Unless you're engaged in some major denial, you already know that alcohol is bad for your skin. In addition to the anecdotal evidence -for anyone over 25: wake up after a night of partying and just take a look in the mirror- there have been plenty of studies in the news to back that up. But we wanted to know, just how bad is it? And are there ways to mediate the negative effects?
Redness, Rosacea, and Wrinkles, Oh My!
The problem with alcohol is two-fold. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means you have to pee a lot when you drink it. But it also stops the production of our bodies' hormone vasopressin, which normally helps us absorb more water. So when you drink alcohol you both expel more water and are less capable of producing it. That means your are going to be severely hydrated after drinking too much and your skin is going to show and feel it.
Alcohol also opens up your blood vessels, which is why some people get flushed when they drink. And for some people, the blood vessels can open up too much and burst, leading to spider veins- and those are permanent. Open blood vessels can also trigger a flare-up for rosacea sufferers. For many of us, the effect is face puffiness when we wake up after a night of heavy drinking.
Beware the Added Sugar and Salt
Then there are alcohol's accompanying white devils: sugar and salt. If you're downing cocktail after cocktail, you're likely also drinking a heavy dose of sugar that adds both calories and negative health effects. Ditto to the salt on the rim of that margarita, or in many of the beers you drink, which often have salt added to them. Salt leads to bloating. And sugar putting added strain on your liver and can increase acne. In both cases, these additions to your drinks are going to make your skin look drier and puffier the next day.
Again with the Moderation
We wish we had had better news to tell you. The truth is, alcohol is not good for your skin. However, there are absolutely ways to drink without looking like a lizard person for years to come.
The biggest tip here is, of course, moderation. If you enjoy a single serving of alcohol a night, your skin is going to be just fine. In fact, you may even be doing some good, as stress is pretty bad for skin and a glass of alcohol can help you relax. But the key here is one serving a night: for women, this means no more than one glass, and for men, two. This is enough for you to get the beneficial relaxation effects without causing too much stress on your organs.
Be Picky Picky Picky
The other big takeaway is to be picky about what you're drinking. Most dermatologist agree that red wine is the best drink for you, as the high level of the antioxidant resveratrol can actually be quite good for you. (Note: this does not apply to rosacea sufferers, who often experience flare-ups with red wine).
Many dermatologists also point towards clear alcohols, like vodka or gin, as better options than whiskey or rum as darker liquors contain by-products of longer fermentation. But as there are no formal studies to back this up, we think common sense dictates that you should drink whatever you most enjoy as long as it doesn't contain added sugar and salt. Save the cocktails for once or twice a weekend, and stick to wine or your favorite straight liquor in moderation, and your skin won't be any worse for wear.