your physical state (headache, stomach discomfort, etc.). 

This level of stress isn’t going to help your skin, either. In fact, stress can lead to an increase in sebum production2, thus raising the risk of post-party breakouts.


It negatively impacts sleep. 

Ever wondered why you can’t clock a perfect night of sleep post-drinking? You may feel like you’ve been knocked out for a few hours, but oftentimes the quality of your sleep is compromised. 

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 imbalance in blood sugar


Sugar can break down collagen.

“Sugar, and simple carbohydrates that are easily digested into sugar, can damage collagen in the skin in a process called glycation5, in which excess glucose in the skin adheres to collagen and elastin proteins,” Marcus says. 

“This process creates advanced glycation end products, which cause the collagen to become rigid and the skin to appear less supple,” she adds. So if you pair your alcohol of choice with a sugar-packed mixer, this effect will be even more substantial. 


Water retention leads to puffiness. 

If you wake up with a puffy face or sagging under the eyes, you’re not alone. “Alcohol can cause water retention and facial puffiness,” Marcus says, which may last throughout the next morning and even until midday. 

This isn’t exclusive to the face, though—you may see signs of water retention (as in puffiness) throughout your body. So if you wake up feeling or looking more bloated than usual, don’t be hard on yourself—it’s a direct result of alcohol consumption and it won’t last forever. 


It exacerbates some skin conditions. 

“For some individuals who are rosacea-prone, alcohol can increase flushing, worsen redness and lead to potential flares,” board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., FAAD tells mbg.

“Additionally, one study showed that alcohol intake was associated with an increased risk of rosacea,” she adds. This is because alcohol can trigger inflammation and “peripheral vasodilation,” which can lead to redness, flushing, and bumps, Garshick explains. There have also been associations between worsened eczema and psoriasis when alcohol is consumed, she notes. 


It can trigger dark circles. 

Dark circles can result from several different factors, including that blood vessels can be more dilated, leading to reddish-purplish discoloration in the undereye area,” Garshick says, Plus, with the compounding lack of high-quality sleep, your dark circles may be even more noticeable the morning after. 

How to help your skin recover from drinking.

While you can’t take back consuming alcohol after the fact, there are steps you can take to nurse your skin back to health and speed up the post-drinking revival. We did a full breakdown of hangover skin care here, but we’ll summarize the need-to-know steps below. 

  1. Drink water: The first thing you should do the morning after drinking is to get one large glass of water (or two) into your body. 
  2. Depuff your face: Next, use an ice roller from the freezer and massage your skin. If you don’t have one on hand, you can also dunk your face in a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds at a time for the same effect. 
  3. Use an enzyme cleanser or mask: You’ll want to exfoliate your skin the next morning, but ever-so-gently. One way to check this box is with an enzyme mask or enzyme cleanser. This will allow the following hydrating products to penetrate the skin even better and leave you with a bit of a glow. 
  4. Apply hydrating + antioxidant serums: Next, apply a hyaluronic acid serum to damp skin and follow that up with a vitamin C serum. This combination will help plump the skin, replenish hydration, and protect your complexion from even more inflammation. 
  5. Use a rich moisturizer + SPF: Finally, apply a rich moisturizer. Look for ingredients like shea butter or mango butter for a smoothing effect, ceramides, and botanical oils like squalane, grapeseed, jojoba, sunflower, and rosehip. Then, apply your favorite SPF to protect your skin from the sun (in hopes you make it outside post-hangover). Just make sure you choose a broad spectrum sunscreen—preferably one that is mineral based.

How to drink in a healthier way for the skin.

Just because alcohol isn’t the best for your skin doesn’t mean you need to abandon it forever. Instead, work on creating healthy habits around drinking so you can minimize the negative aftermath. Here are a few ideas: 


Hydrate while drinking.

“Drinking water before, during, and after alcohol intake can help to reduce the effects of alcohol on the body,” Garshick notes. It might not be easy to remember this step, but it’s crucial for managing your hangover and skin troubles the next day. 

If you really want to level up, consider having an electrolyte replacement mixed in a glass of water right before you fall asleep—the Hydrating Electrolyte Mix packets from Cure are one A+ choice. 


Drink in moderation.

This one is fairly obvious, but certainly worth a reminder: If drinking is negatively impacting your physical or mental health, consider limiting yourself to one or two beverages each time you go out.

In addition, you may want to reserve drinking alcohol for special occasions if it’s not a habit that aligns with how you want to feel, again, physically and mentally. Or, take a break altogether if you feel inclined. 


Choose better beverages. 

Luckily, there are plenty of alcoholic drinks on the market that are packed with good-for-you ingredients, in the name of balance. A few tips here:

  • Wine, notably red wine, contains polyphenols
  • Light liquors contain less sugar, and therefore are better for the skin
  • Try and keep an eye on the mixers you use—skip processed juices or sugary sodas.
  • For those who like their cocktails on the sweeter side, fresh fruit juices have more antioxidants

Prepare for hangxiety. 

If you know hangxiety and a night out come in a package deal for you, then it’s a good idea to prepare for it. Do this by incorporating relaxing activities into your next morning—think yoga, breathwork, a walk outside, watching your favorite show, etc. 

In addition, CBD may help you beat the post-party jitters, so have a supplement on hand should you need it—here’s a list of our favorite CBD gummies if you’re in the market.  


Can your face recover from alcohol?

Your skin will bounce back from drinking alcohol the next day, but there are a few ways to speed up the process, including: Gently exfoliating your skin, applying hydrating serums and moisturizers, and using an ice roller to depuff.

How long does alcohol stay in your face?

If you wake up with a puffy face or particularly bouncy under eyes, you’re not alone. “Alcohol can cause water retention and facial puffiness,” Marcus says, which may last throughout the next morning and even until midday.

Can alcohol make you break out in hives?

"Alcohol can trigger the release of histamine from mast cells which can increase the chance of hives or exacerbate hives," Garshick says.

Does alcohol cause acne?

Alcohol does not directly cause acne. But, drinking alcohol can lead to lack of sleep, dehydration, and increased stress, all of which can lead to breakouts.

The takeaway.

Drinking alcohol certainly isn’t the best for your skin, but you can do it in a way that’s minimally problematic. Remember to look for nutrient-rich drinks when you can, hydrate throughout the night, drink in moderation, and ease hangover anxiety when possible. Ready to sip smart? Opt for the healthier alcohols out there—here’s a list of the eight best to look for

Hannah Frye author page.
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health 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 skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.