For plenty of us, there’s nothing more enjoyable than pouring ourselves a glass of wine or a strong cocktail at the end of a long workday. On weekends, some of us enjoy multiple mimosas over brunch, and tie one off with some friends on a Saturday night; hangovers are damned! But upon looking at our splotchy, hungover faces in the cold, fluorescent morning light of our bathrooms, we’ve often wondered: What exactly is all that booze doing to my skin?
In pursuit of perfect skin, we try countless serums and creams, book elaborate facials, and chug water religiously, yet there’s a beyond-simple fix that has been staring us in the face all this time: giving up (or significantly cutting back on) alcohol, which we’ve long known is no health elixir, but has a perhaps unexpected impact on our complexions, in particular.
Alcohol is actually one of the worst, most aggressive compounds to destroy your skin. If you want to get older, go ahead and drink. Here we break down the exact effects alcohol can have on your skin and how, when you do indulge, to imbibe in the best possible way.
Drinking is classified as two drinks a day. There’s a huge amount of damage to the skin that occurs; alcohol affects any mucous membrane from the pancreas and liver to the skin. The first effect is dehydration, as it actually takes all the fluid out of the skin. If you look at a woman who has been drinking for 20 or 30 years, and a woman the same age that 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.
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. At first you think, oh you’re a little red, not a big deal, but over a period of time—six months, a year, two years—if you continue drinking, it can become a prominent facial redness you can’t get away from.
Hard to bounce back
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 been done. If you’ve been drinking for 15 to 20 years and stop, I think it’s great, but can you regenerate your skin back to [that of] a normal 50-year-old? Once you destroy the collagen, it is hard to get back.
Choosing liquor wisely
People are going to drink, whether you like it or not, so what is the best alcohol to drink? Different alcohols have different effects on the skin, but as a general rule, the clearer, and the better. Vodka, gin, and tequila get out of your system quicker. If you’re going to drink anything, in my opinion, drink vodka that doesn’t have a grain in it, like potato vodka. It’s a lot clearer and smoother, so it gets in and out of your body, no problem.
Drink 3 times in a week or less
So, when you’re 20 years old and drink, that drink leaves your body in about three hours. When you’re 40 years old, it takes an average of 33 hours. If your transit time is three hours, that means you can drink on Monday and by Tuesday, it’s out of your body. If you’re 40 and you drink on Monday, don’t drink until Wednesday. Minimize to once or twice a week—the lower the intake, the lower the damage to your skin.
Stay Hydrated. If you’re going to drink, drink water with it to increase that diuretic effect. I think mothers have been saying that for the last 2,000 years, but nobody listens if your mother says it.