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Yes, your skin gets hangovers too—here’s how dermatologists say to treat them


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Bouncing back from a hangover resulting from a night on the town (or, let’s be real—even a girl’s night in) requires pulling out all the stops: avoiding direct sunlight, guzzling electrolyte-enhanced water, and of course napping. While you’re busy tending to weird stomach issues or a gnawing headache, however, there’s one other *major* organ (the largest, to be exact) that could also use some TLC: your skin.

“Having a hangover is like being chased by a bear—it triggers the same response in your body,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a Danbury, CT-based dermatologist. “That includes a cortisol spike and dehydration to all non vital organs—like skin.”

While those yikes-inducing side effects are bad, there’s also this: Shereene Idriss, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist adds that alcohol leads to the constriction of blood vessels, resulting in “dull, ruddy-looking skin in addition to bloating and puffiness.” To make matters worse still, chronic consumption of booze can lead to a loss of skin elasticity, which basically means wrinkles and fine lines are either just around the corner or firmly staking their claim on your complexion.

And for some—namely those with rosacea—alcohol has a direct link to skin worries. “Both red and white wine have been implicated as factors that can trigger rosacea flares,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, an NYC dermatologist tells me. Before you cancel all the plans, though, the good news: There is a path forward, and it starts right this way.

Keep reading to learn how to prehab and rehab your skin before and after a night of drinking.

how treat skin hangover
Photo: Stocksy/Leandro Crespi

How to prep your skin before going out.

Remember prom night when you coddled your skin for hours before slipping on your gown? Well, ask a dermatologist, and they’ll tell you to repeat that same ritual before every big night out.

For starters, pour yourself a nice big glass of H2O because when a big event is on the calendar, you should be hydrating days in advance, which TBH, is kind of a no-brainer at this point—no? Don’t kick your feet up just yet, though: You won’t be needing any of that dead skin that’s been parking itself on yourself complexion, so Dr. Idriss advises that you start by exfoliating with a glycolic acid. This is in part because you want your party skin to look glowing, but also because having dead skin linger on your complexion can make it look extra drab the next morning.

Then, exactly three days ahead of your night on the town, Shasa Hu, MD, a Miami-based dermatologist recommends sticking to a consistent moisturizing- and hydrating-masking schedule. “Topically, I love Dr. Brandt Hydro Biotic Recovery Sleeping Mask for optimal prehabbing,” she explains. “This calming overnight leave-on mask contains an unique combination of probiotics, ceramides, and fatty acids to prep your skin for all the inflammation and dehydration you will experience later.”

Top off that post-mask goodness with an antioxidant-rich serum like Vitamin C, suggests Dr. Zeichner. “Alcohol also has been shown to decrease antioxidant defenses in the skin,” he shares, so by upping your dose of topical antioxidants, you can help guard from free-radical damage that might occur. After your skin care, ahem, pregame has wrapped—you’ll be all set to layer on your signature makeup look and meet up with your BFFs.

how treat skin hangover
Photo: Unsplash/Tim Wright

How to recover post-GNO.

Fast forward to the next day, and you’re officially in full-on recovery mode. According to Dr. Hu, it takes about 24 hours on average for the body to fully rehabilitate. (In other words, #selfcaresunday is ON.) First up—choose hydrators with extra electrolytes, like coconut water. Dr. Hu explains that drinking up will restore the inner balance you need to shine on the outside. Additionally, she recommends taking a probiotic to give your gut a little extra love.

Now, turn your attention to that puffy skin and those dark circles. Dr. Gohara says that the latter happen because you’re dehydrated and it makes those blood vessels under the skin more prominent, so you want to look for ingredients such as caffeine in the 100 Percent Pure Coffee Bean Eye Cream that will stimulate blood-flow and eventually help minimize that effect.

Turn your (de-puffed) eyes to your complexion and slather on a hydrating serum, with an ingredient such as hyaluronic acid. It’s a moisture magnet that can hold 1,000 times its weight in water—meaning that it will fight for every last drop in your skin to stay there and get you back to your A-game. Finish by topping it all off with an occlusive moisturizer such as the Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream to “form a protective seal over the surface of skin to help it retain hydration.” You can massage it in with a jade roller, which Dr. Gohara likes for their cooling properties (many people keep these stashed in the fridge for an amped-up chill effect) and because they help to get fluid out of the skin.

Hopefully, tomorrow morning you’re greeted with your glowing-skin-as-usual, and if you also have a text—”What are you doing tonight?”—at least now you know what to do.

Here’s how to treat other skin emergencies like sunburns and summer breakouts

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