Your Skin and Wine: What's the Bottom Line?

Dec 17, 2019
Written by
Gerard Paul
Photographed by
W

ine's a fascinating drink. It's been around for thousands of years and is an integral part of nearly every country and culture.

Skin is also fascinating. As the largest organ on our bodies, it's also usually the first to show issues when something is amiss.

Have you ever thought – while drinking a glass of wine, perhaps – about wine's effects on your skin?

Yeah – me too. Today, let's explore the interaction between wine and skin!

Wine and its Components

Wine's primary biologically active component, of course, is alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant – it mimics the neurotransmitter GABA in your body and slows things down (quite literally).

Alcohol is also – effectively – a poison.

Taken to excess, alcohol can cause everything from a loss of consciousness to vomiting to even death. However, in moderate doses, alcohol has a hormetic effect – your body's reaction to small amounts of alcohol, especially with the other good ingredients in wine, can have positive health benefits.

Healthy Wine and Skin Interactions

Before we go too far, note that a lot of wine's benefits flow from, well, things other than alcohol. Some of the ingredients you'll find in wine include:

- Resveratol: is a phenol – an aromatic organic compound – found in grape skins, raspberries, blueberries, and dark fruits. Research is ongoing, but resveratrol seems to have many beneficial effects on the body

- Flavanols and Flavonols: are compounds found in vegetables and fruits (including today's heroes, grapes). Flavanols and their counterparts flavonols possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

- Antioxidants: are a general class of substances that resist oxidation in the body. Free radicals are a damaging byproduct of oxidation, and antioxidants can often directly block the harmful effects of free radicals in the body

Wine's – and Its Components' – Proven Effects on Skin

While the jury is still out, as of today, we suspect that free radicals also have pro-aging effects: they accelerate the effects of aging. Antioxidant activity in wine – whether from resveratrol, flavanols and flavonols, or other antioxidants might help us fight back a bit.

Red wine also contains a high concentration of proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are reasonably well known for their reduction of heart disease risk, but recent research reveals they are beneficial for your body's collagen. If that holds up, in a couple of years, we might talk about how red wine helps fight wrinkles and improve skin elasticity.

Wines – or rather, the tartaric acid in wines – also include alpha hydroxy acids. Alpha hydroxy acids have many beneficial skin effects – they can assist as a peeling agent or even treat acne.

Commonly, AHAs are used topically for skincare, so don't run out looking for a wine prescription from your dermatologist just yet. Red wine, in particular, seems to have the right composition to help fight acne, support collagen, and keep your skin clear.

Maybe we'll find out soon (for sure) if AHAs in wine have a beneficial effect.

Adverse Wine and Skin Interactions

Unfortunately, while there are proven skin benefits from the occasional glass of wine, there are also adverse effects. Wine is, after all, an alcoholic drink, and it carries the downside risks of alcohol.

And the downsides are numerous. Let's look at the proven negative skin effects of wine and alcohol.

Dehydration and Alcohol

Alcohol is a mild diuretic, and in excess, it leads to dehydration. I don't need to tell you – your skin will show the effects of dehydration quickly. Even mild dehydration shows as dark circles (known as periorbital hyperpigmentation) that afflict your eyes.

There are other signs, as well. When people are dehydrated, their skin looks dull, their eyes look variously puffy or sunken, and they can even show more wrinkles and fine lines.

(Good reasons to avoid that third glass of wine.)

Sleep Quality and Poor Sleep

Admittedly, moderate drinking does have some positive effects on sleep. Alcohol decreases sleep latency, which is merely the measure of how long it takes to fall asleep. Wine also contains melatonin, a hormone responsible for helping regulate sleep in humans.

However, excess alcohol can be disruptive... and even extremely dangerous.

Sleep apnea is a condition where you don't take in enough oxygen during the night. Some studies show sleep apnea risk increases 25% or more with the effects of alcohol. Severe sleep apnea can be deadly, but even mild apnea means you'll be less alert and have a rough next day.

Alcohol also disrupts sleep cycles. Alcohol reliably suppresses deep sleep – both REM (dream) sleep and slow "delta-wave" sleep that we currently believe is most restorative.

All of those effects add up to the dark circles, dull skin, and lethargy you know and recognize in people the day after drinking.

Other Wine and Skin Effects

We're only just scratching the surface with the acute effects of alcohol on your skin. Alcohol over time leads to even more dire issues but also negatively affects your skin.

Let's look at a few skin-related conditions related to chronic drinking.

Alcohol and Skin Cancer: Some recent studies have shown that wine – and in particular, white wine – might cause or negatively influence the development of skin cancers. Scientists found significantly more melanoma cases among drinkers than in non-drinkers.

Rosacea and Capillary Damage: The American Academy of Dermatology warns that women who have skin health concerns should think twice about drinking wine, especially white wine. It can cause varied effects on the skin such as rosacea, flushing, and redness on the face and neck, as well as capillary damage to the cheeks and nose.

Skin Damage from Chronic Drinking: Some studies have shown that chronic drinking can cause cutaneous diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, infections, and acne. And alcoholic hepatitis – alcoholic damage to the liver – also can appear as yellowed, jaundiced skin and eyes.

How to Plan for a Night of Drinking

As you've seen, alcohol has plenty of negative effects on your skin, both acute and chronic.

Hopefully, if you read this site, you're already concentrating on things to maximize your skin's appearance.

But if you aren't keen on skipping the wine glass tonight yet want your skin to look its best tomorrow concentrate on four main things:

1. Stay Hydrated

Since dehydration causes many adverse skin effects, if you're going to drink, you need to make it a point to stay hydrated.

Make sure you drink plenty of liquid and eat sufficient calories during the day before you go out. There's no need to compound your problems by starting drinking already slightly dehydrated, then ordering salty foods to fill you up.

The old rule of "one glass of water for every alcoholic drink" also works well. Try to hew to that concept if you can; it's better to drink a bit too much fluid than try to make up for dehydration at the end of the night.

2. Drink in Moderation

Many of the adverse effects of alcohol are dose-dependent.

If you do choose to forego being the designated driver, try to keep your drinking on the moderate side. Drink a mocktail or a club soda with lemon instead of getting a second glass of wine, or try to pour a limited portion.

Oh, and if you set a limit – stick to it. Your skin (and the rest of your body) will thank you tomorrow.

3. Take Time to Sleep and Recover

If possible, plan your night out so you can get a full 7-9 hours of sleep. If you drank at a moderate level – even if the front part of your sleep is a bit worse than usual – your body will break down the alcohol in your sleep, and you'll hopefully catch up with some quality sleep in the second half. This will go a long way to prevent tomorrow's dark circles, tired eyes, and dull appearance.

Also, I know I told you to stay hydrated in tip #1, but if you didn't follow that rule too make sure you hydrate before bed!

4. Avoiding Damaging Foods Paired with Wine – and Wine's Histamines

Wine – and red wine in particular – is full of histamines. Histamines mediate your body's response to stressors and foreign substances. Your body can make plenty on its own, but when you add external histamines on top you can easily see the effects.

Histamines can cause everything from flushed skin to nasal congestion to headaches to terrible hangovers. If you add the effects of histamines on top of a hangover, you're doubling down on a bad day – and of course, the bad skin that follows.

Not to belabor the point, but the foods often paired with wine also contain substances that have negative effects. Aged cheeses also contain many histamines, and crackers, spaghetti, and other common wine pairings are carbohydrate-dense.

So – it's the wine, but it also isn't just the wine. If you aren't careful, when drinking wine, you'll be exposed to plenty of ingredients that affect your skin and complexion – even if you stop drinking after one glass.



The bottom line?

The old saying "everything in moderation" is certainly true when it comes to drinking wine. While wine – and especially red wine – has plenty of components that have positive skin-health effects, it also can quickly tip to the bad side.

When you plan a night out, be sure you are moderate in your drinking. Eat a big, healthy dinner beforehand, drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink, and get your 7-9 hours of sleep after.

This will protect your skin's appearance – and you'll also likely thank me tomorrow.

Gerard Paul writes about food and drink at ManyEats. He's set out to have a moderate night and had too many drinks... oh, once or twice. He'll attempt to take his own advice in the future.

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