This Is Why A Night Of Heavy Drinking Is So Bad For Your Skin

No one really looks great with a hangover.

04/02/2016 4:49 AM AEDT | Updated 04/02/2016 4:49 AM AEDT

It's not those late-night cheese fries that give your face that undeniable gray, tired appearance the morning after a night out on the town.

Nope. Usually, the reason you wake up haggard-looking after having a couple of drinks is because you're dehydrated and under-rested.

And while you can probably pull off being hungover for one torturous day, the long-term effects associated with repeated hangovers can do major damage to your skin. 

"Alcohol causes dehydration," Dr. Amy Wechsler, a board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist in Manhattan told The Huffington Post. "It dehydrates and dries the skin out, and skin isn't as plump." Dehydrated skin often feels tight and looks flaky, effects that dramatize the appearance of fine lines. Skin looseness, redness and itching can also take hold on your face. Not pretty.

Maybe more damaging than dehydration, however, are the effects that too little sleep has on the skin, Wechsler said. "This is not a direct side effect of alcohol, but it's a common secondary side effect."

Many think a nightcap guarantees a solid night of zzz's, but as it turns out, the exact opposite is true. While alcohol promotes fatigue that could help your head hit the pillow faster, the quality of sleep you experience on a belly full of booze is not so good. An abundance of research suggests that alcohol encourages a disturbed sleep, which leads to groggy mornings and poor concentration that lasts all day

What does this all have to do with your skin? "During sleep is when our cortisol level is lowest," said Wechsler. Skin has the opportunity to repair itself at nighttime, when you're not busy putting it through the trauma of your daily commute and dinners at greasy Chinese food restaurants.

When you're not getting healthy sleep, cortisol (the stress hormone) is still surging, she said. When this happens, the skin becomes inflamed, breaking down the skin's collagen, which is meant to keep the skin plump, firm and fresh-looking. As a result, fine lines and thin, dry skin are formed. 

If you're wondering how on earth you're going to be able to enjoy happy hour without compromising your appearance, consider taking some of the simple preventative measures we've outlined below. Let's raise a glass (of water) to healthier skin from here on out.

1. Alternate booze with water. 

"Drink a full glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have," Weschler prescribes. If you alternative between the two, the water will keep you hydrated and also prevent you from downing more gin and tonics than you soberly planned. 

2. Prioritize sleep.

This one's a biggy. Running on poor quality sleep isn't just bad for your skin: It negatively impacts virtually every aspect of your life. Want to be happier? Get quality sleep. Want to perform better at work? Commit to a healthy 7 to 8 hours under the covers. Feel like you might sucker-punch your best friend? A nap is in order.

"In America we think of sleep as a luxury instead of a necessity," Weschler said. "Everyone's burning a candle at both ends and sleep is the first to go. It's really bad for health -- mental and physical." Prioritizing sleep can prevent everything from wrinkles to illogical shouting matches, so there's definitely good reason to put sleep at the top of your to-do list. If you're looking for ways to sleep better, check out these 37 science-backed tips

3. Exercise.

A sweat-inducing workout can increase the circulation in your skin, Weschler said, giving you a nice rosy glow. The escalated blood flow also helps to flush debris out of your system

Better yet, an endorphin-fueling workout could help negate those lousy emotional feelings that come with a hangover. Just make sure not to over-do it; if you're hungover, you're dehydrated, so you'll need to take it easy and keep a water bottle close.

4. Wash your face.

First, you'll want to clean off the sweat that came from the circulation-boosting workout. Experts recommend washing your face as soon as you can post-sweat session to prevent clogged pores and acne. 

A cleansing routine is just as important after a night of table dancing watching "The Bachelor" with your friends and a couple glasses of wine. As Weschler mentioned, the skin does a lot of self-repair and rejuvenation while you sleep. If you don't give it a clean slate to start with, it'll increase your risk for breakouts, wrinkles and aging skin. 

Are you ready to start taking better care of yourself? Sign up for our newsletter and join our Look Good, Feel Good challenge to supercharge your beauty and grooming routine and develop healthy habits. We’ll deliver tips, challenges and advice to your inbox every day.  

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