By Lisa Haynes
‘Wine Face’. It’s officially a thing. So yes, your Friday night glass of Sauvignon is partly to blame for that boy-you-look-tired complexion.
It was a phrase coined by Sienna Miller’s go-to naturopath Dr Nigma Talib, conforming that alcohol manifests itself on your face. Symptoms include reddish skin, visibly enlarged pores, deep nasolabial folds and obvious fine lines around your eyes. And the worst news? You can get Wine Face after just one glass…
‘You can see a visible difference the next day. Dark circles under your eyes can often be mistaken for a late night but it’s also a signal your kidneys are overloaded,’ says Dr Nigma.
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Almost two thirds of women choose wine over spirits but Wine Face can be trigged by any alcohol. ‘Think of a prune and a grape,’ says Dr Nigma, ‘that’s the potential difference in appearance between a drinker and a non-drinker.’
Oh, and if you’re over 25 your skin has way less elasticity to bounce back from a heavy night. We’ll leave the Jägerbomb rounds to the youngsters then.
We know social boozing is on the rise – a quarter of women drink twice the recommended amount at least one day a week - and the government has responded by overhauling their alcohol guidelines for the first time in two decades.
You have any idea what your quota is? It’s the equivalent of just a bottle and a half of wine over seven days.
With that new booze rulebook - 14 units for both sexes - you might assume men and women drink in the same way, right? Our physiological make-up says otherwise.
‘Women have a higher blood alcohol level,’ explains Dr Howard Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad skincare. ‘It’s down to women having a higher percentage of body fat than men. Fat contains just 10% water, whereas muscle is 75% water, so women have less water to detoxify the alcohol resulting in a greater effect on the skin and body.’
So if you order a double vodka at the bar and weigh 65kg, a guy of the same size would need to drink a triple measure to hit the same blood alcohol level. Even periods can affect how tipsy you get. Thanks to a fluctuation in hormone levels, you’re likely to become intoxicated quicker in the days immediately before you’re due on.
Think you’ve got your hangover-free formula sussed? Regular drinkers may acclimatise to the toxins but they’re still having an effect, according to Dr Murad. ‘Alcohol causes free radical damage to the whole body. Binge drinking is worse because your body is exposed to an excessive amount of toxins in one hit.’
Hashtag hangover of doom.
Booze is officially not your friend when it comes to your BMI. One glass of wine contains about the same number of calories as four cookies. To claw back the calories you knock back in two glasses of wine, you’d need to power through a sweaty 30-minute run.
How to identify a drinker in a line-up? They typically carry weight around their middle (think reverse hourglass). But it’s not only empty booze calories you have to thank for that... ‘Alcohol stunts the body’s ability to digest fats properly so excessive amounts can accumulate in the liver,’ says Elouise Bauskis, nutritionist at NutriCentre.
And if you’re experiencing the morning-after munchies (bacon and egg sandwich on white bread, anyone?), it’s down to a drop in blood sugar - booze prevents the release of glucose from the liver.
‘It’s this hypoglycaemia that results in a craving for foods that raise blood sugar, so drinking isn’t ideal for anyone concerned about weight gain,’ Elouise adds.
Alcohol is up there with obesity and smoking as the UK’s third biggest lifestyle risk factor for disease, so a combo of two - or all three - is pretty dicey territory.
Okay, nothing’s going to rival downing a matcha kale smoothie but alcoholic drinks do exist that are less toxic than others. Disclaimer: hangovers are still a distinct possibility.
Order the purest spirit possible and note that clear doesn’t necessarily mean virtuous. Some gin, vodka and whiskies contain gluten (beer is the worst culprit) so try rum, tequila or potato-based vodka and skip the sugary mixers for soda to avoid bloating and wine face.
For the ultimate clean tipple, order a grain-free vodka and soda. Coconut water has also become a surprise hero mixer behind the bar to hydrate green queens that occasionally fall off the wagon.
It might be vintage advice but a chaser of water between each alcoholic drink will reduce pronounced wrinkles under eyes and feathery lines on cheeks – classic symptoms of boozy dehydration.
The average body takes three hours to break down just one large glass of wine. Dr Nigma’s mantra? Choose red over white: ‘White wine’s pretty much all sugar. Red wine at least has some flavanoids, polyphenols and resveratrol that are good for the skin.’ She also recommends sulphite-free organic plonk because some Wine Faces are exaggerated by sensitivity to preservatives.
If you’re drinking red wine to boost your heart health (yep, we’ve used the same excuse), put a cork in it. New evidence reveals it’s only beneficial for women aged 55+ – and that’s limited to two glasses of wine a week.
Booze V Fertility
Just like sex, there’s no one-way street when it comes to booze and baby-making. It’s advised you both abstain from the drinks cabinet… Research shows women who drink more than six units a week were 18% less likely to conceive. For men, it’s 14%.
‘Alcohol not only affects sperm motility in men but causes free-radical damage to the DNA the sperm carries,’ says Zita West, fertility expert.
Got an erratic period? Your booze habits may be the culprit. ‘In women, alcohol can contribute to irregular periods, irregular ovulation and luteal phase defect (when the lining of the uterus doesn’t grow properly),’ she explains. ‘These all reduce chances of conception.’
Basically, the couple that sip Twinings together have babies together (more quickly, anyway).
If zero alcohol sounds over-ambitious/impossible, Zita recommends limiting yourself to less than six units a week and both abstaining altogether (booze, not sex obvs) around the time of ovulation.
Rise Of The Sober Girl
So could you, or more importantly would you give up booze completely? New stats say there’s a growing population joining the virgin cocktail club - more than one in five of us - a 2% rise from last decade*.
They join Blake Lively, Naomi Campbell and Jennifer Lopez as glowing teetotal ambassadors for the hangover-free life. It might be a coincidence they all look incredible for their age but alcohol avoiders don’t have frown line worries over the direct impact of alcohol on levels of ageing hormones.
Team teetotal can also expect clearer complexions (bye-bye redness), tighter skin (high-sugar alcohol can trigger sagging) and a happier gut.
What’s more, going anti-booze can actually make you a happier person all-round, according to Dr Terry Loong, cosmetic and integrative doctor: ‘Men tend to drink for risk-taking reasons and women often drink in response to stress, depression or anxiety.
‘It’s a catch-22 because alcohol’s a natural depressant - it indirectly suppresses your body’s natural ‘happy drug’, serotonin.’
Latest research shows that women are significantly more likely to turn their back on boozing than men but the gap is narrowing. Dr Loong says: ‘Women are more vulnerable to the damaging physical effects of alcohol than men but there’s one fact that extends hope – they are far likelier to turn for help if needed and maintain abstinence.’
*Health & Social Care Information Centre
Drinks By Numbers: The Units (And Calories) Hidden In Your Bar Order
Single shot of vodka, gin, whisky or rum 25ml (40%) – 1 unit / 61 calories
Small glass of red, white or rosé 125ml (12%) – 1.5 units / 92 calories
Bottle of lager, beer or cider 330ml (5%) – 1.7 units / 142 calories
Champagne 150ml (12%) – 1.8 units / 114 calories
Double shot of vodka, gin, whisky or rum 50ml (40%) – 2 units / 122 calories
Standard glass of red, white or rosé 175ml (12%) – 2.1 units / 159 calories
Large glass of red, white or rosé 250ml (12%) – 3 units / 185 calories
Source: NHS Live Well/Drinkaware
Appy Hour - The Tech To Keep Tabs On Your Drinking
Drinkaware: tots up units, calories and spending from your drinking session. Alerts you when you hit your drinking weak spots.
Drunkalyzer: helps you hover in the blood alcohol ‘happy range’ of 0.4 to 0.6%. Who knew? Customise settings to get a bespoke reading as you sip.
Leaf: a motivator to cut back on booze with daily and monthly targets. Less gin, anyone? Set up prompts if you get swept away at last orders.
Hangover Survival Kit
When a bacon butty just doesn’t cut it. Try these rescue (gin-less) tonics:
1. Maskimizer Skin Optimizing Mask Primer, £18.50, Origins
Turbocharges the benefits of your favourite face mask after a big night out.
2. Detox Booster, £30, Clarins
Add 3-5 drops to your moisturiser or foundation to wake up partied-out skin.
3. Tinted Wonder Eye Cream, £20, Balance Me
Forget cold teabags. This conceals and treats tell-tale dark circles in one hit.
4. Real Deal Concealer, £18, Laura Geller
For days when you need a concealer that disguises heavy-duty flaws.
5. Hangover Replenishing Face Primer, £27, Too Faced
Like an energy drink for parched faces when you need to fake a full night’s sleep.
6. Instant Detox Mask, £33, Bobbi Brown
Cleanse your sins with zero effort. This extracts toxins and reduces pore size.
7. Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, £123
Combat wine face and accelerated ageing with this corrective wonder cream.
8. Hydro-Dynamic Quenching Essence, £59.50, Murad
Hello, hydration. Plump up prune-like skin with a pre-moisturiser boost.
So if your skin is in need of a detox, maybe it's time to step away from the wine...