Colder months call for nights in enjoying wine with pizza or finding a cozy bar to share a cocktail or two with your girlfriends after work. It can do wonders to our mood. But to our skin? Not so much. If you’ve ever woken up to a constellation of pimples topped with flaky, angry skin after a night of drinking, it’s not a coincidence. Alcohol isn’t exactly a trip to a spa, even if it’s just a couple of drinks with dinner.
But before you sign in disappointment, thinking what else you have to give up to have the skin of your dreams, don’t panic. You don’t have to.
Alcohol isn’t exactly a trip to a spa for your skin, even if it’s just a couple of drinks with diner.
Admittedly, going cold turkey (together with quitting sugar and dairy) is the best gift your skin can get. But let’s face it – we’re all humans and are allowed little pleasures in life. For some – it’s digging into a glazed donut. For others – it’s an occasional drink in a good company. Emphasis on singular “drink” and “occasional,” of course. But as long as you don’t overindulge and take the necessary step after a fun night to help your skin bounce back, by all means, hit that bar! What steps? Read along to find out!
How alcohol affects our skin
Before we’re spill the tea on how to cure your skin hangover, it’s essential to understand what it that needs fixing – i.e., what happens to our skin when we drink.
1. Skin dehydration and skin malnutrition
Alcohol is a well-known natural diuretic that it increases the urine output, making your body lose fluids. Alcohol is also a toxin. As our liver starts to metabolize alcohol, it breaks down to even more toxic substances that require a host of vitamins and minerals to make it less harmful. These are the exact same nutrients that skin needs to renew itself and maintain an intact protective barrier. But whenever you drink, these vitamins and minerals never get delivered to your skin because your body focuses on ridding the system of toxins first. Lack of nutrition and moisture, in turn, weakens the barrier and makes your skin dull, less plump, supple, and also leads to more prominent fine lines and wrinkles.
2. Increased chances of breakouts
Not only a cocktail night can give you dehydrated, aged-looking skin the next morning, it can also cause acne and breakouts. Alcohol triggers adrenal glands to start secreting stress hormone cortisol, which forces your skin to start producing more sebum. It messes up oil-water skin balance and can lead to congestion, increased pore size, and breakouts.
3. Skin inflammation and redness
Alcohol increases blood flow to the skin, making capillaries dilate and break. This breakage leads to temporary flushing and in some cases, even to a more permanent skin condition such as rosacea. Especially if your drink of choice is white wine.
Skincare routine to restore and re-charge your skin post-alcohol
Now that we know exactly what happens to our skin let’s break down the basic routine to help get back on track quicker.
First thing first, before you even start the routine, don’t forget to drink plenty of water TOGETHER with your drink. One glass of water to one glass of wine is a pretty good ratio, but more water you can drink the better. It’s also a good idea to have a last sip at least 2 hours before you’re going to bed for alcohol not have an affect your sleep quality.
Step 1. Cleansing
WASH. YOUR. FACE. ALWAYS. Even if you feel like you will fall dead if you make one more step – wash your face. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
Use an oil cleanser (better if it’s formulated with natural oils that fortify skin barrier) to remove sunscreen and make-up. If you have oily skin or tend to wear full make-up, follow up with the gentlest water-based cleanser you have not to inflict any more damage to your skin. If your skin is on a dry side, we recommend skipping the second cleanse and move to Step 2.
Step 2. Preventing potential breakouts
Since alcohol increases your chances to develop acne or clogged pores, it’s essential to use a toner with an exfoliating effect. Oily skin will benefit from toner containing BHA (beta hydroxy acids), while dry and sensitive skin types are better off with AHA (alpha hydroxy acid). Just make sure, it’s gentle and hydrating enough.
Step 3. Brightening the skin
To prevent dull, ashy skin tone, use a brightening serum or ampule. Look for niacinamide to be on the top of the ingredient list (bonus: it also helps with the appearance of enlarged pores) and also for hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, adenosine, or allantoin.
Step 4. Hydration, hydration, hydration
Finally, apply a good moisturizer or a sleeping pack. Go for something in between the lightweight gel and the heavy occlusive cream. Gels might not be hydrating enough, and heavier creams can potentially clog your pores, ultimately doing more harm than good. Choose something that absorbs quickly, doesn’t feel heavy, but still leaves a protective film on your skin to prevent moisture from escaping.
In the morning….
While getting ready, apply a hydrating and skin brightening sheet mask to ensure your skin stay supple throughout the day. Optional, but if you can spot dark circles and your eyes look a bit puffy, apply a caffeine-infused eye cream or an eye patch. It will help to reduce swelling and constrict blood vessels dilates by alcohol.
And that’s it — the bare minimum to help re-balance and reset your skin.
The bottom line
Of course, just like you can’t outrun a bad diet, you can’t “outskincare” poor lifestyle choices. If you’re chugging glass after glass every night, there’s only so much your skincare can do. So, be mindful, don’t over-indulge and stay hydrated!