Alcohol can have far-reaching impacts on your body, physical health, mental health and quality of life. Now, there’s new evidence that suggests that the use of alcohol may even increase your risk of sunburn and ultimately skin cancer.

The Findings

A small study of men in Germany who were considered healthy showed possible links between alcohol consumption and sunburn risk. The study found it takes less UV light to burn the skin when someone is drinking alcohol than it would otherwise. These links likely go beyond behavioral factors.

The previous theory regarding alcohol consumption and your skin sunburning was that people drinking might not exercise as much good judgment as they would have otherwise. For example, if you’re drinking, you might spend more time in the sun than you would normally or perhaps you don’t use sunscreen. You might also forget to reapply sunscreen when you’re drinking.

However, the new study shows that there may be more to the links between alcohol and skin damage than that.

Researchers theorize that since alcohol is toxic to our bodies when we drink, it reduces the presence of antioxidants. Antioxidants typically serve as a natural form of sunblock. The diminishing levels of antioxidants stemming from alcohol consumption may be directly associated with skin sunburning faster than it would when you aren’t drinking.

Alcohol and Antioxidants

Specifically, researchers have a theory that certain pigments in our skin called carotenoids block the detrimental effects of UV light. Carotenoids are antioxidants that come from the vegetables included in our diets.

If you drink alcohol, it appears the levels of carotenoids you have in your skin decreases. As the levels of these particular antioxidants go down, your skin becomes more sensitive to the harmful effects of UV light, leading to an increased risk of sunburn.

These findings build on previous research from Japan and France show that alcohol use can reduce concentrations of beta carotene in the skin.

These findings can provide some insight as to why people who regularly consume alcohol are more likely, statistically, to develop certain kinds of skin cancer. Research results show that alcohol can impact your body and skin in different ways and lead to a series of reactions, ultimately making you more vulnerable to skin cancer.

Other Things to Know About Alcohol and Your Skin

Alcohol and skin health don’t go hand-in-hand. Along with the increased risk of sunburn and possibly skin cancer related to alcohol consumption, alcohol can have other negative effects on the health and appearance of the skin as well.

One reason is that alcohol leads to dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, fine lines and wrinkles are going to be more apparent on your skin. Alcohol consumption, especially in excess, can also lead to dark circles and skin that looks generally dull.

Dehydration weakens the barrier that protects your skin, so moisture is let out while harmful elements like pollution are let in. Alcohol can also impair your quality of sleep. Sleep is an important time for the skin to repair itself and regenerate, so if you’re not getting enough sleep, your body is going to have trouble creating new skin cells and producing collagen. Collagen is essential to keep skin looking plump and youthful.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing negative effects of alcohol or could be misusing alcohol, please reach out to The Recovery Village