Having excessive amounts of alcohol, besides the dreaded hangover the next day, works against your body in many ways. This doesn't mean you can't enjoy a beverage or two; it is excessive or constant consumption of alcohol that causes the damage. To help explain this, here is the science behind how alcohol wreaks havoc on your hair and skin and what you can do to prevent these problems.
One of the first things experienced when you overconsume will be the need to drink a lot of liquids the next morning. This is because alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing you to need to go to the bathroom and ultimately dehydrating the body.
Then, to make things worse, this leads to dehydration and desiccation of all parts of the body, including the skin and hair. This is slightly different between the hair and the skin, so let's take a look at them separately.
The skin is actually a very delicate organ of the body made up of different layers. These layers include membranes and fatty tissue as well as support structures. When the body becomes dehydrated, it pulls moisture from the skin to keep the central and essential organs functioning. This results in moisture pulled from the skin, leaving it loose and saggy at the level of the cells.
When this is a chronic state of the body because of regular drinking, the lines and wrinkles on the face become more obvious and develop at an earlier age. Additionally, alcohol actually causes inflammation at the same cell and tissue level. Just like any other type of inflammation, there is a histamine reaction, like an allergic reaction, that triggers a flushing of the skin.
This is why you feel hot and have a red blush or flush to the cheeks when you overconsume. Even with a single drink this occurs for some people, it is just less pronounced. When there is continual inflammation and the associated histamine reaction, it is very normal for the skin to retain a ruddy or blotchy-looking appearance that does not go away.
Keep in mind, as the body ages it has more difficulty in processing and removing the chemicals in alcohol. This can extend up to requiring more than 24 hours for the effects of having a drink to be managed by the body. If you do drink occasionally this is typically not an issue, but drinking every day or even every other day can be very problematic.
The hair also suffers when there is a lack of hydration in the body. When the body is dehydrated, there is limited blood circulation to the extremities meaning low nutrient levels being supplied to the hair follicles. Low nutrient levels mean the follicles are not fully nourished, there is poor hair growth and limited generation of new hair when natural shedding occurs.
For both women and men, the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol can also have an impact on hormonal levels in the body, specifically the level of estrogen. It actually raises the level of estrogen and this is linked to increased hair loss. Excessive drinking also creates an acidic state in the body. This strips keratin protein from the system, which is essential to developing hair follicles. Keratin is used by the body to try to neutralize the acidic state and bring the chemistry of the body back to the more neutral level that is optimal for health.
At the same time, drinking too much or on an ongoing basis robs the body of zinc. Zinc is one of the trace compounds that is essential for normal hair growth. As zinc is not produced in the body, it has to be consumed in the food you eat. Depleting body resources of zinc will result in poor hair growth and it is very difficult to counteract this in the diet.
Additionally, drinking is linked to drops in the body's ability to utilize and absorb Vitamin C and B and can also drop folic acid levels. With this combination of factors, the hair becomes brittle and is more likely to develop split ends or simply become thin, limp and sparse.
The dehydration factor also kicks in very quickly with your hair. You will often notice the hair is much dryer than normal and will not respond to treatments with gentle shampoos or even the top conditioners or leave-in treatments. Natural body will also be much less evident, requiring more product to create the looks you want.
If you do notice changes in your hair, particularly if you were going out a lot this past holiday season drinking more than you normally do, try making a few changes. Limit yourself to one or two drinks or skip it all together and enjoy a sparkling water with fresh fruit or perhaps a seasonal non-alcoholic drink instead. Contact our team for more information.