If you’re spending hundreds of dollars on anti-aging creams and procedures, your alcohol consumption could be sabotaging all your efforts. While many of us freely indulge in alcohol, we rarely stop to think about what effect it has on our skin.
If you can relate, keep reading to learn:
- How much alcohol is too much?
- How does alcohol affect your skin?
- How to combat the effects of alcohol on your skin?
- the best and worst drinks for your skin
Let’s start with levels of alcohol consumption, so we have a baseline to consider.
How Much Alcohol is Too Much?
No matter how you slice it, alcohol consumption has been linked to skin cancer and breast cancer, even in small doses. Recommended levels of alcohol consumption are only there to provide a standard, but they do not mean you are 100% safe from the negative effects of alcohol on your skin. It just means that limiting the amount of alcohol intake will “reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm.”
That said, the USDA has recommended that individuals either choose not to drink or to drink in moderation. Moderation is one drink or fewer, per day for women and two drinks or fewer per day, for men. For serving sizes, refer to Figure 1.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, heavy drinking constitutes three or more drinks per day or 7 drinks per week for women, and more than four drinks a day, or 14 drinks per week, for men.
So, what effect, if any, does this have on your skin? Let’s look in detail.
Effects of Alcohol on Skin
The bottom line is, that if you are drinking regularly, it is taking a toll on your skin. How much that effect is, is determined by the level and duration of your alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that heavy alcohol use is linked to an increase in facial lines, under-eye puffiness, and midface volume loss. The two main culprits to your skin from alcohol are dehydration and inflammation.
One of the main culprits of supple, beautiful skin is dehydration. Dr. Cameron of Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine notes that when cells under the skin’s lipid barrier experience significant water loss, the cells shrivel and the skin can take a somewhat dull appearance. This dehydration of cells also makes fine wrinkles more noticeable.
- dry skin
- sunken eyes
- decreased elasticity
- dry lips
- sagging skin
The other culprit to beautiful skin is inflammation. This is caused by high sugar levels in the alcohol you’re drinking, which triggers a hormone (IGF-1) to overproduce oil in your skin. This excess oil can lead to acne and other skin breakouts.
If you have an existing skin condition like rosacea, even drinking red wine could increase your chances of a flare-up, since it increases blood flow above normal levels.
How to Combat the Effects of Alcohol on Skin
- Hydrate: This may seem obvious, but hydration is paramount in improving the look and feel of your skin. Ways to keep your skin hydrated include: drinking extra water, limiting showers to 10 minutes, using lukewarm water to bathe, and using a humidifier.
- Drink.Water.Repeat: if you are going to indulge in alcohol, limit your intake to the recommended amounts and drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks. Drinking water in between is an important way to “counteract the dehydration the alcohol may inflict.”
- Avoid Dark Drinks: Drinks like whiskey, dark rum, and brandy contain tannings and methanol and are among the highest in alcohol content. The more alcohol, the worse effect on your skin.
- Switch to Beer: While beer does contain alcohol, it is one of the more filling options to drink, so there is a chance alcohol consumption will be less. Beer also has “compounds that offer both appreciated sensorial characteristics and health advantages.”
While there may be a reason to indulge in the occasional alcoholic drink, if you spend time and money on anti-aging procedures and creams, alcohol may be secretly sabotaging your plans. If you do decide to indulge, stick to our few tips above to combat the long-term effects alcohol may have on your skin.
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