From Dr Ginni – What Does Alcohol Do To Your Skin?

The ESK blog

From Dr Ginni – What Does Alcohol Do To Your Skin?

22 July 2021

I love puppies, coffee and like 80% of Australians (1), the occasional social beverage. 

As the year heads into the festive season, if you’re like me, your consumption might go up (a little 😊). So it’s reasonable to ask: how does alcohol affect our skin? 

In theory, while some alcohol (red wine) has antioxidants and can decrease oxidative stress (2). 

But overall, alcohol causes a stress reaction in the skin which could lead to premature skin aging (3). And anecdotally (ie. my opinion and not scientifically valid), it seems that patients who drink more, look older and when they rapidly decrease their alcohol consumption they look younger.

What does the evidence say?  

I expected that there would be plenty of studies about the risk/effects of alcohol consumption on (everything including) the skin. Given than 1 in 6 Australians drink at levels that the NH&MRC says increase lifetime harm from alcohol (more than 2 standard drinks a day).

I was wrong. And even less helpful, the studies that have been conducted have had contradictory results.

According to a 2009 study comparing twins in the US, alcohol consumption is correlated with less wrinkling in women (4).

A 2012 study of Turkish adults found no relationship between alcohol consumption and wrinkles (5)

But studies in 2017 (in Europe) and 2019 (of American, Australian, Canadian and the UK participants) (6), (7) found that increased alcohol consumption (particularly heavy consumption) was associated with more skin wrinkling.

The jury is out! 

I was really glad to look into this because, in some ways, this mirrors so much of what is seen in medicine. While both theory and anecdote suggest one thing, there is actually no conclusive evidence that alcohol consumption will make our skin look older! To know for sure, we need to do more studies…

While we are waiting for them, we can take some comfort knowing that evidence-based skin care can help reverse the signs of premature aging.

And that, I think, is a great topic to discuss with friends over the festive season – with a glass of my favourite in hand. 😊 

Ginni xx