Unfortunately, it’s not good news. ‘Drinking alcohol is one of the worst things you can do for your skin,’ says Dr Tailor. ‘Alcohol is a toxin with little nutrient value and can contribute to poorer liver function, reduced immunity, hormone disruption, cell damage and insulin issues all impacting on the quality, appearance and ageing of your skin. Alcohol is also a diuretic, so you can lose plenty of skin cell-loving water from the body quite rapidly, leaving your skin dehydrated and dull.’
What effects does alcohol have on your skin?
‘As I’m sure we’re all aware, alcohol is incredibly dehydrating,’ says Dr Tailor. ‘Not only is alcohol a diuretic forcing the water out of our bodies, but it also makes it more difficult to rehydrate afterwards so you will be left with dry, flaky skin and your fine lines and wrinkles will be more visible thanks to the lack of fluid in your skin.’
‘If you look at a woman who has been drinking for 20 or 30 years, and a woman the same age who hasn’t at all, we see a massive difference in the skin—more wrinkles from that dehydration damage, which can make you look 10 years older.”
Redness & Inflammation
Everyone knows the sun is the number-one ager for the skin, but most people don’t realize that the second major cause of skin aging is inflammation. Alcohol inflames the tissue, and systemic inflammation to the skin caused by alcohol creates a histamine reaction—that creates the redness, the flushing of the skin.
‘What alcohol does is bring the blood up to the tissue causing inflammation so that’s why it’s harmful to the skin. That can manifest in blotchiness, redness, ruddiness, and dehydration.’
Spots & Breakouts
‘Alcoholic drinks tend to be high in sugar – white wine and cocktails are especially bad for this. If you’re overindulging too often this will instantly show up as breakouts,’ says Dr Tailor. ‘The sugar in alcohol can quite literally crystallise your skin cells (glycation), leading to less plump, supple cells and a duller complexion.’
Generally speaking it’s best to avoid any sugar-heavy wines, cocktails, or mixers, as they can increase inflammation, spike your blood sugar, and lead to acne breakouts. Stick to pure additives like club soda and lemon or lime juice to add flavour without excess sugar.
By interfering with the hormone system, alcohol can affect blood sugar levels, impair reproductive functions, interfere with calcium metabolism and bone structure, affect hunger and digestion, and increase the risk of osteoporosis. When you drink, it raises your stress hormone levels like cortisol and stress can put even more pressure on your immune system and then lead to skin that’s broken out.
Lowered Immune System
The good bacteria that live in your gut are known as the microbiome which can be severely impacted by alcohol. An imbalance between good and bad gut bacteria may be responsible for skin conditions such as eczema and acne so diminishing the microbiome can cause flare-ups.
‘Alcohol can deplete healthy levels of the important bacteria that live in our gut – the microbiome,’ says Dr Tailor. ‘The microbiome helps to regulate our immune system, which is important in managing inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema.’
How quickly does alcohol affect your skin?
You will notice the short-term effects immediately. 24 hours after one night of excessive drinking (three drinks or more) your skin will appear dull, slack, lined and those who suffer from acne and rosacea will see flare ups.
How long does it take to reverse the effects of alcohol?
It takes approximately three days for the liver to dispose of all the toxins from the alcohol. If you do give it up, the good thing is that your skin, like any other organ, has the ability to regenerate. The body has a fabulous rate of rehydration. But that regeneration depends on how much damage has already been done.
Top tips to repair the effects of alcohol on the skin:
Pretty obvious point to make, but now that we know all of the things alcohol can do to your skin, surely that’s enough to put anyone off having an extra glass of prosecco on a Friday night. After a month of staying margarita-free, your skin will likely be significantly healthier-looking. Your skin will have less swelling, a more even tone, and a more hydrated look. Bonus: you may experience some weight loss too!
And lots of it. Before, during and after you consume alcohol, drink as much water as you can. The hydration will help your body get rid of the toxins faster and replenish dehydrated skin cells to reduce the dulling effect that alcohol has on your skin.