The effects of alcohol on skin

None of us really want to talk about it (least of all me), but let it be known, that alcohol is sorta…kinda…IS bad for skin

Firstly, it is dehydrating… and in true defiance of common sense, dehydration actually makes you RETAIN water via activation of the renin-angiotension-aldosterone system. The effect of this is the puffy, sallow skin that usually follows a good nudge the night before.

Puffiness, actually is a means of the body trying to counter dehydration by moving fluid from the blood vessels (where it can be excreted out), to the skin. This phenomenon is further demonstrated by the degree of constipation that often accompanies an AM hangover. As you can probably guess… constipation is bad for gut (and hormonal health), leading to recycling of toxins and excreted hormones (think oestrogen dominance), altered uptake of nutrients, and increased straining which not only is bad for the nether-end, but can also increase the appearance of blood vessels on the face.

Alcohol is often also presented in yummy sugary concoctions which in addition to exacerbating the effects mentioned above, increases blood sugar levels. Over time, or with persistently high blood sugar, we develop AGES (Advanced Glucose End-products) which in addition to fuelling the bacteria that cause acne and papular rosacea, destroy collagen and promote inflammation (think thin, inflamed, wrinkly skin).

Again a particular issue for acne and rosacea sufferers, alcohol is broken down into acetaldehyde which further inflames skin and causes release of histamine. Histamine as a potent blood vessel dilator, causes that kind of flushing that is so characteristic of Stace on the red wines 😉 – just checking she is reading my posts. Fun fact, it is a genetic deficiency in the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde that makes this reaction more prevalent in East Asian populations.

While it is still unclear what constitutes ‘safe’ consumption of alcohol in order to avoid its detrimental skin effects, one this for sure, that long term abuse is plainly visible on the skin.

Alcohol is a leading cause of liver cirrhosis – which essentially is long term liver injury that results in scarring (fibrotic tissue) of the organ. With scarring comes a reduction in the functional capacity of the liver, a decrease in tissue compliance and increased pressure through the organ. This eventually effects flow of blood through the liver known as portal hypertension (high blood pressure of the liver). Long term effects of these changes are horribly dilated and pressurised blood vessels that feed the liver (like most of them), intense tissue swelling (i.e. brain, abdomen, legs) due to fluid being displaced from pressurised blood vessels and loss of protein production. Perhaps the worst outcome of this chaos is failure of the liver do its job – synthesise proteins, control blood sugar, and breakdown/utilise toxins, vitamins, hormones, red blood cells etc. Essentially it’s catastrophe, and the skin does not escape. Inflamed, with large, bulging blue blood vessels and smaller red capillaries, sallow and yellowed from jaundice; thin, broken and impaired due to lack of proteins required to build skin; swollen, and littered with bruises as the body stops making the blood proteins responsible for clotting…..

Well for me, I am begrudgingly having a night off. Instead reaching for a refreshing bubble water with lime vs my usual chilled sauv (boo).

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