“Is drinking alcohol bad for my skin?” That’s a question I’m frequently asked by patients. The truth is, yes, alcohol is the second biggest cause of skin aging—surpassed only by sun damage. Even in moderation, drinking shows negative effects on our face the next day. But keep reading! You do not need to eliminate wine for beauty.
I have identified four possible ailments our facial skin may routinely suffer from the day after drinking. The typical scenarios I see in my exam room are: puffy eyes, deepening lines and wrinkles, dullness and redness. Many of my patience are particularly prone to one or more of these. However, it is possible to maintain your glow and radiance, while still enjoying the occasional cocktail hour. Here’s how to prevent and treat the adverse effects drinking alcohol has on the skin.
It is no secret that alcohol dehydrates the body. Simply put, drinking alcohol throws your skin off balance with the oils it naturally produces, while also promoting dryness via water loss—both internally and by evaporation from its surface.
The Fix: You must wash your face after a few drinks and apply a good moisturizer at bedtime. Look for the ingredient Hyaluronic Acid that rehydrates the skin deeply—it holds 1000x its weight in moisture. Also, be sure to drink water throughout the evening to balance out your moisture levels. Do not wait until the end of the night to guzzle water. Your body can only absorb so much water at once and will quickly eliminate the excess. Instead, be sure to drink small sips of water throughout the night.
The reason we get puffy eyes the day after drinking is because alcohol causes tiny blood vessels to become a little leaky. It’s literally water under the skin you see accumulating. The thin skin of the eye area shows the most bloating.
The Fix: Do the following 5 things:
- At dinner, do not eat too much salt. The less salt the better, simply because salt retains water, leading to more puffiness.
- At bedtime and the next day take a Vitamin B complex which is a natural diuretic and will help your body excrete the excess fluid that leaked into your puffy eyes. It also relaxes the nervous system to help you sleep (alcohol reduces R.E.M. Sleep) and may alleviate symptoms of a hangover.
- Apply an eye cream. I also added Vitamin B ingredients to my depuffing eye cream because as a topical it helps reduce puffiness.
- I recommend using two pillows in bed to prop yourself up and help prevent water from accumulating around the eyes.
- The next morning, do aerobic exercise that revs up your body and helps mobilizes fluid out from your eyes, into your circulation, and out through the kidneys.
When metabolized, alcohol produces free radicals, which are chemicals in the skin that injure our precious collagen. These collagen fibers keep our skin firm and structured. Think of alcohol’s free radicals as little “darts”—they ingest collagen, poking little holes in those fibers. And when you lose collagen the consequences are fine lines, wrinkles and laxity. In fact, like sun exposure, alcohol breaks down collagen.
The Fix: Antioxidant creams and serums applied to the skin. Use them daily for best results, but definitely at bedtime if you drank alcohol. Antioxidants are the cure to free radicals. They effectively cut those damaging pointy tips off those “darts” produced by alcohol to save collagen and prevent wrinkles, fine lines and laxity. Vitamin C serum is a source of a very powerful antioxidant you should incorporate into your skin routine. Ounce for ounce its simply the nuke of antioxidants. If you’re planning to drink, apply it in the morning to protect and at night to treat.
And it’s a good idea to also take supplements like omega–fatty–acids (fish oils) as well as lycopenes and glutathione. At dinner, with your drink, order green vegetables or berries for dessert, as they are loaded with antioxidants. And instead of that venti iced coffee order a green tea!
In some people drinking alcohol causes facial redness. This is usually a trait that runs in families whereby alcohol causes a surge of blood into the skin. This is called flushing.
The Fix: You should avoid red wine if drinking causes you redness. It’s the number one culprit because it contains tannins that increase blood flow to the face. White wine is much better in this case. Also, avoid spicy foods which may cause even more redness if combined with any alcoholic beverage. Then there’s the sun issue: if you’re prone to redness, then drinking in the sun means even more redness. Many people ask whether applying ice is helpful to reduce redness. The answer is no. Any temperature extreme, hot or cold, aggravates redness. Cool room temperatures with air conditioning is optimal. Finally, opt for lightweight moisturizers instead of thicker, heavy ones so the skin can more easily vent heat which calms the redness.
Here’s the bottom line: you can drink in moderation and still look fresh!
“Wine is proof God loves us.” – Ben Franklin
I’ll drink to that! Cheers!
Board-certified dermatologist, dermatological surgeon and native New Yorker, Dennis Gross, M.D., founded his NYC practice in 1990 following extensive research at prestigious institutes, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering. He and his skincare expertise have been featured in publications including The New York Times Magazine, Elle, Vogue andHarper’s Bazaar. Find him on Instagram at @dennisgrossmd or www.dennisgrossmd.com.