The Doctor Weighs In: Don’t Let Alcohol Give Your Skin a Hangover

By  //  November 17, 2016

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What to Do When Libations Take a Toll on Your Skin


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EDITOR’S NOTE: As we approach the Holiday Season and the ensuing spate of parties, the red flag on the adverse effects of imbibing too much of the firewater is up. However, did you know that excess alcohol’s physical impact is not limited to addled judgment, loss of self-control and hangovers, but also includes detrimental effects on the skin.

In this article from The Doctor Weighs In, board certified dermatologist Dr. Kally Papantoniou focuses on how the skin reacts to drinking alcohol and offers valuable advice on how to prevent a skin “hangover.”

— Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief


Libations will be an integral element of Holiday festivities, but many people don’t realize that drinking alcohol in excess can have a negative impact on their appearance.

THE DOCTOR WEIGHS IN — Before stepping out for that weekly happy hour, think about how those libations may impact your skin.

What many people don’t realize is that drinking alcohol in excess can have a negative impact on our appearance. Alcohol dehydrates your body including the skin, your body’s largest organ. This happens every time you drink. Extra cocktails can be adding years to your face in the form of wrinkles, poor texture, and lack of radiance.

Frequent alcohol consumption is also thought to deprive the skin of vital vitamins and nutrients. Over time, drinking heavily can have other, more permanent, detrimental effects on your skin.


Rosacea, a skin disorder that starts with a tendency to blush and flush easily and can eventually lead to facial disfigurement, is linked to alcohol.

Rosacea, a skin disorder that starts with a tendency to blush and flush easily and can eventually lead to facial disfigurement, is linked to alcohol. Since alcohol increases your blood flow, it often causes blood vessels in your face to dilate (sometimes permanently) and often burst, leaving behind broken capillaries and red spots that are difficult to get rid of.

Here’s a look at what alcohol can do to wreak havoc on your appearance.

  • Brittle hair

What’s worse, drinking too much doesn’t only affect the appearance of your skin; it will dehydrate your hair, making it more prone to breaking and split ends. Weak, brittle hair, in addition to premature wrinkling, can easily add 10 years to someone’s appearance.

  • Dark circles, bloodshot eyes and even blindness

In much the same way that alcohol causes broken capillaries on your face, it irritates and enlarges the tiny blood vessels on the surface of your eye (the sclera) causing a “bloodshot” appearance. If vanity doesn’t get your attention, how about blindness? Because excessive drinking robs the body of some nutrients required to maintain eye health, it can lead to a condition called alcoholic optic neuritis, which impairs eyesight and, over time, can result in blindness.

Some tips to avoid a “skin hangover” include…

  1. Stay hydrated

alcohol_cutback_double_water-2Aside from giving up booze altogether, it is possible to minimize the unwanted effects of alcohol by constantly staying hydrated.

That means drinking a full glass of water for every cocktail you have.

Drink even more water before you go to bed to flush the alcohol out of your system so you wake up less dehydrated, puffy, and flushed.

  1. Take care of your skin before bed

Taking care of your skin before hitting the sack is also crucial. Fully washing your face and then applying a moisturizer, like a hydrating serum, before getting into bed. Sleeping with dirty skin makes it prone to clogged pores and acne.

  1. Prop pillows and use tea

tea-bags-for-hangover-bagsOne of the best ways to minimize the eye and face puffiness is to sleep on two pillows, slightly propped up.

In the morning, rubbing ice cubes all over your face helps, too.

One of the best ways to deflate eye puffiness and reduce the redness is to place cold tea bags over the eyes. The tannins in the tea help constrict blood vessels.

  1. Cover up what you can’t cure

To camouflage the redness in the face, use a green-tinted primer before applying makeup, which should help neutralize any redness. If you must use foundation, look for a lightweight, moisturizing formula. Avoid powders, as they are often more drying.

  1. Consider lasers

When at-home remedies aren’t making much of a difference. There are pricier measures you can take to minimize the effects of alcohol. Certain laser treatments can reduce redness and spider veins on the face. It’s important to see someone who is well-trained to administer the laser treatment.

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  1. Choose your booze wisely

vodkaIf you are going to consume alcohol, know that different alcohols have different effects on the skin. But as a general rule, the clearer, the better.

Vodka, gin, and tequila leave your system quicker. If you’re going to drink anything, drink vodka that doesn’t have a grain in it, like potato vodka. It’s a lot clearer and smoother, so it gets in and out of your body quickly.

Most dermatologists agree that although everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, if you can remember to drink in moderation and stay hydrated, you can save your skin.



Dr. Kally Papantoniou

Dr. Kally Papantoniou is a Cosmetic Dermatologist, Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology. She specializes in Injectables, Lasers, Body Contouring, Surgical and Medical Dermatology. Dr. Papantoniou is also clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Health Center in New York City with locations on Long Island and Queens. She applies expert techniques and the newest technologies to treat her patients. Dr. Papantoniou focuses on providing her patients with the highest level of care, with special interests in natural and healthy alternatives to treatments and disease prevention.

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