ALCOHOL, OUR SKIN’S ENEMY?
Did you know that there is more than a headache after a night of binge drinking?
Alcohol has many effects on our body, from increasing the likelihood of nutrients insufficiencies, to decreasing antioxidant protection, and stressing the liver, though we don’t often think about what happen to our skin after a night out (or a night in, during COVID-19 lockdown).
Since the early 90s, studies have point out to a connection between heavy drinking and certain skin conditions. Moderate to severe psoriasis has been associated with increased alcohol intake, according to a 2011 study. Females are possibly more at risk of incidence of psoriasis, when considering alcohol intake, but we do not know exactly why. The mechanisms behind this link seems to be that when our body breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, it triggers the proliferation of keratinocytes (skin cells), increasing the permeability of the skin barrier. A second mechanism to take into consideration is that alcohol increases the number of inflammatory molecules in the body, incrementing the inflammation load.
Alcohol could also worsen rosacea, as it seems to either trigger or worsen facial blood vessels dilation and overall inflammation, causing the classic red appearance. A 2017 study found that the risk of having rosacea seems increased in individuals that consume alcohol, and that the worst offenders are white wine and liquors (although there are contrasting opinions on this, with some research claiming that red wine is more likely to cause a reaction).
Even without a specific skin condition, research found that there is a likely association between alcohol and facial aging. Normally, our skin is equipped with carotenoids, which are antioxidant molecules that help to protect us from UV light. When consuming alcohol, it seems that our carotenoid concentration diminishes, potentially exposing us to higher risks of UV damage and therefore aging. The worse results were noted on heavy drinkers, with an increased risk of under-eye puffiness and visible blood capillaries. In addition, alcohol also cause dehydration, because of its diuretic properties. Our bodies are smart and prioritise water for the important organs first, like the brain and the heart, leaving the skin as the last one. The issue is that sometimes we don’t drink enough water for the skin to get hydrated, hence can look dry, with more noticeable wrinkles.
Alcohol also affects your circadian rhythm, in other words our internal sleep-wake cycle. By disrupting our sleep, we are more likely to have a restless night at the expense of deep sleep, ending up having a less restorative sleep and waking up still tired. This tossing and turning, along with struggling to fall asleep, can often results in dark circles. If you recognise yourself in this poor sleep pattern, you can stop watching your phone or the TV/PC one hour before bedtime and see if your sleep improves. For dark circles, on the other hand, you could try a cold compress: brew some chamomile tea, let it cool completely, soak a clean cotton disc in it and remove any excess water before placing it on your closed eyes. Relax for 10 minutes. It is not bulletproof, but you can try it, this could help you with relaxation too.
Do you experience flushes when you drink alcohol? That could be because your body is struggling to get rid of it, causing vasodilation of the capillaries of the face, giving the classic “blushing” appearance. Usually your liver, via enzymatic reactions, breaks down alcohol into acetate and other less harmful substances, that are easier to excrete. A specific genetic variation, ALDH2, can cause this enzyme to work less efficiently, thus facilitating the accumulation of the more toxic metabolites. Usually, individuals with this genetic variation, tend to flush more easily when drinking alcohol, even with fewer drinks. Other individuals may also experience flushes while drinking alcohol, due to the consequent impaired ability to regulate body temperature: initially there is an increase of temperature, causing flushes, followed by a decrease.
As you can see, there are many reasons to be mindful of your alcohol intake, not only for general health, but also for beauty purposes. But don’t despair, there are some tricks and tips that you can implement to easily lower your consumption:
1-If you are drinking, and not willing to give it up just yet, choose a day (or more) during the week where you go completely alcohol free.
2-When you are out with friends, or don’t want to miss out on social events, give a go to alcohol free drinks sometimes, you can find beer with very low to no alcohol content, mocktails, alcohol free spirits and kombucha, to name a few (they taste good too).
3-On the days that you decide to drink, alternate your alcoholic drinks with glasses of water in order to keep hydrated and ending up having less booze.
Important info: if you think you have a problem with alcohol, or struggling to stop, ask your medical practitioner for help.
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