Alcohol is Not a Beauty Product: Alcohol and the Effects on Women

alcohol bottlesAlthough drinking in moderation is safe for most people, drinking in the first place is a risk in itself. An estimated 5.3 million women in the United States drink in a way that threatens their health, safety and overall well-being. (3)


What are the health benefits of drinking in moderation?

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and probably protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones. (5) But heaving drinking can lead to damage of the liver and heart, damage an unborn child, increase the changes of breast cancer and other types of cancer, contribute to depression and violence, and interfere with personal relationships.

How much should I drink?

The definition of “drinking in moderation” will differ depending on your gender and potentially your weight. For a woman or anyone over the age of 65, it is recommended to limit to 1 drink per day. For a man or anyone under 65 years of age, is recommended to limit with 2 drinks per day. (1)

Why should women drink less than men?

On average, women weigh less than men and have less water in their bodies than men do. When a man and a woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration tends to be higher which will increase the risk of harm to her body. (4)

What is the “facial flush” which is common among Japanese Americans?

People of Asian ancestry possess a gene variant for enzymes involved in metabolizing alcohol. The ‘facial flush’ is caused by the inability to break down enzymes involved in alcohol metabolism, which results in physical reactions such as a facial flush caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the face. (3)

What are other risks of drinking? (3)

  • Drinking and driving. It does not take too much alcohol to impair a person’s ability to drive.
  • Drinking during pregnancy. There are no known safe amounts of alcohol that a pregnant woman can consume. Alcohol may cause life-long physical and/or behavioral problems in unborn/born babies such as fetal alcohol syndrome, which can harm unborn/born babies, resulting in birth defects. (2)
  • Interaction with medications. Alcohol can interact with a variety of both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Alcohol may reduce the effectiveness of certain medications as well as increase the side effects. Alcohol may also increase the sedative effects of medications that cause drowsiness. Make sure to read package labels, directions, and warnings carefully and consult your physician for any questions.
  • Breast cancer. Research suggests that a little as one drink per day can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer in some women, notably to those who are postmenopausal or have a family history of breast cancer.
  • Potential candidate of an assault. Excessive drinking may increase a woman’s risk of becoming a victim of violence and sexual assault.

What are some things I should consider the next time I have a drink?

  • Drink in moderation (1 drink per day or less).
  • Know your personal limit when consuming alcohol.
  • Be aware and avoid risky behaviors such as driving, substance abuse, and sexual risk behaviors.

Where can I get more information?

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Alcohol and Public Health)

800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)


(1)Medline Plus (2013). Alcohol. Retrieved from

(2) Medline Plus (2013). Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved from

(3) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2008). Alcohol A Women’s Health Issue. Retrieved from

(4) Rethinking Drinking Alcohol and Your Health from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2013). Q & As. Retrieved from

(5) Harvard School of Public Health (n.d). Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits. Retrieved from