Skin-Care Tips

‘I’m a Dermatologist, and This Is Exactly What Happens to Your Skin When You Quit Drinking’

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty Images/ Katerina Frgalova / EyeEm

You heard it here first: “Dry January is fabulous for skin care,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York.

Avoiding alcohol—even for just 31 days—offers some significant benefits for your complexion. “Alcohol, generally, isn’t good for your skin,” says Dr. Nazarian. Research has shown that regular consumption of alcohol causes vitamin deficiency, tissue damage, disruption of inflammatory responses, and decreased collagen production, which can show itself through puffiness under your eyes, volume loss in the middle of your face, and more visible blood vessels in your cheeks (all of which are considered “signs of aging”). Alcohol also impairs your skin’s own antioxidant defenses, which means it isn’t as well-prepped to protect itself from environmental stressors.

“Alcohol dehydrates the body, and one of the first places you’ll notice it is in your skin,” board certified dermatologist Stacy Chimento, MD, previously told Well+Good. “It also causes inflammation, which can manifest in blotchiness, redness, ruddiness, and dehydration.” Anyone who’s ever experienced “hangover face” after a night out knows exactly what she’s talking about. In addition to alcohol’s inherent dehydrating effects, Dr. Nazarian notes that if you’re regularly sipping on sugary drinks, over time the added sugar can cause premature skin aging.

While resetting your complexion may not be the primary reason you’ve decided to press “pause” on your nightly glass of wine, it’s an inevitable (and welcome) side effect. “You’re going to see your skin barrier start to get stronger, and your skin look a little bit glowier and less inflamed within the first two weeks,” says Dr. Nazarian. “And if you substitute the alcohol you’d usually be drinking with something that’s good for you—ideally something with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients, like pomegranate juice—you’ll probably be able to see even better results by week two or three.”

If you want to make the most out of these changes in your skin, Dr. Nazarian suggests adding topicals into your routine to help undo some of the alcohol-induced damage. Hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, will quench thirsty skin, niacinamide works to decrease any remaining inflammation and redness from your drinking days, and bakuchiol will help stimulate collagen and elastin (without drying out the skin) to counteract the premature skin aging. And if you do decide to start drinking again—for what it’s worth—Dr. Nazarian suggests sticking with red wine, in moderation, for the sake of your skin—all of these ingredients will continue to help keep it healthy.

Cheers to dry January, the best thing you’ll do for your skin all year.


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