The honest truth: How alcohol affects your skin

Hell-o spring! Taking off to the tropics any time soon? This summer, while you're sitting on the beach, sipping on a cocktail, take heed of what you may be doing to your skin. You know that you need to protect your skin from the sun's harsh rays, but what about that fruity daiquiri in your hand?

Alcohol's effect on your skin is similar to its effect on the rest of your body: it steals the good (hydration) and leaves the bad (dryness, bloating, redness). When you drink alcohol, it hinders the production of vasopressin -- an anti-diuretic hormone. This causes your kidneys to work extra hard to remove excess water from your system, sending water to your bladder (and you to the restroom!) instead of your organs. Don't forget that your skin is the largest organ in the body -- and drinking a lot of alcohol leaves it dehydrated.

When skin is dry, it is much more likely to wrinkle and make you look older than you are. Alcohol also robs your body of Vitamin A which is essential for cell renewal and turnover, so your skin could take on a dull gray appearance. Staying hydrated will obviously have opposing effects: smoothing out wrinkles, leaving your skin looking bright, young and fresh. Drinking water is the only way to combat the drying effects of alcohol, hydrating from within.

Being so depleted of vital nutrients, electrolytes and fluids, your skin often shows signs of bloating and swelling. When you're lacking what you need, your body will store whatever it can get -- wherever it can, and any water you take in will cause your tissues to swell.

Alcohol can also affect preexisting conditions like rosacea, causing it to worsen or flare up more often. Alcohol increases your blood flow, often causing blood vessels in your face to dilate (sometimes permanently) and often burst, leaving behind broken capillaries and red spots that are difficult to get rid of.

What's worse, drinking too much doesn't only affect the appearance of your skin, it will dehydrate your hair, making it more prone to breaking and split ends. Weak, brittle hair is just about as ideal as premature wrinkling, don't you think?

While drinking in moderation is fine for your health (and sometimes even good for you -- we're looking at you, red wine!) it seems there's a disconnect between what many of us view as "moderation" and the reality. When you consume too much alcohol, it can seriously affect your health and appearance, so it's important to keep your consumption in check.

For men, excessive drinking (otherwise known as binge drinking) is 5 drinks within two hours. For women, binge drinking is 4 drinks within that timeframe. Studies have found that 1 in 6 adults binge drink at least 4 times a month, drinking an average of 8 drinks each time. When more than half of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. is in the form of binge drinking, it should make us pause to think about how we might be involved in these statistics.

Everyone is different, but we like to think that listening to your body is the key. Have a major headache the morning after a few glasses of wine? Your body is trying to tell you something -- give me more water.

The takeaway: alcohol seriously affects your appearance, but it also wreaks havoc on your insides if you drink too much. Read more about its effects on the body here. And don't assume that this doesn't apply to you: even if you have a few drinks a week, you should take note of how the alcohol may be affecting your skin.

Photo Credit: Chris Gramly/Getty Images; Paul Piebinga/Getty Images

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