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Beauty and the booze

Alcohol takes its toll on your skin, we all know that, but the paradox is that it is being increasingly used in spa treatments and skincare products.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2012 16:07 IST

We’ve all woken up after a wild night out on town... with a hangover, of course. And have you noticed how you look in the morning? The mirror shows the telltale signs of merrymaking. Alcohol takes its toll on your skin, we all know that, but the paradox is that it is being increasingly used in spa treatments and skincare products. Research also says that the consumption of it – in small doses, at least – keeps you glowing. Now, don’t rush to the bar yet. There are many grades of alcohol used in the beauty industry, explains Avni Amlani, education director, Dermalogica India. Not all of them are consumable, of course. Some, such as ethyl alcohol, ethanol, benzyl alcohol, methyl and isopropyl alcohol, irritate and dry out your skin. Then there are fatty, dense alcohols like caprylyl glycol that benefit the skin and may be used as nourishing emollients, says Amlani. The use of consumable alcohols, such as wine, is also a small but significant part of modern skin and haircare products.

So then, what about downing the drinks? Too much time spent holding the cocktail glass is usually regarded as bad news for the skin, but there are exceptions. If you must drink and save your skin at the same time, figure out the good, the bad and the ugly of alcohol and beauty before you say cheers.

The Good
Wine, beer and champagne are the clear favourites when it comes to good alcohols, whether it is for consumption or surface treatments. The use of wine and vine extracts in skin treatments, when diluted in correct measurements, exposes us to high concentrations of grape extracts, which contain an extremely high level of antioxidants, says Dr Rita Juneja, physessentialist and chief executive officer, The Vedic Spa Mantra. Drinking red wine in moderation is great for the heart as per several studies. Wine is effective in controlling the oxidation process – factors include pollution and excessive sun exposure – that causes the human body to rust and age prematurely, she adds. The higher the rate of oxidation, the lesser the amount of oxygen reaching the deeper layers of the skin. The good news is that oxidation – and its offshoot, free radicals – is countered whether we drink wine or apply it topically.

Since wine is a fermented drink, it also aids exfoliation, says Amlani. White wine, its extracts and vinegar are also deemed good for the hair. A great way to get the benefits of wine is by choosing products with dark grapes, as they are equally rich in antioxidants. Another good idea is to look for pomegranate-based products and treatments (just in case the idea of alcohol on you doesn’t go down well with you). Pomegranates are among the richest sources of antioxidants and control free radicals very well.
Beer, the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world, is also used in several products. We’ve often heard of it being a great hair conditioner. Several women swear by rinsing their hair with beer to enhance volume. “Due to the fermentation process and yeast content, beer helps to cleanse, remove dead skin cells, thus controlling dandruff, while giving lustrous, healthy hair,” says Amlani. “Beer is rich in B-complex vitamins,” says Dr Shachi Sohal, senior dietician, B.L. Kapur Memorial Hospital, New Delhi.

No wonder, specialty spas around the world, especially in Germany, the Czech Republic and America, offer beer baths for good complexion, hair and rejuvenated pores. But you can’t just dunk yourself in any kind of beer. Spas prefer to use dark beers that usually have a low alcohol content. They are mostly mixed with mineral water to enhance the effect.

Champagne, the sparkling wine, is also beneficial and has effects similar to wine. Its consumption is good for the skin and general health as it is rich in minerals like zinc, potassium and lithium. So, the next time you’re at a party and someone sprays the bubbly, don’t run for cover.

The Bad
Puffy eyes are an almost immediate effect of consuming way too much alcohol. You may blame the late night for it, but it’s really the tequila shots. Excessive skin dryness, sensitivity and premature ageing are some of the other effects, says Amlani. Alcohol is a highly acid-forming substance, so after way too much bar-hopping, your pH balance goes completely out of balance. The pH level determines the balance of hydrogen and some protective acids on the surface of our skin.

When you drink too much too quickly, the blood vessels expand rapidly and this may lead to pimples, blemishes, redness, itching and blotchy skin, says Dr Sohal. Keep in mind that the skin is more sensitive right after a hangover, so it’s best to avoid any kind of elaborate skin treatments, especially if they involve abrasive scrubs. It’s never a good idea to drink like a fish on Saturday night and schedule a facial on Sunday morning. Even wine body wraps are not advisable at this time. Keep it simple with a cleanser, toner, serum and an antioxidant-rich moisturiser like Estée Lauder’s DayWear Advanced Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant Creme SPF 15. Alcohol leaves the body primarily in three ways – urine, breath and sweat. That translates into more trips to the restroom, bad breath and foul body odour. So, don’t get too excited about happy hours on an important date. When it comes to health benefits, whisky and rum score far lower than wine and beer. Order the latter and save yourself some trouble.

The Ugly
Wrinkles and dull skin are the worst consequences of spending too much time at the bar. Gradually, the skin becomes dry, wrinkled and discoloured, says Dr Juneja. A certain lack of vitamins A and C can add to the problem of lacklustre skin and dark circles under the eye. Vitamin C deficiency is particularly bad news for your skin. This vitamin brightens the skin and is also essential for generating collagen, which keeps the skin supple. If your lifestyle forces you to indulge in a lot of social drinking, we recommend The Body Shop’s Vitamin C Skin Boost.

According to Dr Sohal, alcohol causes a spike in our oestrogen level, which in turn lowers the body’s zinc content, important for maintaining healthy hair roots. “When you consume alcohol, 20 per cent is absorbed by your stomach and 80 per cent goes into your blood stream,” says Dr Sohal. Eventually, the liver is left with the job of dispelling the toxins. Too much alcohol on a frequent basis hampers the efficiency of your liver functioning. The upshot: the toxins stay in your body and mess up your skin and hair. The rate at which your skin and hair heal itself drops significantly.

Women who consume large amounts of beer on a regular basis, run the risk of developing psoriasis, states a study published in the Archives of Dermatology. This is a condition that leads to redness, irritation, flaky and patchy skin. Light beer is a slightly better option as far as psoriasis is concerned.

All said and done, it’s okay to raise a toast occasionally and one or two pegs are fine for women. During festivities, when making merry means a few drinks, use products with ingredients that combat the effects of alcohol. While hyaluronic acid increases hydration and improves elasticity, pro-vitamin B5 aids skin and hair repair; algae extracts are nutrient-rich, particularly in minerals and help restore moisture balance, while softening the skin; honey replenishes and attracts moisture to the skin; cucumber extract soothes and calms irritated skin; and red raspberry extract tackles sensitivity and aggravation, says Amlani. So, are you ready to say ‘‘Cheers!’’ yet?

The morning after
How to get back your former glory
Had one drink too many? Dr Rita Juneja, physessentialist and chief executive officer, The Vedic Spa Mantra, tells you how to restore the vitality in your skin and hair with this homemade bath blend. Add one tablespoon of your shampoo to one cup of any oil (olive, corn, sesame or soya). To this, add half a teaspoon of any aromatic oil. Pour all this into a bottle and remember to shake well each time you use it. You will need about two tablespoons for each bath. Finish with a hair rinse of wine, beer or cider vinegar. A lemon bath is also very refreshing. Mix a cup of lemon verbena with a cup of lemon balm and add three drops of lemon oil. Mix well and keep this concoction in an airtight container. Put two tablespoons in tepid bath water every time a hangover bothers you. In case you have dry skin, apply apricot or almond oil after the post-hangover bath to nourish your skin completely.

1. Éminence Tokay Ice Wine Masque, ` 4,200 (approx)
2. Caudalie Premier Cru The Eye Cream, ` 3,600 (approx)
3. L’Occitane Olive Tree Conditioner, ` 995 4. Victoria’s Secret Strawberries and Champagne Hydrating Body Lotion, price on request 5. The Body Shop Natrulift Firming Night Cream ` 1,295

First Published: Jul 08, 2011 11:23 IST