By Dr. Liia Ramachandra
Summer is the time for traveling and trying out different nightspots, lazy days on the beach with a cocktail in hand, and gatherings with friends and family where someone always has drinks available. We all know by now that the summer sun can wreak havoc on one’s skin, but we may not be aware of what all of the alcoholic drinks that we consume are doing to affect our skin negatively.
Alcohol and Your Skin
Alcohol causes our body and skin to lose fluid, which is why we get dehydrated after a long night of drinking. It’s why we feel so terrible the following day. Most adults probably know by now that drinking, especially to excess, isn’t exactly the best thing for your body as a whole. However, the toll alcohol can take on your skin can be especially problematic, given that it’s a little harder to hide than a sour stomach or a headache.
Dehydration can be absolutely devastating for one’s skin. As the body metabolizes alcohol, it releases acetaldehyde, a byproduct that can be toxic to body tissues — including skin. If your skin feels rough and dry after a day of indulging in pool-side margaritas, blame the acetaldehyde. Dehydrated skin causes wrinkles over time, leading to premature aging.
Alcohol can also contribute to skin inflammation and breakouts. Alcohol releases histamine that can dilate one’s capillaries. This dilation is why heavy drinkers are often perpetually red-in-the-face. Alcohol can also enlarge pores, making your skin a prime surface for bacteria leading to blackheads and pimples. Inflammation can also lead to puffy eyes and swollen skin elsewhere on the body.
Lastly, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism conducted a study that showed consuming alcohol could actually make a sunburn worse. People consuming large amounts of alcohol while outside and in the sun are less likely to wear sunscreen. Research has also suggested that alcohol lowers the amount of sun exposure one needs to have to produce burns.
Preparing Your Skin for Summer Drinking
When combined with the severe effects of sun exposure on the skin, the added effects of excessive alcohol consumption can create a perfect storm. So, how does one prepare their skin to be put through the proverbial wringer if they plan on indulging?
The first step is to perhaps think about limiting consumption. The less alcohol one consumes, the better it is for their skin and body, inside and out. If one knows that sun exposure and alcohol consumption will happen, wearing a strong sunscreen and preparing one’s skin for the dehydrating effects of alcohol can be vital in staving off damage.
It also helps to choose our liquor based on how fast it leaves the body, as the liquors that hang around longer do more damage. The unspoken rule is “the clearer the better” — vodka, gin, and tequila exit the body much faster than darker liquors, such as bourbon or whisky.
Taking care to drink lots of water in-between servings of alcohol and using a hydrating moisturizer in addition to sunscreen can also help protect your skin. Hydration is the most critical piece of the puzzle for skincare when sun exposure and alcohol consumption are in your summer plans.
Rectifying Damage Already Done
Sometimes, we learn the impact of our choices long after making them. If you have a history of summer parties on the beach, where you would forego sunscreen and drink to your heart’s content, your skin may already show signs of damage. If you look at heavy drinkers, they often look 10 to 20 years older than they are, and that is all on account of the damage alcohol has wrought on their skin.
The first step in reversing the damage is to limit alcohol consumption and drink lots of water. Next, adopting a routine of cleansing, toning, and moisturizing can help combat inflammation, redness, acne, and dehydration. If damage is extensive, some laser treatments have been found to help with alcohol-consumption-related rosacea.
The summer is the time to get out, see friends, celebrate warm weather, and relax. Making sure our skin is protected, and the health of our skin is supported can help fight off the adverse effects of alcohol.
About the Author:
Dr. Liia Ramachandra, Pharm.D., Ph.D. is a serial entrepreneur and healthcare executive. Dr. Liia is the Founder and CEO EpiLynx, a gluten-free skincare and cosmetics brand.