The link between alcohol consumption and sunburn is partly due to the impact of alcohol on decision-making. If you love it, you will be less diligent in applying (and reapplying) sunscreen, and the risk of burning will increase.
But research has shown that alcohol can also damage the skin itself, making it more susceptible to harmful UV rays.
"The research suggests that alcohol reduces the amount of time you can spend in the sun before you burn yourself." Aaron White, a senior scientific adviser to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told NPR.
A meta-analysis published in 201
3 showed that regular alcohol consumption increased the risk of melanoma, a dangerous skin cancer, by 20 percent. Another study found that alcohol significantly reduced the amount of UV light needed to produce sunburn in a group of men.
One possible explanation is the influence of alcohol on compounds present in the skin. In the same study, the researchers found that alcohol lowers the concentration of carotenoids, a pigment produced by plants that accumulate in the body when they consume fruit and vegetables. In humans, carotenoids act as antioxidants and neutralize the free radicals generated by UV rays. Lower carotenoid levels mean more free radicals, researchers suggest, and more skin damage.
The evidence is based on two more studies, one from Japan and one from France, which confirm that people who drink alcohol have a lower beta level – carotene (a certain type of carotenoid), reports NPR. Further investigation is needed to closely monitor how alcohol interacts with the skin and the rest of the human body. The effect on carotenoid levels is probably just one of many reasons why alcohol can increase the risk of sunburn. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to justify drinking moderately this summer and, if you do, diligently using sunscreen.