7 ways giving up alcohol can benefit your skin, according to a doctor

Debating whether to go teetotal? Here's why you should...

man touching his face
(Image credit: Yuricazac / iStock)

After a season filled with festive indulgence and New Year’s celebrations, you might be feeling a little worse for wear this month. Whether you've had too many late nights or just gone a little heavy on the chocolate, you're not the only one looking to kickstart a healthier lifestyle at the beginning of 2024. Although, there's one New Year's resolution that's always a little more popular than the rest...

Many of us are familiar with the concept of Dry January, especially as it is the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button on our alcohol consumption. However,  it's also important to know that Dry January isn't just about giving your liver a break, it's a chance for your skin to restore its natural glow. 

To find out more about this, I spoke to global skin doctor and founder of SkincarebyDrV, Dr Vanita Rattan, who shared the 7 ways giving up alcohol can benefit your skin. 

Before you find out, check out these 12 alcohol-free drinks to try for Dry January 2024!

1. It's anti-ageing 

The effects of alcohol on our skin become more and more apparent as we age. This is because alcohol disrupts the production of collagen, which is the main building block protein that forms healthy skin, hair, muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. 

Collagen production is naturally reduced by 1% every year from 21 onwards, but did you know regular alcohol consumption can accelerate the loss of collagen altogether? Without enough collagen, our skin cannot maintain its elasticity and firmness so begins showing the signs of ageing. This includes sagging skin, wrinkles, and fine lines. 

If you're interested, find out the best age to start taking collagen, according to skincare experts

2. It reduces inflammation 

When alcohol is broken down in the body, a chemical known as acetaldehyde is formed. Acetaldehyde can impair the lymphatic drainage system, responsible for clearing out excess sugars and carbs, allowing them to stay in the body for a longer time than necessary. This can contribute to inflammation in the body, particularly puffier eyelids and the facial contour appearing less defined. 

When the lymphatic drainage system is disrupted, this can also impact fluid regulation. The body retain fluids to try and offset the effects of dehydration, and as a result, the skin may experience temporary swelling. Quitting alcohol for a month can allow your body to naturally regulate itself again and provides a significant break for the liver to eliminate accumulated toxins.

3. You'll sleep better (which your skin will thank you for)

Despite its initial sedative effects that can help you fall asleep faster, drinking alcohol significantly disrupts your sleep cycle. It interferes with the deeper, restorative phases of sleep which is why you often wake up feeling groggy after a boozy night out. 

Quality sleep is your skins downtime, the period when it regenerates and repairs. Without a good night’s sleep, your skin can become stressed and appear duller, drier and with a higher likelihood of developing breakouts. It’s called ‘beauty sleep’ for a reason! Dry January will give you a change to recalibrate your sleep patterns, resulting in a refreshed and renewed glow to your skin. 

Read these 7 tips to get back into a healthy sleep routine after Christmas for a helping hand!

4. You'll get less breakouts

Alcohol contains high levels of sugar, which can stimulate the production of oil in the skin. If there is too much oil, this can cause issues such as clogged pores and more frequent breakouts. The sugar in alcohol can also spike insulin in the body, which can can cause inflammation in the skin, contributing to acne and facial flushing. 

If you struggle with acne, Dry January can provide an opportunity for you to examine how much alcohol is contributing to your skin concerns. It’s important to remember that achieving clearer skin in the new year isn't just about what you're avoiding, it's about what you're actively doing. 

Cleansing twice a day with a blemish-controlling cleanser can help remove the daily build-up of dead skin cells, oil, or dirt. After cleansing, use a gel moisturiser which contains ingredients like glycerin to hydrate the skin, niacinamide for sebum control and salicylic acid to unclog the pores. 

5. You'll stay more hydrated! 

Vasopressin is an antidiuretic hormone which signals to the kidneys to reabsorb water, rather than excrete it through urine. It is an essential hormone that keeps the body hydrated, but when we consume alcohol, it interferes with this process. Alcohol suppresses vasopressin, and with lower levels of this hormone in the body, the kidneys receive less signals to reabsorb water. 

Dehydrated skin feels dry, looks dull and less plump. As our skin cells dry out, wrinkles and fine lines appear more prominent too. By giving your body a month-long break from drinking, you’re allowing your skin to rehydrate and restore its youthful glow. In fact, after just one week you can notice less swelling in the skin and a dewier appearance. You can speed this process up by regularly hydrating the skin with a moisturiser that contains ceramides and peptides. Ceramides improve skin hydration and strengthens the skin barrier, whilst peptides help stimulate collagen to improve the appearance of wrinkles. 

6. You'll retain higher antioxidant levels

Alcohol, with its oxidative properties, can deplete your body's antioxidant reserves. Antioxidants help defend against harmful free radicals which damage the skins barrier. These free radicals, often the result of environmental stressors, contribute to a dull complexion and premature ageing. 

Dry January allows your body to replenish its antioxidant levels, to better protect your skin barrier. During this time, your skincare routine will play an essential supporting role to boost your skins health. Use an antioxidant serum to help mop up free radicals, protect collagen and prevent premature ageing. 

7. Healthy hair growth

Embracing an alcohol-free month isn’t just beneficial for the skin on your face, it can benefit the scalp too. Alcohol can dehydrate and inflame the scalp, exacerbating issues such as hair loss, dry hair, brittle and breaking hair. The hydration that your body retains during Dry January will help to combat these effects and retain the moisture balance of your scalp. This contributes to thicker, denser, and stronger hair growth which is less susceptible to damage. 

Interested in more? Check out the worst alcoholic drinks for your teeth, according to a dentist.

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.