Hard liquor, beer, wine and sherry are all alcoholic. Excessive amounts of alcohol taken regularly, eg. a few drinks every night, or over prolonged periods, have increasingly harmful effects. Alcohol interferes with the absorption of the B vitamins (crucial for healthy skin and blood vessels) dilates the blood vessels, particularly on the face and has a dehydrating effect on the skin and body. Dilation of the blood vessels is particularly undesirable for anyone with rosacea, rhynophyma, chronic flushing, or those who have a tendency to broken blood vessels. Alcohol raises the blood pressure and the repeated dilation of the vessels over time leaves them weaker and more prone to collapsing.

As a result of dehydration, the skin eventually becomes coarser and leathery and deeply lined with a loss of elasticity.

Alcohol also affects the liver which has to manufacture enzymes to convert the alcohol to acetaldehyde. Large quantities of this chemical pose a threat to the body tissues as it is a cross-linking agent. The resultant loss of elasticity can lead to hardening of the arteries, brain and liver damage, sagging skin, etc. Therefore beer and wine are not better choices than liquor but moderation is.

During the summer I developed some odd marks on my wrists and neck (they were whitish) and I read somewhere that this can be caused by perfumes. Is this possible?

Perfumes can have a photo- sensitizing effect on the skin causing problems when the skin is exposed to sunlight. The reaction can produce a brown or white discoloration where it has been applied. Sometimes the reaction is delayed and appears later. This discoloration may also occur with certain after-body splashes and deodorant soaps, depending on the chemicals they contain. There are medications which cause photo- sensitivity as well, so always check with your doctor when you are given a prescription.

I am 53, have dry skin and I have used a heavy cold cream as a moisturizer for the past five years or so. I find that my skin feels dry even though I use a lot of the cream. Do you have any suggestions?

As we get older, the skin cells actually change shape – they become flatter and accumulate more quickly on the surface causing the skin to lack lustre. Due to the changing hormonal levels, the skin produces less oil and is therefore more prone to dehydration.

A very greasy or heavy cream can actually make your skin feel more coarse by packing down the shedding layer of skin cells. It can clog the pores as well as being so heavy that it may drag on the skin and contribute to sagging tissues. If used around the eyes, a heavy cream can lead to fluid retention and puffiness, distending the tissues so much that over a period of time, their resilience will be lost.

We suggest that you have your skin properly analyzed by a good esthetician or skin specialist to find a better moisturizer. If you cannot do this, then look for a lighter moisturizer containing ingredients such as urea, hazelnut oil, sesame oil, which will moisturize without clogging. It would be best if you first used an exfoliant or an enzyme peeling approximately once per week to get rid of the packed down skin cells. Use a cleanser for dry skin and an alcohol-free toner. Once a week, use a mask suitable your skin type to stimulate circulation and cell renewal.

I use a very light moisturizer. Can I use this around my eyes as well?

You would do better to use an eye cream which is specially formulated for the thin and transparent tissue around the eye. To picture the difference, you could compare the eye area with onion-skin paper and the rest of the face with good quality paper. They therefore have to be treated differently. Eye creams are usually finer textured, fragrance free and do not contain colorants and other irritants. Eye cream is best applied using the ring fingers in a patting motion on the crease of the upper lid from the nose out and under the eye from the outside edge toward the nose.