I Stopped Drinking for Just 2 Weeks, and It Made a *Major* Difference in My Skin

Photo: Getty Images/ AleksandarNakic
It wasn’t until my quarter-century birthday that I had my first sip of alcohol. In college, I traded boxed wine and cheap beer for Shirley Temples and ginger ale in Solo cups (to fit in, of course), a decision that was motivated by my discomfort around seeing how alcohol impacted the behaviors of my family members while I was growing up.

When I started law school, my relationship with alcohol changed. Social drinking, networking over shared glasses of merlot, and drinking while traveling became the norm. I began to look forward to getaways where I could enjoy poolside drinks and the occasional preflight mimosa (after all, airports are the ultimate judgment-free zone). Now that I'm in my 30s, I've begun to reflect on how drinking influences my life—especially as the hangovers that come along with it have become harder to cure—so ahead of a recent trip to the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort with my husband, I decided it was the perfect time for an alcohol-free reset.

As an Islamic country, Maldives prohibits bringing alcohol into its borders and it's only available for purchase by guests at licensed resorts and hotels, a tidbit that helped influence my decision to abstain. I knew that not drinking would make me feel better—improved sleep, more energy, and better digestion all come along with going alcohol-free—but knowing the correlation between alcohol and skin health, I was also curious about how it would impact my appearance.

“Alcohol is a diuretic which causes increased urination that leads to dehydration of the body, including the skin,” explains Brooke Jeffy, a board-certified dermatologist in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the founder of BTWN Skincare. “Dehydrated skin has less elasticity and looks flaky, dull, and irritated. Alcohol also causes disrupted sleep leading to hormone fluctuations that can trigger breakouts and damage collagen in the skin.”

I stopped drinking for seven days leading up to the trip and kept my sobriety going the entire time I was at the resort, which meant nearly 2 weeks sans alcohol. And though it wasn't a huge chunk of time, it was long enough for me to see some pretty notable results.

According to Caitlin Garcia, a program director at Renaissance Recovery, an alcohol and drug treatment center in California, there's no magic amount of time that people will start to see effects after they cut out alcohol—it varies from person to person. While some people will notice a difference after a week, for others, it can take up to a month.

I found myself in that first category. Midway through the 12-day experiment, my skin was noticeably clearer—so much so that I was able to pare my makeup routine down to the bare minimum (no heavy foundation here!). My face was less puffy, my under-eye bags were non-existent, and my dull, redness-prone skin looked bright and even. Looking at myself in photos (and realizing that I liked the way I looked in them better than I typically do) made me realize that sobriety was definitely making a difference in my appearance. “Cutting out alcohol allows your skin to keep key nutrients that create a clear complexion," confirms Garcia. "It can clear acne as a lot of alcohol contains sugars.”

Beyond the effects the experiment had on my complexion, I also found myself feeling overall better. Waking up after an evening of mocktails and rejuvenating juices left me energized instead of headachey, and without a cocktail in my hand throughout the day, I found myself naturally gravitating toward more hydrating beverage options (shoutout to water!) that kept me feeling my best.

Despite my past tendencies to look at travel as a chance to indulge, this mini-experiment showed me that it isn't as difficult to abstain from alcohol on vacation as I'd originally thought. This, in large part, is thanks to a shift toward hotels (and restaurants, and other establishments) embracing non-alcoholic options to meet the needs of their customers.

"With healthy living being a new order since COVID, the number of guests who do not drink alcohol is on the rise, and these guests look for non-alcoholic alternatives that taste as good, or even better, than the alcoholic version," says Sebastian Arockiadhas, the assistant restaurant manager at The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort. I can confirm: The resort's virgin mango colada absolutely fits the bill.

While I don't plan on cutting out alcohol forever, this sober-curious experiment served as an important reminder about balance. It made me realize that I can still relax and enjoy travel without alcohol—and that my skin and overall wellbeing can reap the short-term benefits.

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