You Are What You Drink: Here’s How Alcohol Ages You

Woman Drinking a Glass of WineWe all know that alcohol isn’t great for us, but did you know that it can actually affect your skin’s health and even accelerate visible aging? While aesthetic skin treatments such as Botox and dermal fillers can achieve age-defying results, achieving beautiful, healthy skin also comes from following a healthy diet—and that includes limiting your alcohol intake. In this post, we examine why alcohol is bad for your skin and how you can reduce the effects of aging on your body.

Sugar: the key component of alcohol

Sugar is a sneaky ingredient, hiding in many of our favorite foods and drinks, including alcohol. The main component of alcohol is carbohydrates, and glucose (blood sugar) just happens to be the main building block of carbs. When glucose is released in our bodies, our pancreas produces insulin, which helps our cells digest this blood sugar. However, simple carbs like glucose are easier for our bodies to digest than complex carbs—which contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber—and any glucose that our cells can’t digest is quickly converted into fat and stored in our bodies.

Alcohol is full of simple carbs and low in nutrients, meaning your drink of choice is providing a direct shot of unregulated glucose to your system.

Why is sugar bad for my skin?

Sugar has been linked to faster aging and numerous preventable diseases, and is detrimental to your skin’s health. A diet high in sugar can cause oily skin, acne breakouts, and even wrinkles—but how? It all starts with a process called glycation.

Sugar is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, where it becomes glucose and provides our body with energy. But not all glucose is converted into energy; instead, some of it binds to cells or tissue proteins like collagen and creates advanced glycation end-products, accurately referred to as AGEs since these end-products accelerate your body’s aging process and can lead to diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Is alcohol causing my face to age faster?

As you get older, these AGEs inhibit your skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin, making it appear looser and more wrinkled. Also, the sugar in alcohol can upset the microbes and other bacteria in your body, resulting in skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema.

Alcohol is also high in histamines which can cause inflammation in your body, resulting in the redness and puffiness (a.k.a rosacea) associated with long-time drinkers. This may start as a temporary reaction, but over time your capillaries can burst, creating visible red and purple veins across the face and cheeks that are difficult to get rid of.

What parts of my face does alcohol age?

We’ve established that the sugar in alcohol causes wrinkles, acne, and other skin conditions, but what parts of the face does alcohol specifically age? Thanks to a recent multinational and multiracial study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, we know that moderate alcohol consumption in female patients was associated with volume loss in the midface, while heavy consumption additionally increased the presence of crow’s feet, forehead lines, glabellar “frown” lines, under-eye puffiness, and visible blood vessels.

What other effects can alcohol have on my body?

Aside from aging your face, heavy alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on your body as a whole:

  • Alcohol can impair insulin production in the liver, causing a build-up of fats and proteins (referred to as “fatty liver”). This also affects the way your body metabolizes and stores carbs and fats—as well as making it difficult for your body to regulate its blood sugar levels.
  • When you drink alcohol, your liver quickly converts it into acetate. When you consume more acetate than your liver can absorb (typically considered more than one drink per hour), it spills over into your bloodstream and can make its way to your brain, potentially causing brain inflammation. Acetate also has a sedative effect on the body, which adds to alcohol’s addictive nature, making it difficult for heavy drinkers to abstain.
  • Numerous studies have reported that high levels of glucose may affect your body’s ability to repair DNA damage and may play a role in how diabetes is passed down to offspring, although this area of research is still new and requires further exploration.

What can I do to prevent my skin from aging?

While some of the skin damage caused by alcohol can be improved by consuming less alcohol, improving your diet, and drinking more water, prior damage to your collagen is very difficult to undo—especially considering that your body’s collagen production naturally decreases as you age. If you’ve tried moderating alcohol and following a healthy diet but are still unhappy with your skin’s appearance, it may be time to consider special skincare treatments.

Reduce the signs of skin aging with Richmond plastic surgeon Dr. Chen

Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Chen has been helping his Richmond patients achieve healthy, youthful-looking skin for over 20 years. Injectables such as Botox can quickly reduce the appearance of expression-based lines and wrinkles, and dermal fillers can instantly lift tissues by replacing lost volume. To discuss how non-surgical skincare treatments can improve the structure and appearance of your face, contact Dr. Chen’s practice online or call (804) 482-5313.

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