Alcohol and the skin

Alcohol and the skin

As we embrace the new year, many of us consider participating in ‘Dry January’ – a month-long break from alcohol. This pause in our drinking habits isn’t just a welcome detox for our bodies, but it can also bring surprising benefits to our skin.

Here, we’ll explore the relationship between alcohol and skin health, and how cutting back can lead to noticeable improvements in your appearance.

How does alcohol affect the skin?

When you enjoy a drink, your skin feels the impact too. In the short term, one visible effect is flushing, where your complexion appears redder or inflamed. This happens because alcohol releases histamines, which cause blood vessels under your skin to dilate.

Another common issue is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you lose fluids and can leave your skin looking dull and dry. Sleep quality often suffers too, and we all know how important a good night’s sleep is for that fresh-faced look.

If you’re already dealing with skin conditions like Rosacea, Seborrheic Dermatitis, or Psoriasis, alcohol can also make things worse. It can trigger flare-ups and worsen symptoms, making managing these conditions more challenging. There is also evidence that drinking excess alcohol can put you at a greater risk of developing skin conditions, and can make them resistant to treatment.

Long term skin changes

Over time, regular alcohol consumption can lead to more permanent changes. One of the more serious concerns is an increased risk of skin infections. Alcohol can impair your body’s immune response, making it harder for your skin to fight off infections. Furthermore, the body’s ability to absorb nutrients is impaired.

Prolonged drinking can damage the liver causing problems such as cirrhosis and hepatitis. These conditions can also affect the skin, sometimes resulting in yellowing of the skin (jaundice), darker skin around the eyes, visible blood veins in the face (telangiectasia) and itchy skin.

More worryingly, there’s a link between alcohol and an increased risk of skin cancer. Consistent heavy drinking can weaken the skin’s defences, making it more susceptible to cancer-causing UV rays.

How to prevent alcohol related skin effects

The most straightforward way to prevent these skin issues is to either avoid alcohol completely or enjoy it in moderation. When you do drink, it’s a good idea to alternate alcoholic drinks with water. Staying hydrated helps counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol.

Eating a balanced meal before drinking can also slow down alcohol absorption, offering some protection for your skin. Also, don’t forget about skincare. A good moisturising routine can help combat dryness.

If you do notice any changes in your skin or your existing skin conditions are flaring up, book an appointment with expert dermatologist Dr Juliet Williams. While alcohol can be a factor, there could be many other reasons why you’re experiencing skin troubles. If you are struggling to control your alcohol intake, there is help available. If you are concerned about your drinking habits, get in touch with your local doctor who can help advise you as well as put you in touch with support groups.