After a couple of cocktails everything and everyone around you may look a little better, but it is all just an illusion. The truth is that alcohol doesn’t do us any favours. And we are not just talking about alcohol in drinks. We are also talking about alcohol in skin care.
We all know that alcohol has a severely dehydrating effect on the body – that pounding head ache after a night out is basically the result of your brain feeling parched – but studies have also shown that alcohol lowers the levels of vitamin A in the body which in turn lowers the skin’s collagen production. And less collagen means less elasticity and firmness and more sagginess and wrinkles. And there is more, because drinking also widens the blood vessels in the skin which can cause temporary and permanent redness and possibly even lead to broken capillaries and skin conditions like rosacea. No wonder alcohol is every dermatologist’s nightmare.
So does this mean that you should go cold turkey and avoid alcohol at all cost from now on? No. Having the occasional glass of wine with dinner or having a few beers over the weekend won’t wreak havoc on your skin. But if you consume alcohol on a daily basis there is a big chance that your skin is paying the price. Not sure if your drinking habits are having a bad effect on your skin? Try going alcohol-free for a month and see how that impacts your skin. If you notice an improvement it might be time to start limiting your alcohol consumption.
But it is not just the alcohol in beverages that is bad for our skin. Alcohol in skin care is just as bad, if not worse. Skin care expert Paula Begoun explains: ‘Formulas loaded with alcohol often have a pleasing, quick-drying finish that feels weightless on skin, so it’s easy to see their appeal. Alcohol helps ingredients like retinol and vitamin C penetrate into the skin more effectively, but it does that by breaking down the skin’s barrier—destroying the very substances that keep your skin healthy over the long term. Alcohol immediately harms the skin and starts a chain reaction of damage that continues long after it has evaporated.’ So alcohol in skin care basically destroys the skin’s natural barrier and makes it more vulnerable to free-radical damage which in turn lowers the skin’s collagen production and considerably speeds up the aging process.
The good news however is that not all alcohol in skincare is bad for you. Fatty alcohols like cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol are completely safe and non-irritating and are often used as emollients and thickeners in skin creams and lotions. The real bad guys are pure alcohol and alcohols like denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol, especially if they are high up on a product’s ingredient list.
Bottom line? Limiting your alcohol consumption and drinking in moderation can already do wonders for your skin, but only if you avoid the bad alcohols in skin care products as well. You wouldn’t down a bottle of vodka every night and expect to have a glowing complexion, so it only makes sense to steer clear from alcohol-based skin care products as well. Our advice? Try to reevaluate your drinking habits and make sure to get rid of all the cosmetic criminals that may be hiding in your bathroom cabinet. Your skin will thank you for it.
Melissa Van Roosbroeck is a style and fashion writer.