5 boring but real effects alcohol has on your skin

It’s Christmas, you’ve got a million and one work dos/extended family gatherings/events with your actual real life friends (delete as appropriate) to attend and they’ve all got one thing in common – booze.

From bucks fizz with your Christmas morning breakfast to prosecco cocktails and a snifter of sherry just ‘cos, it’s often one alcohol laden event after enough. Don’t even get us started on the Baileys and mulled wine.

But have you ever stopped to think about what all these delicious tipples are doing to your skin? Because frankly, it’s not great.

For those of you wanting to fend off your rosacea at the cost of an espresso martini or two, read on. For the rest of you, back to the bar!


How bad is alcohol for your skin?

Unfortunately, it’s a whole lot of bad news. ‘Drinking alcohol is one of the worst things you can do for your skin,’ says facialist and Time Bomb skin expert Michaella Bolder. Something that nutritional therapist Lola Ross agrees with:

‘Alcohol is a toxin with little nutrient value and can contribute to poorer liver function, reduced immunity, hormone disruption, cell damage and insulin issues all impacting on the quality, appearance and ageing of your skin. Alcohol is also a diuretic, so you can lose plenty of skin cell-loving water from the body quite rapidly, leaving your skin dehydrated and dull.’

So what effects does alcohol actually have on your skin?

Brace yourselves, because this isn’t pretty…

1. Dehydration

‘As I’m sure we’re all aware, alcohol is incredibly dehydrating,’ says Bolder. ‘Not only is alcohol a diuretic forcing the water out of our bodies, but it also makes it more difficult to rehydrate afterwards so you will be left with dry, flaky skin and your fine lines and wrinkles will be more visible thanks to the lack of fluid in your skin.’

2. Puffiness

‘Worse however is the inflammatory effect alcohol has on our bodies. When we drink it causes our insides to become inflamed and this will quickly show up on the skin in the form of redness, breakouts and puffiness.’

3. Breakouts

‘Alcoholic drinks tend to be high in sugar – white wine and cocktails are especially bad for this. If you’re overindulging too often this will instantly show up as breakouts,’ says Bolder. Or as Ross puts it, ‘The sugar in alcohol can quite literally crystallise your skin cells (glycation), leading to less plump, supple cells and a duller complexion.’

4. Hormone disruption

According to Ross, ‘sugar in alcohol can initiate an insulin response and elevated insulin can have a negative affect on thyroid and sex hormones, causing hormonal imbalance and skin problems.’

5. Microbiome disturbance

‘Alcohol can deplete healthy levels of the important bacteria that live in our gut – the microbiome,’ says Ross. ‘The microbiome helps to regulate our immune system, which is important in managing inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema.’

The Sin List

…aka the alcoholic drinks guilty of ruining your skin, ranked in order.

According to facialist and Time Bomb skin expert Michaella Bolder:

1. Margaritas 

High levels of sugar and alcohol which causes inflammation resulting in sensitivity, breakouts, redness and cell damage. Combine this with the high levels of salt which causes water retention making our faces appear puffy and swollen.

naughty vs nice cocktails jpg

2. Cocktails

All cocktails contain high levels of sugar whether that’s with syrups, fruit juices or actual sugar.

3. Red wine

It’s a vasodilator which causes blood vessels to expand creating redness, plus it releases histamine which again causes redness and flushing. Totally avoid red wine if you struggle with rosacea.

4. White wine

Contains sulphites which can irritate the skin, plus it has high levels of sugar.

5. Vodka and Red Bull

Vodka is probably the least damaging spirit you can drink, but combining it with an energy drink makes this a terrible choice for your skin. The high levels of chemicals, caffeine and sugar in Red Bull causes inflammation and irritation, plus your sleep will be inhibited.

According to nutritional therapist Lola Ross:

1. Baileys

There are 5g (1tsp) of sugar in a 25ml glass of Baileys, plus additives and dairy cream that’s full of skin cell hardening saturated fats.

2. Espresso martini

The combination of alcohol and caffeine is a hard core blood sugar disruptor and stimulates stress hormones – not good for skin health.

gallery 1502397107 espresso martini festival 1

3. Rum and coke

Rum has a high sugar and alcohol content. Mixing with coke will top up the sugar levels and even if you opt for a sugar-free coke, you’ll swap the sugar for liver-stressing additives that reducing healthy liver detoxification instead.

4. Prosecco

The much loved fizz has a fair bit of sugar and is also often filled with preservatives and additives. What’s worse is, as it’s so easy to drink, we tend to drink a lot of it.

1507634586 prosecco 1506680363 2

5. Premixed cocktails

Easy and often cheap, premixed cocktails such as Bucks Fizz or Bellini’s are usually full of added sugar and preservatives and colourings.

How quickly does alcohol affect your skin?

‘You’ll notice the short-term effects immediately’, says Bolder. ’24 hours after one night of excessive drinking (three drinks or more) your skin will appear dull, slack, lined and those who suffer from acne and rosacea will see flare ups.’

How long does it take to reverse the effects of alcohol?

‘In relation to skin health, some people might see benefits after 3 days of abstaining from alcohol, which gives the liver time to excrete alcohol, sugars and its other ingredients,’ says Ross.

So whether responsible or not, you don’t have to abstain from the fizz completely. Huzzah!

What can you do to help hungover skin?

‘If you’ve been hitting it hard for an extended period (hello Christmas!) then you need to give your body a helping hand and incorporate retinols (vitamin A) in your skincare to encourage the cell regeneration process which you’ve inhibited by drinking alcohol,’ says Bolder.

‘Combat hungover skin by using lovely plant-based oils like Time Bomb Youth Juice Secret Oil and products containing mega moisturisers like hyaluronic acid,’ says Bolder. ‘Encourage the process by drinking at least two litres of water a day and adding in lemon to kick start the liver’s detoxification process.’

Is there anything good for your skin in alcohol?

Optimistic we know, but surely it’s not all bad news? Alas, according to Bolder there’s not much hope with this one:

‘I know some people claim that red wine contains antioxidants which are good for your skin but the alcohol and sugar content alone outweigh any benefits that they may have on our skin.’

Party pooper.



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