Ever noticed how your skin can look a little worse for wear after a night out? This is why.
Here’s a scenario: you have a night out on the town, skip cleaning your face before bed, wake up dehydrated and tired, and look in the mirror only to see dull skin, in need of some TLC—recognise this pattern? There’s a whole slew of reasons why you might see a dip in skin health after drinking, from the chemical reactions going on inside your body, to a general lack of attention. We’re here to break it down for you, and explain why a break from the booze could be just what your epidermis needs.
The physical impact of alcohol on the skin
Depending on the volume, frequency, and content of your drinking sessions, alcohol can negatively impact the appearance of your skin in a number of ways. A 2019 study found that alcohol can make you look older by…
- impairing the skin’s antioxidant defense system, leaving it more prone to sunburn and the aging effects of ultraviolet light.
- causing broken facial blood vessels
- increasing inflammation or puffiness
- reducing water volume, leading to dryness and/or wrinkles
- causing uneven skin tone
The same study discovered that having eight or more drinks per week is likely to make these symptoms worse (and worse again if you smoke as well). Even moderate drinking can cause puffiness as well as shrinking and drooping in the cheeks.
Alcohol can also lead your body to produce more stress hormones like glucocorticoids, which over time can cause premature or exaggerated aging. On top of all this, drinking can interrupt your REM sleep, meaning you wake up feeling unrested, with your skin suffering the added impact of fatigue—such as those dreaded dark circles under your eyes.
The behavioural impact: interrupting healthy routines
So, those are the physiological ways in which alcohol affects your body. But we’re not done yet, because of course alcohol also has an impact on your behaviour—which can then have a knock-on effect on your skin, too.
After a drinking session, does your usual skin-care routine fall to the wayside before you get to bed? If so, the dirt and grime of the day (not to mention makeup, if applicable) stays on your skin overnight, blocking pores. Plus you also miss out on any nourishing, rehydrating products you would usually apply.
In addition to that, when you’re drinking alcohol you’re likely skipping the hydrating fluids you’d normally have—swapping hydration for dehydration, which ultimately leaves your skin feeling dry and tight. If your alcoholic drinks also happen to contain a lot of sugar, then that can have aging effects on the skin too, like damaging the proteins in your skin that keep it elastic.
So what can you do about it?
We might be biased, but for us the best skin-care advice since sliced cucumber is to reduce your alcohol consumption. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so it’s not surprising it’s one of the first places you’ll see warning signs that you’re drinking too much. Plus, lowering the amount of alcohol in your system allows your liver to do its job properly: detoxify the body, which can also help with the appearance of your skin.
“Since starting my challenge, I’ve lost around 18lb. I look younger, healthier and I feel happier. My skin has never been this good. EVER.” —Vicki
Interested in some help cutting back on your drinking? You’re in the right place. Get started with our free mindset hack series today!
Goodman GD, Kaufman J, Day D, et al. Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial, Cross-sectional Survey. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019;12(8):28-39.
Spencer RL, Hutchison KE. Alcohol, aging, and the stress response. Alcohol Res Health. 1999;23(4):272-283.
An entrepreneur and former senior oil broker, Ruari gave up drinking after excessive consumption almost cost him his marriage, and worse, his life. Going alcohol-free improved his relationships, career and energy levels, leading to him founding OYNB to provide a support network for others.