How Alcohol Impacts Your Skin’s Health

6 min read

march 18, 2024 - by Felix Tajanko
LIFE STYLE

How Alcohol Impacts Your Skin’s Health

6 min read

march 18, 2024 - by Felix Tajanko
LIFE STYLE
While alcohol consumption is seen as a social norm in many cultures, it comes with many downsides, including its effect on your skin’s health. Not only can alcohol impact your skin’s outward appearance, it can decrease its ability to protect you from environmental aggressors. This link between alcohol and skin health reveals how what we consume directly affects our body's largest organ on a biological level.
While alcohol consumption is seen as a social norm in many cultures, it comes with many downsides, including its effect on your skin’s health. Not only can alcohol impact your skin’s outward appearance, it can decrease its ability to protect you from environmental aggressors. This link between alcohol and skin health reveals how what we consume directly affects our body's largest organ on a biological level.

The Properties of Alcohol

Ethanol (created as a result of the fermentation process) is one of the main components of alcohol. At the molecular level, ethanol has a relatively simple structure: a chain of two carbon atoms bonded to a hydroxyl group (-OH). This structure is crucial to how alcohol interacts with biological systems, including its effects on the skin. Ethanol's small size and the presence of both a hydroxyl group and an ethyl group make it both hydrophilic (water-attracting) and lipophilic (fat-attracting).1 This dual solubility allows alcohol to penetrate biological membranes more easily, affecting cellular functions and leading to the dehydration commonly associated with alcohol consumption.

The Properties of Alcohol

Ethanol (created as a result of the fermentation process) is one of the main components of alcohol. At the molecular level, ethanol has a relatively simple structure: a chain of two carbon atoms bonded to a hydroxyl group (-OH). This structure is crucial to how alcohol interacts with biological systems, including its effects on the skin. Ethanol's small size and the presence of both a hydroxyl group and an ethyl group make it both hydrophilic (water-attracting) and lipophilic (fat-attracting).1 This dual solubility allows alcohol to penetrate biological membranes more easily, affecting cellular functions and leading to the dehydration commonly associated with alcohol consumption.

How Drinking Alcohol Affects Skin Health

When you drink alcohol, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. Making its way through the bloodstream, it’s then metabolized in the liver through two main enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) [2]. ADH metabolizes ethanol to acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that is subsequently converted into less harmful acetate by ALDH. The good news is that this acetate is broken down into water and CO2 before being expelled from the body. The bad news? It generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), contributing to oxidative stress which prompts the question, "Does alcohol cause aging?" Alcohol can accelerate skin aging by damaging collagen and elastin
fibers.3 When these fibers are damaged, the skin struggles to maintain its firmness and elasticity.4
Alcohol consumption can also disrupt hormonal balance and immune function, which indirectly affects skin health. For instance, it can increase cortisol levels, a stress hormone that can break down collagen, leading to skin damage, decreased skin elasticity and increased wrinkling.5 Alcohol also impacts the body’s vasopressin hormones, which regulate water retention [6]. By inhibiting these hormones, alcohol causes an increase in urination, leading to dehydration, which can not only make your skin appear dull, flaky, and less plump but also impair its function as a barrier against pathogens and
environmental stressors.
Many also wonder, “Does alcohol cause acne
?” Alcohol's effect on the immune system can exacerbate certain inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema,7 and it can increase the risk of skin cancer.8
Much of this stems from the damage that alcohol does to your immune system as well as the metabolism of alcohol itself. With a compromised immune system, the body becomes less efficient at identifying and repairing damaged cells, including those that could become cancerous. Furthermore, the oxidants generated through the metabolism of alcohol can damage the DNA of healthy skin cells, which can lead to mutations that increase the risk of cancer.9
As the liver processes all of the alcohol that passes through the body, long-term alcohol use can greatly affect the function of the liver. While it can be hard to imagine the link between liver and skin health, a poorly functioning liver can contribute to skin irritation, acne, eczema, or jaundice a condition characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes. Moreover, alcohol can impair the nutrient-absorbing capabilities of the liver, which can lead to deficiencies that affect skin health. Some of these important nutrients are vitamins A, C, and E, crucial for skin repair and protection against oxidative stress.10
Furthermore, alcohol can disrupt the gut microbiome, killing off the good microbes within your gut and causing dysbiosis, an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria.11 This imbalance can decrease microbial diversity, allowing pathogenic bacteria to dominate and trigger systemic inflammation. A well-functioning
gut microbiome
plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system, helping to prevent excessive skin reactions that can result in inflammation and conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.12

How Drinking Alcohol Affects Skin Health

When you drink alcohol, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. Making its way through the bloodstream, it’s then metabolized in the liver through two main enzymes: alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) [2]. ADH metabolizes ethanol to acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that is subsequently converted into less harmful acetate by ALDH. The good news is that this acetate is broken down into water and CO2 before being expelled from the body. The bad news? It generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), contributing to oxidative stress which prompts the question, "Does alcohol cause aging?" Alcohol can accelerate skin aging by damaging collagen and elastin
fibers.3 When these fibers are damaged, the skin struggles to maintain its firmness and elasticity.4
Alcohol consumption can also disrupt hormonal balance and immune function, which indirectly affects skin health. For instance, it can increase cortisol levels, a stress hormone that can break down collagen, leading to skin damage, decreased skin elasticity and increased wrinkling.5 Alcohol also impacts the body’s vasopressin hormones, which regulate water retention [6]. By inhibiting these hormones, alcohol causes an increase in urination, leading to dehydration, which can not only make your skin appear dull, flaky, and less plump but also impair its function as a barrier against pathogens and
environmental stressors.
Many also wonder, “Does alcohol cause acne
?” Alcohol's effect on the immune system can exacerbate certain inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema,7 and it can increase the risk of skin cancer.8
Much of this stems from the damage that alcohol does to your immune system as well as the metabolism of alcohol itself. With a compromised immune system, the body becomes less efficient at identifying and repairing damaged cells, including those that could become cancerous. Furthermore, the oxidants generated through the metabolism of alcohol can damage the DNA of healthy skin cells, which can lead to mutations that increase the risk of cancer.9
As the liver processes all of the alcohol that passes through the body, long-term alcohol use can greatly affect the function of the liver. While it can be hard to imagine the link between liver and skin health, a poorly functioning liver can contribute to skin irritation, acne, eczema, or jaundice a condition characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes. Moreover, alcohol can impair the nutrient-absorbing capabilities of the liver, which can lead to deficiencies that affect skin health. Some of these important nutrients are vitamins A, C, and E, crucial for skin repair and protection against oxidative stress.10
Furthermore, alcohol can disrupt the gut microbiome, killing off the good microbes within your gut and causing dysbiosis, an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria.11 This imbalance can decrease microbial diversity, allowing pathogenic bacteria to dominate and trigger systemic inflammation. A well-functioning
gut microbiome
plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system, helping to prevent excessive skin reactions that can result in inflammation and conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.12

Maintaining Healthy Skin: Tips and Alternatives

While moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a balanced lifestyle, it's essential to be mindful of its negative effect on skin health. Implementing a skin care routine that includes products designed to counteract its negative effects can significantly improve skin wellness.
  • Stay hydrated: Since alcohol is a diuretic, be sure to have an equal amount of water when drinking alcohol. Water can help hydrate the skin from the inside out, improving its appearance and elasticity.
  • Drink herbal teas:
    Substitute alcoholic beverages with herbal teas, which can be beneficial for skin health due to their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.13
  • Limit alcohol intake: Opt for drinks lower in sugar and alcohol content to lessen their impact. You can enjoy mocktails, kombucha, or non-alcoholic versions of spirits and wines that provide the experience of drinking without the effects of alcohol.
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet: Ensure your diet is rich in vitamins and antioxidants to support skin health and counteract nutritional deficiencies. You can do this with foods such as berries, nuts, spinach, and dark chocolate, to help neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation.
  • Adjust your skin care routine: Incorporating topical skin care products like OS-01 FACE, OS-01 BODY, and OS-01 EYE may help mitigate the effects of alcohol on the skin. These products are formulated with the OS-01 peptide, which is clinically proven to improve the skin’s barrier function
    ,14 enhancing its ability to retain hydration – which is critical for counteracting the dehydration caused by alcohol.15
The OS-01 peptide also plays a pivotal role in improving key biomarkers associated with collagen and hyaluronic acid production.15Collagen is vital for maintaining skin structure and elasticity, while hyaluronic acid helps to retain moisture, ensuring the skin remains hydrated and plump. By supporting these fundamental components of skin health, OneSkin products can mitigate the effects of alcohol consumption, promoting healthier, more resilient skin.
Maintaining skin wellness in the face of alcohol consumption involves a multifaceted approach. It's not just about reducing intake but also about supporting the skin externally and internally through proper hydration, nutrition, and targeted skincare solutions. By understanding the effects of alcohol on the skin and taking proactive steps to mitigate these impacts, it's possible to enjoy the odd drink or two while still prioritizing skin health and appearance.

Maintaining Healthy Skin: Tips and Alternatives

While moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a balanced lifestyle, it's essential to be mindful of its negative effect on skin health. Implementing a skin care routine that includes products designed to counteract its negative effects can significantly improve skin wellness.
  • Stay hydrated: Since alcohol is a diuretic, be sure to have an equal amount of water when drinking alcohol. Water can help hydrate the skin from the inside out, improving its appearance and elasticity.
  • Drink herbal teas:
    Substitute alcoholic beverages with herbal teas, which can be beneficial for skin health due to their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.13
  • Limit alcohol intake: Opt for drinks lower in sugar and alcohol content to lessen their impact. You can enjoy mocktails, kombucha, or non-alcoholic versions of spirits and wines that provide the experience of drinking without the effects of alcohol.
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet: Ensure your diet is rich in vitamins and antioxidants to support skin health and counteract nutritional deficiencies. You can do this with foods such as berries, nuts, spinach, and dark chocolate, to help neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation.
  • Adjust your skin care routine: Incorporating topical skin care products like OS-01 FACE, OS-01 BODY, and OS-01 EYE may help mitigate the effects of alcohol on the skin. These products are formulated with the OS-01 peptide, which is clinically proven to improve the skin’s barrier function
    ,14 enhancing its ability to retain hydration – which is critical for counteracting the dehydration caused by alcohol.15
The OS-01 peptide also plays a pivotal role in improving key biomarkers associated with collagen and hyaluronic acid production.15Collagen is vital for maintaining skin structure and elasticity, while hyaluronic acid helps to retain moisture, ensuring the skin remains hydrated and plump. By supporting these fundamental components of skin health, OneSkin products can mitigate the effects of alcohol consumption, promoting healthier, more resilient skin.
Maintaining skin wellness in the face of alcohol consumption involves a multifaceted approach. It's not just about reducing intake but also about supporting the skin externally and internally through proper hydration, nutrition, and targeted skincare solutions. By understanding the effects of alcohol on the skin and taking proactive steps to mitigate these impacts, it's possible to enjoy the odd drink or two while still prioritizing skin health and appearance.
Key Takeaways:
  • Impact on metabolism and skin aging: Alcohol is metabolized in the liver, producing reactive oxygen species (ROS) that contribute to oxidative stress, accelerating skin aging by damaging collagen and elastin fibers.
  • Influence on hormonal balance and immune function: Alcohol consumption can disrupt hormonal balance and impair immune function, exacerbating inflammatory skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
  • Chronic effects and skin conditions: Long-term alcohol use can increase the severity of skin conditions, risk of skin cancer, and impact liver health, which in turn affects skin appearance.
  • Supporting your skin’s health: Eat a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids to combat nutritional deficiencies and reduce inflammation, stay hydrated, and add products like OneSkin’s topical supplements to offset the effects of alcohol.
Key Takeaways:
  • Impact on metabolism and skin aging: Alcohol is metabolized in the liver, producing reactive oxygen species (ROS) that contribute to oxidative stress, accelerating skin aging by damaging collagen and elastin fibers.
  • Influence on hormonal balance and immune function: Alcohol consumption can disrupt hormonal balance and impair immune function, exacerbating inflammatory skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
  • Chronic effects and skin conditions: Long-term alcohol use can increase the severity of skin conditions, risk of skin cancer, and impact liver health, which in turn affects skin appearance.
  • Supporting your skin’s health: Eat a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids to combat nutritional deficiencies and reduce inflammation, stay hydrated, and add products like OneSkin’s topical supplements to offset the effects of alcohol.
By Felix Tajanko: Felix is studying Bioengineering at the University of California - San Diego and is passionate about scientific writing as well as the research of menopausal endocrinology and microhemodynamics.
By Felix Tajanko: Felix is studying Bioengineering at the University of California - San Diego and is passionate about scientific writing as well as the research of menopausal endocrinology and microhemodynamics.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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