Many of us are (unfortunately) familiar with the side effects that follow a night of tying one on: typically, it isn’t pretty. But even drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can compromise our skin health, resulting in redness, dry skin, even breakouts.
So is there a way to cure — or even avoid altogether — a skin hangover? We asked our founder, dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) for the lowdown.
Article Quick Links
- 01.What does alcohol do to your skin?
- 02.How to avoid a skin hangover
- 03.Can you cure a skin hangover?
What does alcohol do to your skin?
We know what it looks like, but here’s what’s really going on beneath the surface.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to pee more often — which easily leads to overall dehydration in the body. Since our largest organ is our skin, well, instead of waking up dewy and glowing, chances are your skin will be looking dry and dull.
When you get dehydrated, the balance of electrolytes in your body is thrown off. In response, your tissues try to hold onto more fluid — which leads to swelling. What’s more, lying down overnight tends to pool excess fluid in the face, which during the day would be circulated by gravity. Together, these factors combine to create that telltale puffy, morning-after face.
Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes your blood vessels to allow more blood flow. This isn’t necessarily harmful in the short term, but it does produce that characteristic I’ve-been-drinking flush, especially in paler skin tones. If you’re a lighter Fitzpatrick skin type, regular alcohol intake can also make you appear redder than normal even when you’re not drinking.
Drinking alcohol causes a cascade of inflammatory chemicals to flood your body — ultimately affecting all of your organs, including your skin. These inflammatory substances damage DNA, break down skin components like collagen and elastin, and aggravate chronic skin conditions like psoriasis, acne and rosacea.
How to avoid a skin hangover
According to Dr. Lee, there is one foolproof way to prevent a skin hangover: stick with club soda. Short of abstaining from alcohol, there are a few precautions you can take to minimize the impact that drinking has on your skin. Plus, following these techniques may help decrease the overall amount of alcohol you consume, which in turn will mitigate the damage in the morning.
- Hydrate: drinking a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages can keep your body fluids in better balance.
- Eat healthy fats: consuming these before and during drinking helps slow down the rate of alcohol absorption.
- Avoid junk food: indulging late-night in salty, chemical-laden foods can contribute to morning swelling and inflammation.
- Don’t skip skincare: no matter how tired you are, wash your face thoroughly before bed — bonus points if you apply moisturizer.
Can you cure a skin hangover?
Let’s start with the bad news: once the post-drinking damage is done, no amount of skincare (or tacos and Netflix — no judgment) is going to miraculously cure you. That being said, Dr. Lee does have a few tips to help your skin recover more quickly after a night on the town.
- Hydrate: again, fluids are your friend — try water, low-sugar electrolyte beverages, even low-salt broth.
- Abstain from alcohol: sorry, hair of the dog is not a thing, especially when you’re trying to restore your skin to a healthy state.
- Resume your routine: cleanse thoroughly, apply a hydrating treatment, and follow it up with a non-comedogenic moisturizer.
- Humidify: run cool mist humidifier to add moisture to the air (you can also try this in the bedroom overnight).
Dr. Lee's Last Word
I’m a big believer in balance: make healthy choices most of the time, so indulging once in a while won’t set you back. So if you’re going to have a few drinks, make sure you also eat something, drink plenty of water, and don’t forget to cleanse and moisturize before bed!