Gen Med Skin+Beauty

The Effects of Alcohol on Skin

July 28, 2020

Featured Physician: Amy Spizuoco, MD

Featured Article: Here’s Exactly How Bad Drinking Alcohol Is for Your Skin

Dr. Amy Spizuoco is a board-certified dermatologist in private practice in New York City. She is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton and NY College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her residency in Dermatology at LECOM/Alta Dermatology in Arizona and a fellowship in dermatopathology at the Ackerman Academy of Dermatopathology. She is known for her charming bedside manner and expertise in skin and beauty care. In this interview featured in GQmagazine, she shares her insights on the effects of alcohol on the skin.

Effects of Alcohol on Skin

myDoqter: Dr. Spizuoco, you were a contributor to a GQ article on the effects of alcohol and skin care. Thank you for sharing your insights with us. In general, alcohol seems to have a lot of toxic effects on the body. Can you tell us what kind of effects can be seen on the skin resulting from alcohol over-consumption?

Dr. Spizuoco: First, the body metabolizes the alcohol from an enzyme in the liver, which releases a byproduct called acetaldehyde. This byproduct is toxic to body tissues. In turn, body tissues and skin become dehydrated. The alcohol is meanwhile causing inflammation to bodily tissue. It causes the release of a substance called histamine that dilates the blood’s capillaries, so that the net effect is redness of the skin. Additionally, alcohol dilates the pores of the skin, leading to blackheads and whiteheads.

myDoqter: How would you broadly classify the main mechanism through which alcohol can damage the skin?

Dr. Spizuoco: Alcohol can significantly affect the skin by dehydrating it, by causing all the cells to lose water. Alcohol leads to decreased functionality of the skin cells and, therefore, to abnormal cell processes.

myDoqter: So, the main 3 mechanisms of injury are: the direct toxic effects on the skin cells of the byproduct substance called acetaldehyde, as well as dehydration and inflammation. It’s always fascinating how the skin mirrors the overall systemic health of the body. One can imagine that the changes of alcohol seen in the skin are occurring throughout the body! 

Can Alcohol Improve Skin Health? 

myDoqter: Ok, so we often hear about the health benefits of alcohol. With respect to the skin, we hear about how antioxidants like resveratrol can actually be helpful. Is there any truth to that and are there any benefits of modest alcohol consumption to the skin? Are some types of alcohol better than others?

Dr. Spizuoco: Of all alcoholic beverages, beer may in fact be the most offensive to the skin. Beer has more additives, such as salts and sugars, which will add more stress on the liver to metabolize, as well as be overly dehydrating. This worsens the appearance of the skin, and negatively impacts its health.

Similarly, dark liquors have more additives than clear ones. The least harmful to you is probably red wine. This is because reds contain resveratrol, which acts as an antioxidant for the tissues and skin, and helps rid the body of harmful free radicals.

myDoqter: OK, so the advice seems to be that red wine and clear liquors may be better if one is going to consume alcohol!

Coffee, Alcohol, and Your Skin 

myDoqter: Many people follow up alcohol with a cup of coffee. But what about caffeine – does that compound the problem?

Dr. Spizuoco: Caffeine has similar effects on the body. It is also metabolized in the liver, then acts as a diuretic (hence that familiar urge to use the restroom after drinking coffee). Diuretics also dehydrate the body tissues and skin, which in turn leads to wrinkles and premature aging. Caffeine can stress the liver just as aggressively as alcohol, when consumed in such large and frequent quantities.

Top Tips to Counter the Negative Effects of Alcohol

myDoqter: If you had to highlight 3 top recommendations for a night on the town to protect your skin and health and minimize negative side effects of drinking, what would they be?

Dr. Spizuoco: Definitely follow these measures to keep your skin hydrated and healthy while having a night on the town:

  1. Drink a lot of water before hitting the town. In fact, maintain a healthy and balanced daily hydration regimen by drinking adequate amounts of water throughout the day, especially first thing in the morning and after meals.
  2. Alternate between a serving of alcohol and a glass of water. Chase one with the other. This can minimize harmful effects of alcohol on the skin by hydrating the tissues and skin.
  3. Eating full meals prior to or while drinking alcoholic beverages will deter the side effects of alcohol, since some of it will pass through the gastrointestinal system along with the food. Because the two are metabolized in tandem, side effects from alcohol will not be as potent.


For more information about Dr. Amy Spizuoco, please visit


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