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Alcohol and skin: how drinking affects your complexion

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Concerned about how the holidays are affecting your skin? Dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos explains how to look after your complexion when the party season is in full swing.

How drinking during the holidays affects your skin

We’re all aware of the effects binge drinking can have on our health, but that doesn’t stop most of us from overindulging during the party season. Dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos says: “We tend to associate consuming alcohol with festive occasions or as a special treat. However, we know that alcohol tires out the body. When consumed often, it dehydrates the skin, leaving the complexion appearing puffy and swollen.”

we know that alcohol tires out the body. When consumed often, it dehydrates the skin, leaving the complexion appearing puffy and swollen

Dr. Nina Roos, Dermatologist

This cultural acceptance of alcohol also means there are certain behaviours that tend to recur when we drink. Not only does alcohol itself affect our body in numerous ways, other factors tend to come into play when we have a glass or two - especially during the festive season. Lack of sleep, too much greasy or sugary food, a cigarette or two, and late nights can all contribute to skin looking or feeling more tired than usual.[1] While the occasional drink is unlikely to cause serious health problems, there are some choices you can make if you’re looking to pay a little more attention to your alcohol consumption.

Tips for glowing skin during the party season

So, what can we do to give our skin a little extra TLC during a week full of parties? Nina says: “Try swapping spirits or wine for ‘lighter’ alcoholic beverages, such as cider or beer.” The weaker the drink, the more you’ll need to consume to start feeling - and seeing - its negative effects. In other words, if a social drink is more your thing, opting for something a little less strong is a wise move during the party season.

Multiple servings of rich, sugary cocktails are also a no-no: as well as containing often strong doses of alcohol, they’re usually high in artificial flavourings, colourings and sugars. To lessen the effects of glycation - also known as “sugar sag” - on the skin, alternate with a glass of water between drinks. Nina adds: “Some people are just unable to process alcohol as well as others, so knowing your own personal limits is important.”

Alcohol dehydrates the skin, so drinking enough water the day after a big party is crucial for restoring its water levels. If you’re looking to give your skin an extra pick-me-up, opting for a face mask or eye cream rich in caffeine can help reduce that “I just woke up” look, as caffeine helps constrict blood vessels (which are dilated by alcohol). Inflammation is a common side effect of overindulging[2], so if you’re suffering from redness or feelings of itchiness after drinking, opting for a hydrating face mask enriched with calming ingredients, such as vitamin B, can help.


[1] Oyetakin-White, P. et al, ‘Does poor sleep quality affect skin ageing?’ in Clinical and experimental dermatology 40.1 (2015) pp. 17-22 [Accessible at:]
[2] Farkas, A. et al, ‘Alcohol, liver, systemic inflammation and skin: a focus on patients with psoriasis’ in Skin pharmacology and physiology 26.3 (2013) pp. 119-126 [Accessible at:]

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