Is Alcohol Bad For Your Skin?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 4/17/2021

While an occasional beer here or a glass of wine there is usually okay, it’s no secret that excessive drinking does a number on your body. But have you ever stopped to think about what booze is doing to your skin?

In this piece, we’ll explore the relationship between alcohol and your skin, which alcoholic drinks are the worst for your skin and how to combat the effects of alcohol on your skin.

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Your Skin

The skin is your body’s largest organ, and it is usually a good indicator of what’s going on inside your body. Let’s take a look at the relationship between drinking alcohol and the health of your skin.

Puffiness

Do you ever wake up after a night out and don’t recognize your face in the mirror? Alcohol is known to cause puffiness in the face — particularly in the undereye area. 

According to research, even moderate drinking can cause under eye puffiness and swelling. No specific beverage type is to blame, either. Under eye puffiness is associated with drinking a combination of beverages — possibly because people who drink a combination of different beverage types might consume more alcohol overall.

Acne

There are several factors at play when it comes to breakouts and acne. According to research, one factor that contributes to acne is inflammation in the body. Inflammation causes oxidative stress, thereby linking it to the formation of acne.

The connection between oxidative stress and acne is strong. The results of a 2012 study clearly show significant increases in oxidative/nitrosative stress in acne patients. While the direct link between alcohol consumption and acne has not been scientifically proven, we can extrapolate these findings and make the connection.

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Aging Skin

Research indicates that alcohol can cause the skin to age faster and more severely. On comparisons studies done on identical twins, alcohol is a contributing factor to the appearance of an aging face.

One study demonstrated that under-eye puffiness, midface volume loss and blood vessels on the cheeks were more significant in people who drank alcohol vs. people who did not. In heavy drinkers (i.e., those who consumed eight or more drinks per week), seven facial features were significantly associated with an appearance of more severe aging than in those who did not consume alcohol.

Alcohol abuse has been reported to reduce facial fat volume, which might explain midface volume loss in heavy drinkers. Additionally, alcohol impairs the skin’s antioxidant defense system, leaving it more prone to sunburn and the aging effects of UV light.

Check out this blog post to learn more about aging skin in men.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis (not to be confused with eczema) is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that may be triggered or worsened by several factors, including alcohol. A higher than average alcohol consumption is common among people with psoriasis. 

Alcohol consumption has not only been associated with a more severe and a higher incidence of psoriasis, but also with a distinctive nature and distribution of the disease. Heavy drinkers with psoriasis tend to have more severe inflammation that is typically distributed in the face, groin and joint areas.

Rosacea

Rosacea, known colloquially as “gin blossoms,” is a skin condition which involves the blood vessels of the skin. Rosacea causes the blood vessels in the skin to become visible, which leads to a red, flushed appearance.

Alcohol has been known to cause or worsen the appearance of rosacea. Alcohol impairs the vasomotor center of the brain, inducing flushing, and is known to have a profound effect on the immune system. 

According to several studies, it has been suggested that vasodilatation in the skin and inflammation may contribute to the hallmark redness and flushing, exacerbating rosacea.

The Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Your Skin

Did you know that some drinks are worse than others? Let’s explore which types of booze have the biggest impact on your skin’s overall appearance.

Dark Liquors

Dark spirits, such as whiskey, bourbon and rum, contain congeners, which are chemicals such as tannins and methanol. These chemicals are difficult for your body to process and may take a toll on your skin as well.

Red Wine

Despite evidence to suggest red wine may be good for heart health, it’s a whole different animal when it comes to your skin. Because red wine is unfiltered, the liver and kidneys have to work harder to process it. Red wine is also the most likely booze to cause flushing, redness and blotchy skin. That’s bad news if you already suffer from a skin condition that causes redness, such as rosacea.

Cocktails

The high sugar content in many cocktails can lead to inflammation, which increases cell damage and is a cause of acne. 

Sugary cocktails can also leave your skin looking dull and sallow. 

A margarita may be one of the most habitual offenders, as it contains both sugar and salt — both of which can contribute to puffiness in the skin.

How to Combat the Effects of Alcohol on Your Skin

If you’re worried about the effects of alcohol on your skin, there are a few lifestyle habits you can adopt to combat these effects.

Quit Drinking

The first tip might be easier said than done, but the effects of quitting drinking cannot be understated. There are very little, if any, health benefits of drinking. Once you quit, you’ll notice your skin looking brighter, and you’ll have more energy to do the things you love.

1:1 Water-to-Alcohol Ratio

If quitting drinking doesn’t work for your lifestyle, consider adopting a one-to-one ratio of water to alcohol. For every alcoholic drink you consume, drink one glass of water. 

Alcohol is very dehydrating, which can make your skin appear dull and dry. Try this technique the next time you go out — and then notice the difference in your skin the following morning.

Good Skincare Routine

A good skincare routine can make all the difference in the way your skin looks. Try getting in the habit of washing your face twice per day and then following up with an anti aging skin care routine, such as a moisturizer, eye cream, or a night cream for men. Once you start to incorporate skincare into your lifestyle, it will become second-nature and you won’t even need to consciously think about it anymore.

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Takeaways

Drinking alcohol can really take a toll on your skin health. Research shows that alcohol has been known to cause or worsen puffiness, acne, aging skin, psoriasis, rosacea and more. Some of the worst alcoholic drinks for your skin include dark liquors, red wine and sugary cocktails. 

The good news is that there are several lifestyle habits you can adopt in order to improve the look of your skin. Staying hydrated, maintaining a good skincare routine or quitting drinking altogether can have a major impact on the way your skin looks and feels. Check out this blog post for more info on how to stay looking young.

11 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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  3. Al-Shobaili, H. A., Alzolibani, A. A., Al Robaee, A. A., Meki, A.-R. M. A., & Rasheed, Z. (2013). Biochemical Markers of Oxidative and Nitrosative Stress in Acne Vulgaris: Correlation With Disease Activity. Journal of Clinical Laboratory Analysis, 27(1), pp. 45–52. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jcla.21560
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  9. Red Wine Named Top Alcohol Trigger
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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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