Does Alcohol Really Age Your Skin? Here's What You Need to Know for the Brightest Wedding-Day Complexion
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When you're eating and drinking a healthy diet in order to stay vibrant, energized, and keep your skin looking radiant for your wedding, you might be wondering if alcohol should be off limits—some experts say it can be detrimental to your complexion and can lead to accelerated aging. So, what's the truth? "From a theoretical standpoint, alcohol absolutely can affect the skin aging process," says Dr. David Cangello, a plastic surgeon in New York City. "We cannot quantify the extent to which this is the case, so it's one of those things where if you're concerned about aging and the appearance of your skin, it's best to consume alcohol in moderation." (That means, he says, limiting to drinking to one to two days a week—and the fewer drinks, the better, given the rate that alcohol is cleared from the system by the liver.)
Alcohol affects the skin in a number of ways, he says. First of all, alcohol is a diuretic, and diuretics cause us to lose water. "Everyone knows how important moisturizer is for the skin, and the point of that is to maintain hydration of the skin," he says. "So, if we are losing water, our skin is not well hydrated. When it's not well hydrated, it becomes less robust, which makes fine lines and blemishes more apparent. It also makes the skin dull and saggy."
Aside from leading to dehydration, alcohol is a pro-inflammatory agent, and anything that is inflammatory leads to aging internally and externally (think: refined sugar, processed meats, trans fats—all of those things are also inflammatory). "Inflammation is categorized by the release of many chemicals; one such chemical is histamine," Cangello says. "Histamine causes blood vessels to dilate and become more permeable, which can make the skin look puffy, and the dilated tiny blood vessels can give the skin a reddish or blushed tone. These things also contribute to an aged appearance of the skin."
Sugary, alcoholic drinks can be more detrimental than those that aren't filled with sugar, as sugar, an inflammatory agent, leads to the breakdown of collagen and elastin and can accelerate skin aging. And while some say the resveratrol and antioxidants in red wine can be part of a heart-healthy diet, they don't cancel out the other detrimental effects of alcohol, Cangello says.
To have your cake and eat it, too—or, in other words, still be able to drink without the aging skin effects—Cangello recommends choosing alcohol with a low sugar content, consuming them in moderation, and staying hydrated by drinking water and wearing moisturizer regularly. Not to mention sticking to the other ways that traditionally help stave off aging: wearing sunscreen daily, minimizing sun exposure, and "not smoking!" he says.