When it comes to drinking, we all know that the 12 days of Christmas are more like 12 days of hangovers (if not longer).
Having a few too many drinks can certainly have an adverse effect on your skin, but don’t worry; as the holiday season draws near, we’ve got all the tricks to keep your skin radiant and glowing.
There’s a good chance that you’ll be imbibing heavily at the office Christmas party, so it’s only natural to wonder: how does alcohol effect our skin?
It’s true that red wine contains antioxidants and helps reduce oxidative stress, but generally, alcohol induces a stress reaction in the skin, which could hasten the skin’s natural ageing process.
There is some anecdotal evidence that those of us who regularly consume excessive amounts of alcohol appear older than our actual age. The good news is that we will start to look younger very quickly as we reduce our use.
These anti-alcohol skincare tricks will make you feel like Christmas morning has arrived early.
Increase your water intake
It might sound basic, but experts reiterate this tip time and time again for a reason. It works.
Rosalind Chapman, founder of Transformulas and a skin expert, says: ‘Alcohol in excess can really have severe effects on the skin – changes can include dry skin and it can most definitely also worsen underlying skin conditions.
‘Dehydration is what causes most of the problems. Alcohol is a diuretic, it causes the body to make and release more urine, which means when you’re drinking, you’re losing more water and salt than usual.
‘Your skin therefore becomes dehydrated, which visibly manifests in the form of dry skin, sunken eyes, decreased elasticity and dry lips.’
So how do we avoid this?
‘The best way to avoid this when drinking this festive season is to stop and have a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink.
‘Alcohol can also cause the blood vessels under the skin to dilate – which makes you look “flushed” or red and puffy.
‘Similarly if you suffer regularly with skin conditions like rosacea (a skin condition that can cause irritation and pimples on a person’s face), alcohol can worsen this.
Lots of people similarly suffer with eczema, especially during the colder months, and eczema tends to occur more often in people who drink a large quantity of alcohol.
‘To combat all of this, water really is the answer.’
Avoid darker spirits
Are there certain alcoholic drinks that are worse for your skin than others? The short answer is yes.
Rosalind says: ‘Alcohol is usually high in sugar, so whether it’s from mixers or the alcohol itself, the sugar will crystallise in your skin cells, making the skin appear dull and adding to that dehydration.
‘The ‘worst’ alcoholic drinks for the skin include darker spirits like rum and whiskey – which are popular during the festive season!
Why does the weather in the festive season have an impact on our skin?
Australian celebrity doctor Ginni Mansberg, who is best known as the resident doctor on Sunrise and is founder of ESK Skincare, says: ‘Winter alone can be brutal on skin. Redness peaks as a concern for about 60% of users (vs 50% in summer); Sensitivity at 39% (vs. 27% in summer) and Dry skin at 29% (vs. 19% in Summer).
‘In winter because the air is colder it can hold far less moisture than the warm air in summer. So winter air tends to be drier and going back to school science that increases the moisture gradient and means more water loss from our skin (Trans epidermal Water Loss).
‘Couple that with wind and our skin cops it. But when you add long hot showers and baths into the mix, that can result is a lower oil content on the surface of the skin so the surface of our skin has less of a protective shield to start with.’
The three tricks to looking after skin in these sort of conditions are:
- Avoid things that compromise the skin barrier, that means protecting from UV rays. It also means avoiding long hot showers and baths, spending too long in front of a heater to warm up and avoiding putting things on the skin that can irritate or dry it. The most common culprit is soap (because of its high pH).
- Use moisturising ingredients which help the skin retain water. There are 3 types of moisturising ingredients which can either attract water (humectant), form a smooth film on the skin (emollient) or block water loss from the skin (occlusive). In winter, you will need a heavier moisturiser which has more emollients and occlusive ingredients. Heavier is not a scientific term, but often you can feel whether a moisturiser sticks around for a while after application (heavy) or it feels like there is nothing there. Not the most scientific way of choosing a moisturiser for winter, but practically it usually works. These moisturising products may come in the form of creams or oils. The form doesn’t matter, only the function does.
- Use ingredients that help the skin improve its natural ability to retain more moisture like Lactic acid and Vitamin B3.
‘Rum contains a huge amount of sugar which is what makes it one of the biggest culprits. So avoid Jack Daniels and Coke at the Christmas party if you can.’
Are there any spirits that are a lesser evil?
She adds: ‘After dark spirits come gin, vodka and tequila which all contain fewer additives and can be processed by our bodies quicker – so they are better for you if you’re drinking in quantity, but still not “good”.
‘When it comes to wine, red wine isn’t filtered like other drinks – so your kidneys have to do a lot of work to process it.
‘Therefore flushing will be at play if you drink it and if you suffer from rosacea, you should avoid it. White wine has a high sugar content which will result in inflammation and puffy skin.’
Avoid sugary mixers
For those of us who can’t handle wine, beer or bubbles then mixers are usually on the menu.
Rosalind says: ‘The best mixers for the skin are those which keep you as hydrated as possible. Think sparkling water and seltzers.
‘Alcohol dehydrates your skin because your kidneys are working to flush it out – refuelling the kidneys with water will help them to do that.
‘To help also, after a night out, stick to your skincare routine. Taking your makeup off and properly cleanse your skin before bed will help keep acne and other issues at bay after a night of drinking.
‘Finish off your routine with a super hydrating cream which will help skin to become softer, vibrant and more firm. You need deep hydration after drinking.’
Get your sleep
Tired skin isn’t happy skin.
Dr Mansberg says: ‘We know that sleep affects the way you look – and if you’re drinking, you’re likely getting less sleep too.
‘In one small study, researchers had random people assess the faces of people who’d had good sleep and those who’d not achieved their 40 winks.
‘The sleep deprived people had more hanging eyelids, redder eyes, more swollen eyes, darker circles under the eyes, paler skin, more wrinkles/fine lines, and more droopy corners of the mouth!
‘It’s about the quality of your skin, too. Inadequate sleep is linked to reduced skin health and accelerated skin ageing.’
Scientific links between your drinking and your skin:
Dr Mansberg says: ‘To be honest it’s a bit of a mixed bag! According to a 2009 study comparing twins in the US, drinking alcohol “more frequently” was linked to less wrinkling in women.
‘Having said all of which, this was a self-reporting survey (notoriously inaccurate) and they didn’t differentiate between a glass of pinot with dinner and a bottle of vodka for breakfast!
‘A 2012 study of Turkish adults found no relationship between alcohol consumption and wrinkles.
‘But before you break open the champagne, other studies find the opposite.
‘In 2017 (in Europe) and 2019 (of American, Australian, Canadian and the UK participants) studies found that higher alcohol consumption (particularly heavy consumption) was associated with more skin wrinkling.
‘In some ways, this mirrors so much of what is seen in medicine. The nuance seems to be in the amount. Drinking in moderation isn’t the same as getting trashed on a regular basis!’