What happens to your skin when you drink too much?
To maintain the health of your skin, you may want to think twice before you reach for one too many drinks. Alcohol can be pretty harsh on the skin.
When broken down, alcohol produces molecules called aldehydes. Such molecules cause damage to the body’s cells by destroying their ability to function. When cells are damaged or die, our body produces new cells to replace them. However, a single exposure to alcohol can reduce the body’s ability to multiply cells.
Another effect of alcohol is the widening of small blood vessels in the skin. This allows more blood to flow closer to the skin’s surface, which produces the distinctive flush and feeling of warmth often associated with alcohol consumption. Over time, this can cause an unhealthy appearance including dullness, enlarged pores, sagging, discoloration and a lack of skin resilience. Such effects can last for days.
Excessive alcohol consumption can further limit the liver’s ability to remove toxins, which can also make you look older.
Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to regulate water levels. Your brain produces a hormone called anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) that acts on our kidneys to control the amount of water secreted in your urine. When your body is dehydrated, your brain sends a signal to pump out ADH. ADH stops you from urinating as much, allowing you to retain your water levels.
Alcohol inhibits ADH levels. So even when you drink a lot of water alongside your alcoholic drinks, your body only hangs on to about a third of it while the rest goes out in your urine. In other words, alcohol increases urine volume and leaves your body dehydrated.
This dehydrating effect worsens skin elasticity, thickness and density. It also makes wrinkles and fine lines more noticeable.
Most itchy skin diseases are exacerbated by alcohol consumption. Alcohol causes eczema to be twice as common, likely due to its suppressive effects on the immune system.
Alcohol also makes psoriasis harder to treat. Psoriasis refers to the condition of red, itchy skin. While alcohol itself does not cause psoriasis, it increases the body’s susceptibility to infection and exacerbates the condition. Heavy drinkers are also more resistant to therapy.
Flushing and Rosacea
Flushing is a common after-effect of drinking and tends to go away the next day. It is more prevalent in individuals who do not have an enzyme that breaks down aldehyde. (Alcohol is broken down via two general steps, first into aldehydes and then to acetate.) An accumulation of aldehydes causes flushing and rapid heart rates.
An impaired alcohol metabolism can also worsen rosacea, a common skin disease with a tendency to blush or flush more easily than others. It can further cause an increased incidence of telangiectasia or the appearance of spider veins at the surface of the skin.
When alcohol is broken down in the body, reactive oxygen species (ROS) is released as a by-product. ROS are important signalling molecules in the body.
However, excess ROS production can be harmful to the skin as it alters the body’s immune response, triggers inflammation and causes the body to attack itself. This can compromise the skin’s wound healing processes.
Resveratrol in red wine
Resveratrol is an antioxidant often found in red wine. (Antioxidants work to fight against the oxidative stress that your skin cells encounter.) Resveratrol also has therapeutic benefits against various skin disorders and protects the skin against harmful UV rays. Given that UV radiation is a major cause of ageing, resveratrol is popular for its anti-ageing abilities.
However, there are other ways to get resveratrol that do not include the harmful effects of alcohol.
For a dermatologist-formulated anti-ageing serum, go for Elixir-V™ Total Recovery Serum. It contains a potent concoction of resveratrol, hyaluronic acid and oligopeptides that work together to give you the perfect V-face look.
Seek for help
If your skin condition worsens, schedule a visit with a dermatologist as soon as you can. The dermatologist can determine the best course of action and suitable treatment that would be effective for your condition and your lifestyle.
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Meet with Dr Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.