So it’s Sober October, a chance to cleanse and de-toxify your body before the holiday season. Most of you will be aware of the health issues associated with drinking too much alcohol but have you ever thought about how this affects your skin?
In pursuit of the body beautiful, we exercise, eat healthily, try every latest fad, slather our skin with countless serums and creams, book elaborate facials and chug water religiously, but there’s something we all forget about and it has the most damaging effect on our skin and that is ALCOHOL…Giving up (or significantly cutting back on) alcohol, which we’ve long known is no health elixir, can do wonders for your complexion, so what are the effects alcohol has on our skin and what can we do to fix this?
“Alcohol is actually one of the worst, most aggressive compounds to destroy your skin,” says New York nutritionist Jairo Rodriguez, who counts designers and Vogue editors among his clients. “I always joke with my patients, ‘If you want to get older, go ahead and drink!’” At a time when many are more sober curious than ever, Rodriguez breaks down the exact effects of alcohol on skin, as well as the benefits of giving up alcohol or drinking less.
“Dullness, discolouration and sagging to enlarged pores, dehydration, blotches, redness, spots and puffiness are common side effects of alcohol on skin”
Dehydration is the issue
Drinking is classified as two drinks a day and there’s a huge amount of damage to the skin that occurs with this. Alcohol affects any mucous membrane, from the pancreas and liver to the skin. The first effect is dehydration, as alcohol actually takes all the fluid out of the skin. When we drink alcohol, our body produces a by-product called acetaldehyde, this by-product is toxic to body tissues, which in turn dehydrates body tissues and skin.
If you look at a person who has been drinking for 20 or30 years and someone the same age who hasn’t drunk alcohol at all, we see a massive difference in the skin—more wrinkles from that dehydration damage, which can make you look 10 years older.
Alcohol also impairs your sleep and compromises the regenerative cycle your body enters while you rest. This decreases normal cellular turnover and leads to an unhealthy, dull complexion
Alcohol inflames the tissue of the skin and increases the blood flow to your skin cells, this is because alcohol causes blood vessels under the surface of your skin to widen, which allows more blood to flow which can leave your appearance looking inflamed. Systemic inflammation to the skin caused by alcohol creates a histamine reaction—that creates the redness, the flushing of the skin. At first you think “Oh, I’m a little red, not a big deal” but over a period of time—six months, a year, two years—if you continue drinking it can become a prominent facial redness you can’t get away from.
If you’re consuming alcohol frequently, your skin will become more damaged, meaning these symptoms will stick around for longer, leaving your skin open to free radical damage that leads to premature ageing.
Alcohol also dilates the pores of the skin, leading to blackheads, spots and pimples and acne.
You can bounce back—Within reason
If you do give it up, the good thing is that your skin, like any other organ has the ability to regenerate. The body has a fabulous rate of rehydration, but that regeneration depends on how much damage has already been done. If you’ve been drinking for 15 to 20 years and stop, that’s great for your health, but can you regenerate your skin back to that of a normal50-year-old? Once you destroy the collagen, it is hard to get back.
When you’re in your 20’s and drink, that drink leaves your body in about three hours, when you’re in your 40’s it takes an average of33 hours. So, in your 20’s that means you can drink on Monday and by Tuesday it’s out of your body. In your 40’s if you drink on Monday, it won’t be out of your body until Wednesday. Limit your drinking to once or twice a week—the lower the intake, the lower the damage to your skin.
As mentioned above, drinking alcohol dehydrates your skin as your kidneys go into overdrive trying to flush out the excess liquids. This means the rest of your organs aren’t getting enough hydration, which will eventually lead to the loosening, sagging and untimely ageing of the skin.
If you’re going to drink alcohol either mix it with or drink it alongside water, this will help the alcohol leave your system quicker and help keep you hydrated. Refuel your skin with plenty of water after drinking to build your hydration levels back up. I think mothers have been saying that for the last 2,000 years, “drink some water!!” but nobody listens to their mothers.
Choose your drink wisely
If you do drink, what’s the best alcohol to choose? Different alcohols have different effects on the skin but as a general rule the clearer the better. Vodka, Gin and Tequila have less additives in them and get out of your system quicker. If you’re going to drink anything, in my opinion drink vodka that doesn’t have a grain in it, like a potato vodka. It’s a lot clearer and smoother so it gets in and out of your body no problem. Although you may still suffer a hangover the next day, drinking lighter drinks may minimise your suffering slightly (and the amount of bacon sandwiches you want to consume!)because they don’t contain congeners (these are additional substances such as colours and flavours which impact your hangover).
WORST ALCOHOL FOR YOUR SKIN
If you’re partial to a few JD and cokes on a night out, then you may find yourself waking up with awful hangovers. Dark spirits such as whiskey, bourbon and rum contain congeners – chemicals such as tannings and methanol – which make hangovers worse. In fact, a study by the British Medical Association found bourbon is twice as likely to cause a hangover as the same amount of vodka.
Despite red wine being hailed as the ‘healthiest’ choice of alcohol because it contains antioxidants, it is actually the most damaging for your skin.
Because red wine is unfiltered, the liver and kidneys have to work harder to process it and it’s the most likely drink to cause flushing, redness and blotchy skin – which is bad news if you already suffer from skin conditions that cause redness, such as rosacea.
Unfortunately white wine tends to be high in sugar too, which can lead to swollen skin and bloating, which is the last thing you want for your face.
Everyone loves holding a fancy cocktail glass in their hand but your favourite drink whether it’s a Porn star Martini or a Mojito are also bad news if you want to keep a clear complexion as the high sugar content in most cocktails can lead to inflammation, which increases cell damage and is a cause of acne.
The high sugar levels can also leave skin looking dull and sallow. So next time you’re eyeing up the cocktail list on a night out, bear in mind that a Margarita is the worst offender as it contains both sugar and salt, both of which can leave skin puffy.
How to reduce the effects of alcohol on your skin between nights out:
1. Exercise regularly
As well as keeping your body in shape and taking care of your inner health, exercise improves the blood flow throughout the skin, helping to keep it looking healthy.
2. Include supplements into your diet
Alcohol can drain the body of vitamin A, which is the vitamin responsible for cell turnover, so by taking a daily supplement you can help to encourage the cell regeneration process which you’ve inhibited by drinking alcohol. You can also take a supplement dedicated to keeping your skin, hair and nails healthy which can help repair your skin damages in an efficient manner.
Other supplements that can help restore the balance to your skin include vitamins C, E, B1, B6, B2, B3 and Omega 3.
3. Drink non-alcoholic alternatives
Just because you’re not drinking booze, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fancy cocktail. Known as a ‘mocktail‘ most bars and restaurants will offer non-alcoholic alternatives to the cocktails on their menu. And they usually taste great.
There are also plenty of non-alcoholic beers and wines on the market, so if you’re serious about cutting down your alcohol intake but still want something a bit more exciting than H20, there’s lots to choose from.
4. Skincare routine
It’s also good to have a proper skincare regime which includes cleansing, toning and moisturising daily, and especially important after drinking, even if all you want is your bed, try to cleanse and moisturise. Try to pick products that contain added moisture to help combat the signs of dehydration brought on by alcohol. Humanity Cosmetics Moisturiser contains Hyaluronic Acid which will help hydrate your skin, Our Face Mist Active will also quench your thirsty skin, apply before or after the moisturiser for added hydration.