This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Continue if you are OK with this or find out more in our Privacy Policy.


How to stop alcohol from wrecking your skin

December 27th 2017 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment


Getty Images

Don’t let wine, beer and Christmas spirits steal your glow. If you’re going to drink, or perhaps you’re sitting by the fire with a Baileys as you read this ('tis the season), here’s the ‘need to know’ on how alcohol affects your skin, and how you can minimise the damage. Bottoms up...

Alongside sleigh bells, carols and snapping crackers, one of the quintessential sounds of Christmas is the pop (...plural) of a champagne cork, often at circa midday, or you know, breakfast, when the strongest tipple you’d normally sip is a well-brewed Earl Grey. But it’s fine, because it’s holiday season, and you’ve got licence to replace tea for G&T if you so please, although hard spirits on your cornflakes isn’t something to make a habit of of course.

If you are drinking more than you usually might, however, there’s no denying that a heightened consumption of booze has repercussions for your skin as well as your head. We’re not suggesting that you roll dry into the New Year, unless that’s already your plan, but there are steps you can take to take the edge off of grey booze face and prevent long-term skin-jury. Captain hydration at your service.

Choose your sauce strategically

Serving size aside (we’ll come to that), the booze you choose can make a difference to the appearance of your skin post-party. Dermatologist Dr Doris Day breaks down the bar menu:

“The effects of different drinks on your health, skin and hangover comes down to the type of alcohol and additional ingredients within it. Drinks containing lots of sugar, for example alcopops and sweet cocktails, give you a ‘sugar hangover’, in addition to any negative effects associated with alcohol intake. Drinks made with salt, on the other hand, contribute to bloating, puffiness and dehydration, while dark spirits such as whisky include by-products of the distillation process, called congeners, which are thought worsen your hangover.”

A filthy hangover tends to go hand in hand with lacklustre skin, and the more additives that your drinks contain, in general the more effort involved for your liver to metabolise your liquor, and the more pronounced after-effects such as dehydration, fine lines and breakouts. DELIGHTFUL. You can lessen your chances of blah skin by opting for certain tipples over others. Expert facialist Abigail James clears things up:

“Clear spirits are the safest bet for skin. My personal drink of choice would be a vodka cranberry, or better still a long cocktail that isn’t laden with sugar. Try a vodka soda water blend with refreshing rose, lavender or rosemary. It’s (almost) hydrating and means that you don’t have to compromise on any fun, but you shouldn’t wake up with any unpleasant surprises skin-wise.”

You’ll be pleased to know that quaffing a glass of red with your turkey sandwich comes with the dermatologist seal of approval, at least from author of Future Proof Your Skin and Eudelo clinic founder Dr Stefanie Williams:

“In my opinion it is best not to have alcohol too regularly, and to always avoid overindulging. However, if you do have it, I recommend a dry red wine. It contains the anti-ageing “miracle” compound resveratrol and a number of polyphenic constituents, plus its carbohydrate content is low. I have to admit that I’m partial to the occasional glass of red myself.”

Emphasis on the singular glass and ‘occasional’ of course. As you already know, quantity matters as much as quality when it comes to the skin and wellbeing alcohol aftermath…

Two is the magic number

At least according to dermatologist Dr Harold Lancer MD:

“Alcoholic drinks dehydrate your skin and deplete it of vital nutrients, giving skin a dulled appearance. Repeated overindulgence can create permanently red, spidery veins, so to avoid this try to drink moderately- ideally no more than two drinks a day.”

Clearly most of us will have a few more top ups to our “two glasses” during party season, and there’s nothing wrong with the odd night of debauchery, but those binge drinking warnings ring true for skin as well as our health on the whole, as Dr Stefanie affirms:

“Alcohol consumption has been shown to increase oxidative stress and the highly reactive metabolite acetaldehyde within it is the key driver for damage. Chronic alcohol consumption also leads to mitochondrial dysfunction (mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells). Excess alcohol intake has also been shown to shorten telomeres (protective structures at the end of our chromosomes), accelerating ageing. Binge drinking seems to be particularly harmful- these episodes can age you unbelievably.”

Not the joyful festive tidings you were hoping for, but the good news is that a more measured approach to alcohol isn’t anything to panic over, as Dr Doris Day assures:

“Moderation is key. Those who binge drink on the weekends are actually doing more harm than those who enjoy the odd glass of wine in the week during dinner. It’s also advisable to have at least two or three days without any alcohol at all and never to exceed more than the UK Medical Officer guidance of 14 units per week.”

If you’ve got a bit of downtime between Christmas and New Year, consider having a day or two off the hard stuff to allow skin and bod to recover.

Match wine with water

In addition to not going too gung-ho on the gin (while clear spirits are superior to sugary concoctions skin-wise, Dr Day warns that tequila et al can be dangerous in terms of inadvertently drinking too much), that old chestnut of alternating alcoholic drinks with straight up H2O is still a good skin-surance policy. Dr Day lays down the law:

“Too much alcohol in your system can quickly dehydrate the skin, leading to issues such a sagging, discolouration and enlarged pores. To lessen your chances of dehydration, try to drink one glass of water for every unit of alcohol you consume. Also ensure that you drink plenty of water following a night out.”

If you want to switch it up and give plain old water a bit of a kick, Abigail advocates waking up with a zingy hot toddy of the non alcoholic variety:

“Whether I’ve been out the night before or not, I love to begin each day with a cup of hot water with lemon, turmeric and cayenne pepper or fresh ginger.”

Whatever floats your boat. To up the hydration ante, aesthetic doctor Dr David Jack suggests mixing up a turbo-powered skin elixir for extra recovery benefits:

“Rehydration after alcohol is one of the major ways to combat the negative effects that booze can have on skin. Although drinking plenty of water is important, it is often a good idea to add supplementary electrolytes and vitamins to help boost your skin’s hydration and nutrient uptake even further, particularly considering that skin is at its most vulnerable in terms of moisture loss, plus inflammation is high directly after drinking. Supplements such as my own SkInfusion, £65, (which can be taken during exercise too if you feel like it) are perfect for this, as they contain a high concentration of antioxidants and micronutrients. If you want something simple, even a couple of Berocca can help the morning after.”


The importance of SOS rehydration also increases with age, as Dr Lancer explains:

“Alcohol is a diuretic that dehydrates the entire body, as is evidenced by the intense thirst of a hangover. When your skin is dehydrated, it becomes scaly and taut with superficial lines. Dehydration becomes more prevalent with age, and can also lead to premature ageing.”

More happy happy joy joy, but give yourself a helping hand in the hydration stakes and you’ll negate the parched effects. This should also help to calm the alcohol induced inflammation that can lead to facial flushing and rosacea and acne flare-ups. The better hydrated you are, the more soundly you’ll sleep too…

Bed down

It’s hard to settle down when your mouth feels like sandpaper and your head is throbbing, so aim to stop drinking at least a few hours before bed, mainline water, and in terms of pre-party prep, a balanced meal before hitting the D-floor will not only slow down the metabolization of alcohol, but also ensure you a) don’t go to bed ravenous, or b) wolf down a kebab at the witching hour and then feel too uncomfortable to sleep. As befits the often bandied around concept of ‘beauty sleep’, poor kip will worsen any alcohol related skin gripes, as Dr Day underlines:

“Alcohol also affects your sleep, which is the most important time and process for your skin to rejuvenate. As such, disturbed and restless sleep only adds to the damage from alcohol intake and in time, will show as premature ageing.”

The less sleep we get, the less cellular turnover occurs, thus skin looks duller and suffers more damage over the long term. Fabulous I know, but a little skincare intervention can help you to maximise the skin benefits from the sleep you manage to snatch…

Stage a skintervention

A tipsy face wipe whip round in bed isn’t cutting it with Abigail:

“When we get home after a late night, it is all too easy to retire with only a face wipe in hand. Resist! The dreaded wipes won’t actually cleanse your face and tend to leave a pore clogging film on the skin. I recommend an all-in-one cleansing balm or oil to quickly massage over the whole face. Cleansing balms and oils remove everything, including your festive red lip, brow makeup and waterproof mascara. This is a super quick solution before bed and really effective. I promise you’ll thank yourself in the morning.”

Actually, you’ll be reaping the rewards beyond the next day if you stick to an established skincare routine, as Dr Day illustrates:

“In terms of skincare and lifestyle, I can’t recommend enough the importance of a dedicated skincare routine. To look your best at any age, incorporate a skincare regime for both day and night. It is key to prioritise a good night’s sleep, to ensure you regularly drink plenty of water and use an SPF moisturizer daily – I recommend Olay Total Effects Day Moisturiser with SPF 15, £14.99- even in the winter.”

“Interestingly, Olay’s largest ever clinical study, known as the ‘Multi-decade and Ethnicity study’ (MDE) was commissioned to discover the reasons why some fortunate women (known as ‘exceptional skin agers’) have younger-looking skin. Working with personal genetics company 23&Me to analyse the data of 150,000 women, they looked at whether younger-looking skin is down to genetics or how you treat your skin. They revealed that whilst some 8 per cent of us are lucky enough to be ‘exceptional skin agers’ (with a skin age of at least ten years or younger than their actual age), this is not primarily down to the genes that we are born with and doesn’t mean that with the right care and lifestyle choices, others can’t have “ageless” skin.”

For now, a little TLC post-drinking will set you on the right track:

“Ensure you apply a night cream to give your skin a boost – I recommend Olay Regenerist 3 Point Age-defying Night Cream, £19.99, which intensively hydrates skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Its unique skin energising technology helps to renews the skin's youthful look while you sleep.”


If you’re at the troubleshooting stage, Abigail reckons rubbing an ice cube around the whole eye area can help to brighten and tighten skin, plus is costs nada. If all else fails, your choice of makeup could help you out if nightcaps get the better of you according to Dr Jack:

“A common issue with drinking is that often people forget to cleanse and remove makeup before sleeping - it’s an important step not to forget. If you know that you are likely to skip cleansing and all of the other good stuff, using non-comedogenic, oxygenating makeup can minimise overnight damage. I like Oxygenetix makeup- the formula is preferable to allow the skin to “breathe” and it reduces bacteria levels on the skin. Basically, if you’re going to sleep in your makeup, this is the only stuff I’d do it in.”

You definitely have some free passes for liquor and skincare laxity over the holidays, but don’t go making a habit of snoozing in your base or 11am buck’s fizz when normal services resume. Schedule in some lovely January home spa sessions and your skin should get back on track, stat.

The rise of the Sunday facial and the ‘spa at home’ products we’re using

Follow Anna on Twitter and Instagram

Join the conversation

Agile web development by Byte9