Alcohol and Skin

Spring Break is supposed to be fun. For some, consumption of alcohol has become a part of the spring break tradition. But before you go bottoms up, know how alcohol can affect your skin, and what you can do to minimize those effects.

Alcohol...

...dehydrates your skin. When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream and causes the pituitary gland in your brain to stop making antidiuretic hormone (ADH). One of ADH’s main jobs is to regulate the body’s retention of water. Without it, the water in your kidneys gets sent directly to your bladder instead of getting reabsorbed back into your bloodstream. Ever notice how you go the bathroom more frequently after drinking alcohol? This is why. And being dehydrated can make your skin look dull and pale.

...disrupts your sleep. Alcohol inhibits glutamine, an amino acid that is a natural stimulant. When you stop drinking, your body tries to counteract this effect by producing more glutamine than it needs. The increase of glutamine stimulates the brain, most often while you are trying to sleep. So although alcohol is a depressant, it can keep you from getting a full, restful night of sleep, which can wreak havoc on your skin, among other things.

...dilates the blood vessels of your skin. Alcoholic beverages, especially those that are fermented (ie, beer and sherry), contain vasoactive chemicals such as histamine and tyramine. These chemicals cause the capillaries, or tiny facial blood vessels, in your skin to dilate and carry more blood to the surface, which can lead to temporary flushing. But if you regularly drink alcohol, the constant dilation can cause the capillaries to burst, leading to permanent red spidery veins.

...can trigger rosacea. While causes of rosacea vary greatly from person to person, there are some triggers that are more common than others. In a survey done by the National Rosacea Society, 52 percent of 1,066 people with rosacea reported that alcohol was a trigger that caused their rosacea to flare-up.

...can impact your decision making. Wearing sunscreen and avoiding excessive sun exposure is critical for both the near term and long term health of your skin.  If you drink too much and forget to apply your sunscreen you increase your risk of a sunburn and increase the chance of getting skin cancer in the future.

Here are some things you can do before, during and after drinking to minimize its harmful effects on the skin.

Before:

• Eat a full meal. A full stomach slows down the absorption of alcohol, especially if your meal includes some fatty foods.

• Drink a glass of water to ensure your body is hydrated before the diuretic effect takes hold.

During:

• Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage to stay hydrated. An added benefit is that it will slow down drinking, providing your body more time to process the alcohol.

• Drink in moderation. A general rule of thumb is to drink one alcoholic beverage per hour, because that is usually how long it takes for the body to process it.

After:

• Drink water to replenish the body’s water supply after a night of drinking.

• Eat a well-balanced meal. Include bananas or other potassium-rich foods to help replenish the potassium lost to alcohol’s diuretic effect.

 

Have fun, enjoy your holiday, and follow these tips for healthier spring break skin, but most importantly, remember to drink responsibly.

 

References:

Freedberg, Irwin M., and Thomas B. Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, Health Professions Division, 1999. Print.

Odom R, Dahl M, Dover J, et al. Standard management options for rosacea, part 1: overview and broad spectrum of care. Cutis. 2009;84(1):43–47.

Published on 07/13/2011 | Last updated on 12/20/2016