Diary / Wellness / Sep 26, 2022
The Benefits of a Dry January — It Goes Beyond Calories
Written by: Hilary Sheinbaum
This article is an adapted excerpt from The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month. Copyright © 2020. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Vanity may not be the number-one reason you’re choosing to bypass that bottle of wine during dinner; however, resisting booze will certainly help you stay looking younger. (Translation: Abstaining during Dry January can go a long way. Hey, you might actually have to bring your ID to the bar once February rolls around.)
“Alcohol is a diuretic, and by dehydrating you, it dries out everything, including your skin,” says Dr. Neal Schultz, a dermatologist on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and founder of BeautyRx skincare products. “By drying out your skin, you’ll make it duller. You’ll get more fine lines and wrinkles, which also result in shadows being cast on the skin, which makes the under eye area look darker.”
Dr. Schultz notes you may not become dehydrated from drinking one glass of wine once a week, but over time it will show. Even if finding the fountain of youth isn’t on your radar, there are other skin-related benefits to not imbibing. If you’ve ever had a pimple you just can’t get rid of, or another annoying skin problem that can’t be solved, giving up booze may be your best bet. Dr. Schultz confirms acne rosacea is triggered by alcohol consumption, so, rather than adding steps to your morning and nightly beauty or grooming regimens (with a million-plus products on the market—like face masks, cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and more), see how a month of no alcohol saves your skin!
Dr. Schultz says that alcohol increases blood flow through the skin, which gives it a red flush and ultimately causes broken capillaries. “It makes your skin look blotchy, discolored,” he says. Without alcohol for a full month, an individual’s skin will become smoother and less discolored. With more hydration, the skin is less dry (no flakes), and it will have fewer fine lines and reflect more light! All of these things contribute to brighter, fresher, younger looking skin.
And if you think it’s just the consumption of these liquids that’s impacting your skin—think again. It’s a chain reaction. “When we don’t sleep well, that creates stress,” says Dr. Schultz, who notes that additional hormones are produced when restful slumber goes unobtained. This, in turn, makes you break out! Also, when you aren’t exhausted from a night of drinking and “too tired” to take off makeup (or simply the stress and grime from the day), there’s a greater chance you’ll wash your face before going to bed.
Does Booze Help Bedtime? Dream On
When was the last time you slept through the night, woke up well rested, and had a productive day? Maybe it was last night. Maybe it was last week. Maybe, luckily for you, it happens all the time! Now, think back again: When was the last time you slept through the night, woke up well rested, and had a productive day after a day or night of drinking? You might have a bit more trouble pinpointing a time and place! It’s no surprise, then, that restful slumbers are an unexpected benefit of not imbibing.
According to researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, about 20 percent of American adults rely on alcohol of some sort in order to catch Zs—or, rather, what imbibers think is the solution to helping them fall asleep. Ironically, that isn’t the case at all. Boozing before bedtime hinders shut-eye.
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, says Dr. Thanuja Hamilton, a board-certified sleep physician in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. “While alcohol itself can be sedating, the metabolism of it can cause awakenings and disrupt your sleep as your body processes it. This is the rebound effect. You may crash early on, but get lighter, broken sleep later in the night.” Under the influence of alcohol, you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night. And, because it’s a diuretic, urinating more often than usual is another side effect.”
Beyond waking up every so often to use the bathroom, there’s yet another reason you’ll be feeling tired the morning after a night out—even if you’ve spent a considerable amount of time under the covers: “You may initially go into a deeper sleep, but it is not a healthy deep sleep,” says Dr. Hamilton. “Certain neurons/neurotransmitters are shut down, so you are less responsive, but not necessarily getting a good, deep sleep. Alcohol decreases REM sleep, so you get less of this restorative stage of sleep.”
Hypothetically: Given a decision to have margaritas (which disrupt sleep) or memories (which are formed in your sleep), which would you choose? Okay. Now, apply that same question, but eliminate the hypothetical part. Dr. Hamilton says REM is the portion of slumber where dreams take place. REM is important for memory consolidation and retention, learning, and recovery. “An intoxicated person may actually spend more time sleeping, but it is the quality of sleep that is affected.”
Drinking negatively impacts circadian rhythms (driven by a twenty-four-hour internal clock), which regulates sleep, in addition to other important behaviors in the brain and body. “The liver and its functioning is also part of the circadian rhythm,” Dr. Hamilton says.