Like to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail at happy hour or dinner? What if we told you that glass of chardonnay or that margarita might be affecting your skin in a bad way?
New research found that women who drank certain types of alcohol – particularly white wine and liquor – were at higher risk of developing the inflammatory skin condition, rosacea.
“This is the first study that shows an association between specific types of alcohol and rosacea.”
After studying the drinking patterns of nearly 83,000 women, researchers noted that women who drank one to three glasses (4 ounces per glass) of white wine per month had a 14% elevated risk of rosacea compared to non-drinkers. In those who drank five or more glasses of white wine a week, the risk increased by 49%. And for women who drank liquor, five or more drinks over the course of a week raised the risk of rosacea by 28%.
Rosacea causes redness and flushing on the face and neck, and some types can result in visible blood vessels, swelling, acne-like breakouts, thickened skin with bumpy texture, and red, irritated eyes. It’s more prevalent in those over 30.
It’s been widely understood that red wine can cause flare-ups in people already diagnosed with rosacea, but this is the first study that shows an association between specific types of alcohol and rosacea.
While researchers were unsure why white wine and liquor specifically seem to increase rosacea risk, they speculated that the drinks may weaken the immune system and contribute to blood vessel dilation. And both contain high concentrations of alcohol but none of the benefits of red wine, which has flavonoids and other inflammatory substances.
Alcohol’s Other Effects on Skin
Rosacea isn’t the only skin issue caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
White wine has been linked to a greater risk of skin cancer. Each glass of white wine per day was associated with a 13% increased risk of melanoma, compared to other alcoholic beverages, which did not increase risk in a statistically significant way.
Alcohol has a drying effect on skin, so if you already have dry skin, it’s not going to help. Because it’s a diuretic and makes you flush water out of your body during those frequent bathroom trips, it can result in dull, ashen looking skin. The solution? Remember to keep hydrating, and drink a full glass of water between alcoholic beverages.
Sugar in alcoholic beverages is bad for waistline and skin, too. Simple sugars, like those used in mixers or found in sodas and juices, promote other inflammatory skin conditions like acne. If you must use mixers, stick with lower-calorie options such as lime juice instead of pre-mix for margaritas.
That rosy glow the night of partying? It can lead to skin that looks puffy and sallow the next day because damage to the small blood vessels in the face, chest, abdomen, arms, and hands can cause allow fluid to enter soft tissue like the skin, making you look swollen.
Alcohol can also disrupt sleeping patterns, and we all know what a lack of sleep can do to our skin, not to mention the bags under the eyes.
And alcohol can have an impact on hormone levels, which may be a factor in the proliferation of acne due to an imbalance in testosterone or estrogen levels.
If you enjoy imbibing but want to have great skin, moderation is key. This means not justifying drinking a whole bottle of red wine “because of the antioxidants,” and drinking just one drink a day.
If you want your skin to really glow with health, you can increase your intake of a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables that are rich in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support skin health.
Let’s face it – drinking alcohol isn’t really consistent with leading a healthy lifestyle. While drinking can be enjoyable, it can also harm skin and overall health if you’re not being mindful of your consumption. So save the alcohol for special occasions and achieve healthy, glowing skin through good nutrition and healthy habits every day.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.