As anyone who’s ever experienced a post-bender hangover knows, booze does some gnarly stuff to your body: It breaks your heart, erases your memory, scrambles your brain, fills your stomach, and arguably worst of all, impairs your penis (like, come on, was that really necessary?)
Amidst all those disasters, it’s easy to forget that booze also affects your skin. And according to dermatologist Rajani Katta, author of Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet, it’s really not good.
“Even after a single night of binge-drinking, alcohol can make you appear a little bit older because of dehydration,” Katta explains. “We know that dehydration accentuates fine lines and wrinkles.” That’s because dehydrated skin doesn’t retains its elasticity as well as hydrated skin does, which causes wrinkling.
If you’re a heavy drinker, this adds up over time: An eight-year-long study published in the British Journal of Dermatology showed that the average 28-year-old woman with chronic dry skin would have 52 percent more wrinkles than she currently has by the time she hits 36, while her wrinkling would only increase by 22 percent in that same amount of time if she had kept her skin hydrated (something that’s easier to do when you drink less).
If your preferred tipple is a strong cocktail, we’ve got even more bad news: Cocktails loaded with sugar and carbs can also cause “sugar spikes” that create collagen-damaging molecules, which according to Katta, accelerate the aging process. This excerpt from her book explains the process:
When you experience higher levels of sugar in your bloodstream (known as blood glucose), some of that sugar attaches to proteins. In a process known as glycation, excess sugar attaches to proteins and creates new molecules known as AGEs (advanced glycation end products).
I think of AGEs as similar to caramel. If you combine sugar and butter, you end up with gooey, sticky, golden caramel. As that caramel hardens, it becomes hard and brittle. AGEs, just like caramel, are sticky: they act to cross-link your collagen fibers. That ultimately leads to wrinkling and sagging of your skin.
Recent research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology also found that alcohol is associated with an increased risk of developing rosacea (a condition that causes facial redness) in women. This makes sense when you consider how alcohol affects the body. “Alcohol inflames the tissue, and systemic inflammation to the skin caused by alcohol creates a histamine reaction—that creates the redness, the flushing of the skin,” nutritionist Jairo Rodriguez told Vogue. “At first you think, oh you’re a little red, not a big deal, but over a period of time—six months, a year, two years—if you continue drinking, it can become a prominent facial redness you can’t get away from.”
Well, now you know. But don’t sweat it: This is just one more thing you can ignore by chugging straight from the tequila bottle every Friday night.