This Lunar New Year, you have probably been summoned for reunion dinner with your whole extended family, and perhaps, have plans to catch up with your friends later at night to compare how much angpows y’all got. There will be card games and mahjong, and someone will bring a bottle of wine or a pack of beer.
It’s all fun and games—till you wake up the next morning with your skin looking dull, blotchy and dehydrated. You might think it’s because you only slept five hours last night, but it’s actually all that alcohol you downed the night before.
Being Asian affects everything
According to Dr Mark Tang, Senior Consultant Dermatologist at The Skin Specialists & Laser Clinic, the effect of alcohol on the skin depends on two main factors: the alcohol concentration of the drink, and the genetic makeup of the individual. He explains, “Asians are known to lack a gene called aldehyde dehydrogenase that causes a buildup of a chemical in the blood that causes the troublesome effects of facial flushing, headache and palpitations when alcohol is consumed.”
He goes on to say that alcohol also causes a dilatation of the skin blood vessels that causes redness, flushing and dehydration. And if you’re a regular drinker (and by that, we mean chronic), your habits can lead to permanent changes such as persistent facial redness, acne, rosacea, dilated blood vessels, spider veins and skin dryness. Not a pretty picture.
Choose your alcohol wisely
Some alcohols are “better” than others. A general rule of thumb is to go with clear alcohols—vodka, gin, tequila—that leave the body quickly. Plus, the older you are, the longer it takes for alcohol to leave your body, so you probably doesn’t have the same alcohol tolerance as you did when you were 18. Try to factor in a break in-between your catchups over alcohol.
How to avoid the damage
Since we’re not going to pass on that pinot this Lunar New Year or cancel Happy Hour with the girlfriends, Dr Tang suggests drinking less or consuming drinks with lower alcohol content. Eating before drinking and having a glass of water after each alcoholic drink also help stave off some of the side effects of drinking too much alcohol.