Thank you for signing up to . You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
Looking to combat your grey complexion after a few too many? We spoke to the experts about the effects of alcohol on skin, why drink causes these issues and how you can lessen the damage.
There are so many health benefits of not drinking alcohol (opens in new tab), but we understand that not everyone wants to stop drinking alcohol (opens in new tab) completely. That being said, if you’re consuming alcohol frequently, chances are you're not getting the sleep you need either, which can leave you with dark circles under the eyes (opens in new tab) and a whole plethora of other skin issues.
From dullness and enlarged pores, to blotchiness, increased redness and puffiness - we've explored how breaking down alcohol in the body can trigger these skin side effects. Plus the drinks you need to steer clear of if you're keen to beat boozy breakouts.
What are the effects of alcohol on skin?
Drinking alcohol results in two things. Dehydration and inflammation. Here, we've gone into detail about just how dehydration and inflammation effects the skin and why you might want to stick to sparkling water on your evenings out.
The effects of dehydration from alcohol
- Loss of elasticity, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin
- Enlarged pores
“Alcohol is known to dehydrate the skin, depriving it of the moisture and nutrients it needs to keep our complexion looking radiant, supple and youthful," says Dr Rita Rakus (opens in new tab), Cosmetic Doctor.
"Alcohol removes the fluid in the skin which can increase the appearance of wrinkles, dryness and sagging skin. As alcohol is a diuretic, it means that it actively draws water away from the body, significantly lowering the body’s water level, therefore causing dehydration. Dehydrated skin can look dry and unhealthy, both in the colour of the skin as well as the texture."
According to Dr Ioannis Liakas, Medical Director at Vie Aesthetics, (opens in new tab) dehydration can also lead to congestion, "Dehydration due to alcohol can also dilate the pores of the skin, leading to an increase of blackheads and whiteheads. If this is poorly treated, it can go on to cause acne and rosacea. In the long term, this ages skin and can cause permanent scarring."
The effects of inflammation from alcohol
- Increased redness or flushing of the skin
- Acne (opens in new tab)
GP and online doctor at MedExpress, Dr Clare Morrison, sheds some light on exactly how inflammation can cause skin issues. “Alcoholic drinks, notably cocktails and wine, are incredibly high in sugar, and this will show in your skin if you are consuming more than the recommended amount. Sugar [in alcoholic drinks] has been shown to trigger the hormone IGF-1, which causes an overproduction of oil in your skin, increasing your chances of breakouts or acne.”
If you suffer from the skin condition rosacea, it’s highly likely that alcohol will exacerbate your symptoms. “Rosacea is a condition that is triggered by alcohol consumption – especially red wine – as it’s an inflammatory condition, so when we drink alcohol we’re increasing chances of a flare-up," says Dr Clare.
"Alcohol consumption is also a culprit for causing inflammatory signals within the skin causing redness and flushing due to its vasodilatory effect (it opens up the blood vessels and increases the blood flow above the normal levels)," explains Dr Ana, Aesthetic Doctor at Kat & Co (opens in new tab). "Alcohol is also well known for leading to fluid retention and puffiness across the face. Rosacea, a challenging chronic inflammatory condition of the skin is very commonly triggered and driven by alcohol."
With continued alcohol use, a 2021 study (opens in new tab) by the Department of Dermatology at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine revealed that, "Alcohol misuse can present with jaundice, pruritus (itchy skin), pigmentary alterations, urticaria (hives), hair and nail changes, and oral changes. It is also a risk factor for skin cancer and infections." So, alcohol is certainly a substance that should be consumed in moderation or better yet, not at all!
The worst alcoholic drinks for your skin
From research into the types of alcoholic drinks and their effect on the skin, it’s fair to say that some are worse than others. 'The higher the alcohol content the worse the impact on the skin, therefore it is important to stick to the recommended consumption levels,' says Dr Ana, Aesthetic Doctor at Kat & Co. (opens in new tab)
Of course, drinking full stop will aggravate skin but if you want to enjoy a tipple or two, we ranked the most common drinks from worst to best for your skin...
Worst: Dark spirits (whiskey, scotch, brandy, cognac, dark rum)
If you’re partial to a few JD and cokes on a night out, then you may find yourself waking up with awful hangovers. In fact, dark spirits are generally make for the worst hangovers and are the worst culprits for bad skin.
Dark spirits, such as whiskey and brandy contain congeners – chemicals such as tannings and methanol which are created in the fermentation process – and these make hangovers worse.
The alcohol content or ABV (alcohol by volume) is generally higher in dark liquor too and according to Dr Ana, dark liquors have, 'the highest alcohol content,' meaning their effect on skin can be much worse than others.
Despite red wine being hailed as the ‘healthiest’ choice of alcohol because it contains antioxidants, it is actually one of the most damaging alcohols for your skin. This is because red wine tends to be unfiltered. And according to Dr Ana, 'Unfiltered red wine requires higher levels of processing by the body.'
Essentially, because red vino is unfiltered, the liver and kidneys have to work harder to process it, and it’s the most likely booze to cause flushing, redness, and blotchy skin – which is bad news if you already suffer from a skin condition that causes redness, such as rosacea.
Everyone loves holding a fancy cocktail glass in their hand, but your faves like Pornstar Martinis and Cosmopolitans are also bad news if you want to keep a clear complexion as the high sugar content in most cocktails can lead to inflammation, which increases cell damage and is a cause of acne. Dr Ana explains, "Cocktails are extremely high in sugar levels leading to glycation." The terrible news? Glycation is a natural process in the body in which sugar molecules attach themselves to proteins including collagen and break them down. This means loss of elastin and more wrinkles.
The high sugar levels of cocktails can also leave skin looking dull and sallow. So next time you’re perusing the menu on a night out, bear in mind that a Margarita is the worst offender as it contains both sugar and salt, both of which can leave skin puffy.
Unfortunately, white wine tends to be high in sugar too just like cocktails. "The high sugar content of white wine leads to a decreased levels of GAGs (Glycosaminoglycans - these support the proteins of our cells) which in turn, breaks down collagen and elastin.
Like cocktails, white wines high sugar content can also lead to dull, sallow skin and puffiness -the last thing you want for your face.
One of the least offensive alcohols for your skin is beer. "Alcohol is a toxin with very little nutrient value," says Dr Liakas."Any alcohol will negatively impact the quality, appearance and ageing of your skin. However, if it's something you are not willing to give up, there are some types of alcohol you can indulge in without feeling too guilty about its effects on your skin." One of such, is beer.
Although beer isn't ideal for the skin, according to Dr Ana, "Beer is filling so amounts tend to be limited and it has some antioxidant benefits." And according to research (opens in new tab), "Beer...contains a variety of compounds that offer both appreciated sensorial characteristics and health advantages." But this doesn't mean it's good for you. The antioxidants found in beer are limited and it should still be drunk in moderation.
Best: Clear spirits (vodka, gin, tequila, white rum, sake)
Lighter coloured drinks such as vodka, gin and tequila contain the least amount of additives and are processed by the body quickest. This means that they should have the least impact on your skin, therefore minimising potential damage.
Dr Liakas suggests, "Clear spirits can also be categorised as the ‘better’ alcoholic beverages for your skin. Gin is made of juniper berries which are labelled as ‘super foods’ ergo can improve blood circulation to the face, providing a youthful appearance for some individuals. Vodka, on the other hand, is associated with combating signs of blackheads, tightening pores and disinfecting the skin."
Although you may still suffer a hangover the next day, drinking lighter drinks may minimise your suffering slightly (and the amount of bacon sandwiches you have to consume!) because they don’t contain congeners. In fact, a study by the British Medical Association found bourbon is twice as likely to cause a hangover as the same amount of vodka.
How to reduce the effects of alcohol on your skin:
Keep hydrated. It may sound like an obvious one, but one of the most important things you can do to help your skin is to drink enough water (opens in new tab).
After a night out, Faye Purcell, Development Chemist at Q+A (opens in new tab) skincare suggests, getting a pint of H20 in, “Dehydrated skin needs to be treated from within, and plain and simple water is your best option. So, drink up before bed, and keep as hydrated as you can the next day. Leave a pint of water by your bed and drink it before you go to sleep. The next day, try infusing your water with cucumber, citrus or mint for an extra antioxidant boost.”
Drinking alcohol dehydrates your skin as your kidneys go into overdrive trying to flush out the excess liquids. "Drinking a lot of water alongside alcohol intake is advised to ensure you counteract the dehydration that alcohol may inflict," says Dr Liakas. So, it's important to get rehydrating ASAP.
As well as keeping your body in shape and taking care of your inner health, exercise improves the blood flow throughout the skin, helping to keep it looking healthy, juicy and plump. Dr Liakas agrees, "One of the ways you can improve the effects [of alcohol on the skin] is by exercising regularly. This can take care of your health from within, helping to improve the blood flow throughout the skin and enabling it to look healthy, silky and plump." Get sweating with a fun workout and this will clear your pores too.
Include supplements into your diet
Alcohol can drain the body of vitamin A, which is the vitamin responsible for cell turnover, so by taking a daily supplement you can help to encourage the cell regeneration process which you’ve inhibited by drinking alcohol. You can also take a supplement (opens in new tab) dedicated to keeping your skin, hair and nails healthy which can help repair your skin damages in an efficient manner. Other supplements that can help restore the balance to your skin include vitamins C, E, B1, B6, B2, B3 and Omega 3.
"Including supplements into your diet can encourage regeneration of cells which is often blocked if excessive drinking takes place," says Dr Liakas. "Skinade (opens in new tab) solutions are drinkable skincare supplements which contain vital nutrients that are delivered directly to your skin to counteract the damage that alcohol could have on your skin, taking such supplements, it can aid in restoring the vitamin levels & balance to your skin."
Drink non-alcoholic alternatives
Just because you're not drinking booze, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy a fancy cocktail. Known as a 'mocktail', most bars and restaurants will offer non-alcoholic alternatives to the cocktails on their menu.
There's also plenty of non-alcoholic beers and wines on the market, so if you're serious about cutting down your alcohol intake but still want something a bit more exciting than H20, there are lots to choose from.
Do your skincare before bed
This applies to everyone, whether you're drunk or sober. We've all been there but this really is important when it comes to looking after your skin.
We asked Faye what to look out for, “We know your usual skincare regime may go out of the window following a night out, so if you only do one thing after cleansing, apply a rich moisturiser that contains antioxidants and ingredients that help soothe and hydrate.”
“Applying calming and ultra-nourishing ingredients should be a priority! You want to look out for ingredients called humectants which will draw moisture from the air into your skin to replenish your cell's water levels and work best when applied to damp skin. Look for hyaluronic acid, glycerine and panthenol (Vitamin B5) on the ingredients list of your products.”
Dr Liakas was on board too, "Doing your skincare before bed applies to everyone, but it is especially important when skin damage is evident from drinking. It is recommended to cleanse thoroughly and apply a rich moisturiser which contains antioxidants and ingredients to help soothe and hydrate your skin layer. Calming products are always a safe choice to ensure any redness or inflammation is controlled and taken care of."
Sleep with an extra pillow
Believe it or not, sleeping with two pillows in bed slightly propped up is one of the best ways to minimise eye and face puffiness. This is because dark circles can be caused by fluids that tend to pool in the under-eye area if your head is lying flat.
Dr Ana recommends catching up on sleep after a night out and putting an extra pillow down too,"Ensuring a good night's sleep and avoiding becoming run down will be beneficial. Sleeping propped up may also help to reduce fluid accumulation and puffiness across the facial tissues in particular, the eyes."
It also helps to sleep in a cool, darkroom. Studies have shown a direct link between core body temperature and sleep quality, concluding that cooler temperatures do not interfere with the body’s natural REM cycle.
When you’re able to get a good night’s sleep, your skin and body can much more effectively recharge, allowing you to wake up looking and feeling refreshed.
Choose your cover-up carefully
If you're adamant that you're not leaving the house without make-up on, then always use a lightweight and moisturising foundation. To camouflage any redness in your face, try using a green-tinted primer before applying any make-up, which should help neutralise any redness.
It's best to avoid using powders if you're trying to improve your skin as they can be drying on the skin.
What happens to skin when you stop drinking alcohol
Whether you decide to cut down on drinking or completely stop, avoiding alcohol is inevitably going to be great for your skin. Dr Liakas explains, "Once one decides to stop drinking or cut down on the consumption of alcohol in general, it can have great positive impacts on your skin. The skin will look more hydrated, plumper and brighter."
Your body is an amazing regenerator and the negative effects of alcohol can be reversed if you act in good time. "The negative effects can be reversed," says Dr Liakas. "Wrinkles, pores and acne can be improved if you decide to put time and effort into your daily lifestyle and skincare regime."
Here’s what will happen to your skin when you quit drinking:
- Hydrated, plumper skin
- Fewer wrinkles
- Brighter skin
- Smaller pores
- Excessive redness will disappear
- Acne may improve
- Skin tone becomes even
- Puffiness subsides
- Flare-ups of rosacea become more infrequent
Anna Bailey stopped drinking alcohol (opens in new tab) in 2019 and has noticed a dramatic improvement in her skin, "I'm so much happier with my skin since I stopped drinking," she said. "I used to spend a fortune on skin creams and facials, and they'd barely make a difference - but quitting alcohol, even in just the first couple of weeks, had a dramatic and instant effect on my complexion."
"I have less fine lines, smoother skin and the vertical crease between my eyes, which was also SO much worse when I was hungover, has disappeared. I've also noticed small bumps on my skin and raised freckles seem to have shrunk down. I no longer suffer from 'drunks dawn' - waking up at 5am with a hangover - so my beauty sleep isn't interrupted and I don't look or feel as tired as I used to. When I was hungover, I couldn't resist gorging on sweets and greasy takeaways - and I'm sure cutting down on these has really helped as well."
If you’re struggling with the use of alcohol or are in need of help and guidance. Head to the NHS website or visit www.drinkaware.co.uk for more information.
Video of the Week:
How can I repair my skin from alcohol damage? ›
- Stop drinking alcohol.
- Start drinking more water (drink half your body weight in oz. every day)
- Use facial lotion regularly.
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet high (consider a collagen protein supplement)
- Consult with your dermatologist.
You Can Bounce Back—Within Reason. “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.How can I repair my body after drinking? ›
- Drink less during the week or cut out alcohol completely. Drink water with dinner instead of alcohol and be sure to hydrate well throughout the week. ...
- Cut out the extra. ...
- Eat fiber. ...
- Skip the nighttime snack. ...
"It takes approximately 28 days for your skin to renew itself", says Imogen. "This process varies from person to person and is age dependent, so to see a difference in the condition of your skin you would need to give up drinking for at least a month to see an improvement."How do you repair and reverse skin damage? ›
Sun-damaged skin treatment
They range from daily use topical creams and gels to chemical and mechanical skin peels and laser treatments. These treatments can temporarily fade uneven pigment, smooth roughened or wrinkled skin, shrink pores and even restart collagen production.
While you may not be able to reverse some of the damage that excessive alcohol use has already been done, there are certain things you can do in order to make sure the issues don't get worse. For example, you can exercise and adhere to a well-balanced diet.How alcohol changes your face? ›
When you drink, the dehydrating (or 'diuretic') effect of alcohol means your skin loses fluid and nutrients that are vital for healthy-looking skin. This can make your skin look wrinkled, dull and grey, or bloated and puffy. Dehydrated skin may also be more prone to some types of eczema.Which alcohol is good for skin care? ›
Benefits of Alcohol for Skin
Rouleau says that evaporative solvent alcohols like SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol (also known as simple alcohols) all have a dehydrating effect to the skin and are often used in toners and gel moisturizers.
Other serious skin complications of alcoholism include harsh sensitivity to sunlight, jaundice, rosacea, itching, scalp rash, and other vascular reactions. Alcohol has also been linked to psoriasis, with evidence suggesting that people who drink are more likely to develop this skin condition.Can your body repair itself from alcohol? ›
Your Liver May Heal
And alcohol is toxic to your cells. Heavy drinking -- at least 15 drinks for men and eight or more for women a week -- can take a toll on the organ and lead to fatty liver, cirrhosis, and other problems. The good news: your liver can repair itself and even regenerate.
Can your body heal after years of drinking? ›
After drinking stops, damaged organs may regain partial function or even heal completely, depending on the extent of organ damage and whether there is relapse (i.e., resumption of drinking).What to eat to recover from drinking? ›
- Hydrating Foods (Plus Plenty of Water) Alcohol use does a number on your body's hydration levels. ...
- High Quality Protein. ...
- Add Bright Fruits and Veggies as Part of Your Sobriety Diet. ...
- Healthy Carbohydrates. ...
- Nuts, Seeds, and Other Sources of Healthy Fats.
You can help repair your skin's barrier by: simplifying your skin care regimen. using products with a suitable pH. using a moisturizer that contains ceramides or a humectant like hyaluronic acid.How much alcohol should a 70 year old woman drink? ›
Those who do not take medication and are in good health should limit their total alcohol consumption to no more than seven drinks per week. Additionally, those 65+ should consume no more than three drinks on any given day.What is considered heavy drinking? ›
What do you mean by heavy drinking? For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 8 drinks or more per week.What does alcohol do to your eyes? ›
Other effects of drinking alcohol regularly can result in dry eyes and eyelid twitching, known as myokymia. This triggers short-term inflammation and double vision that causes burning and itching of the eyes, migraines, and sensitivity to light.What happens to your face if you drink alcohol everyday? ›
Alcohol causes your body and skin to lose fluid (dehydrate). Dry skin wrinkles more quickly and can look dull and grey. Alcohol's diuretic (water-loss) effect also causes you to lose vitamins and nutrients. For example, vitamin A.Does quitting alcohol change your face? ›
As soon as you give up alcohol, it's amazing just how fast your appearance will change. You'll look more vibrant, in shape, and healthy. In addition to all of these big changes above, you'll also experience less puffiness, less bloating, a slimmer appearance, clearer eyes, and smoother skin.Which alcohol is least harmful to skin? ›
Gin, vodka and tequila all contain considerably fewer additives than dark spirits, and our bodies can process them much quicker. Luckily for us, that means they'll have less of an effect on our skin, but minimal damage is still damage. Light spirits don't contain congeners, but alcohol is still going to dehydrate you.What alcohol is worse for your skin? ›
1. Red wine - Nooooooo 💔 Yup, I hate to break it to you, but red wine is pretty much the worst drink for your skin... "Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it promotes the opening of blood vessels in the skin, which is how it leads to increased redness.
Which alcohol makes skin glow? ›
Red wine not only helps clear the skin of its toxins but helps remove dead skin too. In fact, red wine also contains a high concentration of polyphenol resveratrol, a chemical that helps reduce inflammation. And thus, applying it on the skin can also reduce acne.
When you consume excessive amounts of alcohol, toxins can build up in the deeper layers of the skin causing inflammation to occur and this can manifest in your skin as bloating, puffiness, acne, redness, flushing, premature ageing and even an increase in wrinkles!What does an alcoholic rash look like? ›
Signs and symptoms of alcohol intolerance — or of a reaction to ingredients in an alcoholic beverage — can include: Facial redness (flushing) Red, itchy skin bumps (hives)What are the symptoms of too much alcohol in the body? ›
Signs and symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures. Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.What can I drink instead of alcohol? ›
- Soda and fresh lime. Proof that simple is still the best.
- Berries in iced water. This summery drink will keep you refreshed and revitalised.
- Kombucha. ...
- Virgin bloody Mary. ...
- Virgin Mojito. ...
- Half soda/half cranberry juice and muddled lime. ...
- Soda and fresh fruit. ...
Across the month, your body is likely to have benefitted greatly from giving up alcohol. Better hydration and improved sleep will have increased your productivity and daily wellbeing. Your liver, stomach and skin will also have benefitted from not dealing with alcohol.What happens after 6 weeks of not drinking alcohol? ›
By 4-8 weeks after quitting, your gut will start to level out. Your sleep-quality will improve. Though we may fall asleep faster when we drink, our brains actually increase alpha wave patterns, which cause our brains to be more active than they should be while we sleep.How do you know when your liver is healed? ›
Some signs that your liver is healing include a decrease in the swelling of ankles and feet, your skin stops itching, and your urine returns to a normal color.What to avoid as a recovering alcoholic? ›
Sign up for text support.
- Complacency. ...
- Risky Situations. ...
- Catastrophizing. ...
- Staleness. ...
Though the redness can go down, over time it can lead to a permanent enlargement of the blood vessels and visible thread veins on the skin. Alcoholic drinks are high in sugar – white wine and cocktails are especially bad for this. If you're overindulging it will often show up as spots.
Can skin damage be cured? ›
While much of the damage is permanent, treatment can reduce some signs of sun damage that are making you look older. To treat signs of aging, board-certified dermatologists often use more than one type of treatment. This helps to treat the different signs of aging.Can alcohol change your face? ›
When you drink, the dehydrating (or 'diuretic') effect of alcohol means your skin loses fluid and nutrients that are vital for healthy-looking skin. This can make your skin look wrinkled, dull and grey, or bloated and puffy. Dehydrated skin may also be more prone to some types of eczema.What helps reduce redness from alcohol? ›
There is no way to change the genes or enzyme deficiency. The only way to prevent this red flush and the associated risk for high blood pressure is to avoid or limit the intake of alcohol. Some people use over the counter antihistamines to reduce the discoloration. However, this is not advisable.What does a drinkers nose look like? ›
“Alcoholic nose,” or drinker's nose, is a skin condition commonly identified by a red, bumpy, or swollen appearance of the nose and cheeks. It's hard to say when exactly this condition became linked with heavy alcohol use, but stereotypes in popular media have kept this connection alive.What is the first step to repairing damaged skin? ›
1. Apply Pure Aloe Vera Gel. Aloe vera has been used throughout history to assist with skin repair. Typically, we think of aloe vera whenever we've spent too much time in the sun, however it's also a great option for acne-related skin damage.How do you know if your skin is permanently damaged? ›
Most common signs of a damaged skin barrier:
Itch or flaking. Dull appearance. Hyperpigmentation. Skin infections or acne breakouts.