When it comes to alcohol, we’ve heard a lot recently about the positive effects of antioxidants in a glass of wine, or how alcohol may help prevent cancer and ensure a healthy heart. But what about the other effects that alcohol has on aging well? For instance, can alcohol undermine your anti-aging skin treatment attempts?
The simple answer is: yes. In fact, alcohol can have a significant impact on aging well in several different ways, including dehydration, nutrient depletion, vasodilation, and sleep deprivation.
When it comes to aging well, alcohol’s diuretic effects are of no help—diuretics make you urinate more frequently. Alcohol can rob your body of fluids, and while we all know drinking lots of water is one of the main keys to aging well, we tend to forget this while splitting a bottle of wine with a friend. The lack of internal hydration caused by alcohol can lead to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles that will grow deeper over time. This dehydration also prevents your hair from aging well, as it becomes dry, brittle, and more prone to split ends. A good tip to remember for aging well is to alternate between alcoholic drinks and water. As well, after a night out, remember to remove your makeup and follow up with a good cleansing and a heavy-duty moisturizer—your skin can use all the help it can get to stay moisturized for aging well.
Alcohol can wreak havoc on your nutrient levels, particularly vitamin A, which is one of the keys to anti-aging nutrition and aging well; that’s because vitamin A plays a significant role in the production of collagen, which is what keeps your skin taut and youthful looking. Alcohol can also cause a zinc deficiency, which can lead to hair loss. To counteract the nutrient-depleting effects of alcohol on aging well, skip the stereotypical “hangover” foods that tend to be greasy and heavy, opting instead for nutrient-rich options, such as whole grain toast or fruit, especially bananas. Skip out on your morning coffee, too—it will only increase the effects of alcohol on aging well. Instead, reach for a glass of orange juice, water, or even chicken broth, which will help restore electrolytes.
Alcohol is notorious for making your face appear red—this is because it acts as a vasodilator, widening blood vessels, which are the reason for all of that redness. While this redness (and sometimes puffiness) will generally go away as the alcohol makes its way out of your system, permanent red, spidery veins can appear on your face, generally around the apples of your cheeks, due to the repeated overconsumption of alcohol. As if lines and wrinkles aren’t enough, this is just another visible impediment to aging well.
When it comes to aging well, sleep can be your best friend. While many may claim that a drink or two helps them get a good night’s rest, this isn’t actually true; according to a recent review of 27 studies, alcohol can actually deprive your body of much-needed rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep, but it reduces the amount and quality of REM sleep that you get, which is what is most rejuvenating and important for aging well.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should cut out alcohol completely, since we know there are physical and social health benefits to alcohol consumption. Instead, drink in moderation: according to the U.S. Government Dietary Guidelines, that means up to one drink a day for women, and two for men.
Finally, if you need one last boost to help you limit your alcohol intake and start aging well, download the “Drinking Mirror” app on your smartphone. Developed by the Scottish government to promote better health, this app takes your picture and shows you how alcohol can affect your appearance—be prepared to see deep wrinkles, redness, swelling, and weight gain. This app is a surefire way to boost your efforts for aging well.