Better skin and more money? A derm and recovery addiction specialist on the benefits of sobriety for ‘Dry January’ and beyond
Edited and updated January, 2023
Considering a break from drinking (like ‘Dry January’ or ‘Damp January’) or just exploring alternative approaches to alcohol? As a dermatologist and addiction specialist tells it, the benefits of going zero-proof (hello, radiant skin!) will far outweigh the challenges (and there will be challenges).
“Mild drinkers may notice positive changes like higher energy levels, clearer skin, better sleep and weight loss,” says Ashley Loeb Blassingame, co-founder of Lionrock telehealth substance abuse counseling and certified alcohol/drug counselor. But she cautions, “It’s important to note that alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and even life threatening,” so individuals should be aware of the symptoms of withdrawal and reach out for professional help immediately.
Symptoms include anything from mild anxiety, tremors and gastrointestinal issues that can arise within eight hours of your last drink to the more severe like high body temperature, hallucination and seizures.
Sobering up has never been more socially supported. The zero–proof lifestyle movement is booming, from apps and podcasts to beverage brands that are stepping up with alcohol-free libations. While sobriety specialists don’t see eye-to-eye on zero-proof spirits, for some, it can help ease the challenges of going cold turkey, especially if alcohol is part of a nightly wind-down ritual.
Socializing is a major hurdle during sobriety, but Blassingame says we can navigate that obstacle by seeing “if a friend wants to jump into Dry January to hold each other accountable.” At social outings, “Merely saying, ‘I’m the designated driver’ or ‘I’m doing Dry January’ can be enough to help squelch social pressures.” And maybe even inspire your friends to do the same.
True, a drink or two on a special occasion may have only a brief impact on your skin (hello, flushed cheeks after a couple of stems of red). But what alcohol does to your face over time may be reason enough to take a short- or long-term break from the bottle.
Board-certified dermatologist and integrated wellness expert Dr. Jen Haley says, “Alcohol can dehydrate your skin, cause red-hued skin and broken blood vessels, and can worsen pre-existing conditions like psoriasis and rosacea.” Easing up on alcohol equals more radiant skin because then skin can stay better hydrated. “Some people may find that their skin conditions actually improve if they stop drinking for a month.”
This occurs because alcohol acts as a diuretic—it forces the body to lose liquid at a far faster rate than normal. Because of this, dehydration may also lead to:
- Reduced firmness and suppleness
- Dry, cracked lips
- Sunken eyes, dark circles and puffiness
Alcohol’s effect on skin can also trigger a loss of essential nutrients, like vitamin A (the same vitamin from which skin savers like retinol are derived). When vitamin A reserves are taxed, you may notice more pronounced fine lines and wrinkles.
Easing up on alcohol equals more radiant, smoother skin because then skin can stay better hydrated and retain vital nutrients. “Some people may find that their skin conditions actually improve if they stop drinking for a month,” Haley says.
Another perk of sobriety is better control over self-care practices, like eating right and sticking to a nightly skincare routine. “When we drink alcohol, we sometimes make bad eating choices, which can affect our skin. If you’ve had a late night out and a few too many martinis, you’re more likely to reach for the ice cream and neglect your nightly skincare regimen—both of which can have adverse effects on your skin like dullness, irritation, congestion and breakouts,” Haley says.
Booze can be a real wallet-buster, whether you’re hosting a get-together or heading out. “More money is definitely a positive side effect of not drinking,” Blassingame says. “Most people don’t realize how much they’re spending on alcohol until they stop.”
Time spent drinking (and recovering) adds up, but sobriety can give you that time back. However, this blessing can be hard to navigate, especially on weekends. “If you simply stop drinking and don’t find something else to do, you can quickly find yourself obsessing over the fact that you are not drinking,” Blassingame notes.
Perhaps try finding a new hobby or reigniting an old passion project, downloading a sobriety app to stay accountable, starting an outdoor walking group, creating a list of things you’ve been putting off, or journaling through the process. All these things equal time well-spent and reinforce the physical and emotional benefits.
And, what can you do for your skin and body if you imbibe?
Ample hydration: Follow each drink with a 16-ounce glass of water. Moreover, don’t forget to arrive well-hydrated with water and electrolyte-rich liquids, and pamper your skin with a nourishing moisturizer packed with naturally derived antioxidants like vitamin C.
Get a solid night’s sleep: Aim to have your last libation 2 to 3 hours before you hit the sheets. This allows the body to better metabolize what you drank, so you’re less likely to toss and turn.
Layer in niacinamide: Research demonstrates that niacinamide may soften the sight of fine lines and wrinkles, while also promoting stronger skin and improved elasticity.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Murad, and are for informational purposes only, even if the advice of physicians and medical practitioners are included. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered specific medical advice.
Resources for this information:
Mayo Clinic Website, Nutrition and Healthy Eating
Medical News Today Website, Health Conditions
Healthline Website, Health Conditions
Healthline Website, Causes and Treatments
Healthline Website, Food and Nutrition
Healthline Website, Alcohol and Metabolism
Dermatologic Surgery, 2005, volume 31, issue 7, 860-865