Drinking Alcohol Can Sabotage Your Skin — But It Doesn't Have To

There's a key to being able to drink while not running the risk of sallow, bloated, dehydrated skin.
Publish date:
January 4, 2016
alcohol, sugar, drinking, dehydration, alcohol consumption, binge drinking

I hate to retroactively ruin your New Year's buzz, but alcohol is like, super-bad for your skin and hair.

I know, I know — you're probably already aware of that unfortunate fact, but I've come with good news: you can have your alcohol and good skin, too. You just have to be more diligent about taking care of yourself in your pre-, mid- and post-prost endeavors.

Before we dive into the preventative measures you can take, though, let's first discuss why and how alcohol wreaks havoc on your skin.

First and foremost, alcohol dehydrates you both internally and externally. And you don't have to be a long-term xoVain reader to know the woes of dehydration: a lackluster complexion, splotchy skin, dry and scaly patches and even wrinkling. Yup, the dehydrating effect of alcohol takes away moisture from your skin, which makes it more prone to wrinkling both long- and short-term. The more hydrated you are, the plumper your skin.

Drinks high in sugar — such as those with juice mixers or added sugar — are even more damaging, I'm afraid. Sugar increases your insulin levels, which may lead to a breakout (especially for those of you already prone to acne). The sugary stuff also leads to bloodshot eyes.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is salty drinks, which can lead to bloating, making you feel uncomfortable. Pro tip: skip the salted margarita rim.

Another negative side effect of drinking alcohol is that it makes your body less efficient at absorbing and utilizing important vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins B1, B12 and A, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It does so by increasing acid production in your stomach, which makes it harder for your stomach to absorb the nutrients it needs.

Of course, there's a key to being able to drink while not running the risk of sallow, bloated, dehydrated skin: moderation.

From the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

"Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days."

And according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

"The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days."

So there's that.

In addition to moderation, you can follow a few other rules to keep your skin and body in excellent condition while partaking. First of all, drink a lot of water before, during and after any alcohol consumption (a no brainer, I know, but must be said).

Some more pointers:

  • Avoid sugar- and salt-laden beverages for reasons laid out above. They'll make your hangover worse and can cause major bloating and general discomfort. Yes, that means you should go for the singular straight shot versus the frou-frou beverage.
  • If you can, choose clear alcohols (gin and vodka) over darker alcohols (whiskey and rum). The darker variety contains what's called congeners, produced during fermentation, which contain chemicals that may lead to aged skin, though studies are still underway. Better safe than sorry.
  • Opt for red wine over white wine. The former, which contain tannins, actually has health benefits when consumed moderately. Red wine has been linked to preventing heart disease and reducing blood clots. The primary disclaimer with red wine is that it has been correlated with causing rosacea flair-ups, so beware if that's an issue for you.
  • Beer, also consumed in moderation, is another good option. For starters, you'll often find it has the lowest percentage of alcohol compared to liquor, wine and champagne. Additionally, beer contains antioxidants and has also been linked to having heart-healthy benefits. Red wine is still the more universally approved option, though.

Happy New Year, all!