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I know all too well the skin-sabotaging effect of beer. In fact, I spent this past Saturday at one of my favorite craft breweries celebrating Oktoberfest, only to wake up Sunday morning with a dull and dehydrated complexion — not to mention some seriously-slick hair. The morning after a few cold ones is never pretty. So I have to wonder, what is beer doing in products that promise clear, glowing skin and full, shiny strands?
A group of niche personal care brands are brewing up products — from lotions to shampoos and conditioners — made from the stuff that is said to be the most consumed alcoholic beverage globally. It turns out that the natural ingredients in ale — wheat, barley, hops and yeast — are rich in essential vitamins and antioxidants, both of which we know deliver intoxicatingly gorgeous skin and hair. If, like me, you are a connoisseur of good beer, you’ll be interested to learn the benefits of using it topically. Just remember to apply responsibly!
Beer in skin care
According to the Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, potential uses of the substances that make up beer include the treatment of acne, eczema, pigmentary disorders, skin aging and more. The extracts of its ingredients, especially the hops, contain an abundance of polyphenols such as kaempferol, quercetin, tyrosol, ferulic acid, xanthohumol/isoxanthohumol/8-prenylnaringenin and α-bitter acids. These compounds are known to have a bevy of anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative and anti-carcinogenic effects.
Kaemphferol is a natural flavonoid that has been shown to protect against UVB-induced photodamage and skin inflammation. Quercetin, another flavonoid, also works as an antioxidant and restorative agent. Ferulic acid is likely an ingredient you are more familiar with, as it has become a Truth In Aging favorite in recent years. Ferulic acid is found in the cell walls of plants, including wheat and barley grain, and is a powerful antioxidant that can seek out and destroy several different types of free radicals. Researchers at Duke University found that it acts synergistically with other antioxidants, rendering them more powerful.
8-prenylnaringenin, also known as flavaprenin, occurs naturally in hops and is recognized as being one the most potent phytoestrogens. Cosmetic formulators have found it to be an effective ingredient for treating and preventing signs of aging skin, including wrinkles, sagging and age spots, by improving collagen deposition and boosting the production of the protein decorin. In addition, 8-prenylnaringenin has been shown to soothe sensitive or irritated skin.
Finally, beer sediment (brewer’s yeast) has been proven effective at fighting acne by balancing the pH level in the skin, slowing down sebum production and killing off Propionibacterium acne, the bacteria responsible for blemishes. “Brewer’s yeast also contains high levels of B-complex vitamins, which have soothing and brightening activities,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of clinical and cosmetic research of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
While I wouldn’t suggest ditching your retinol cream or vitamin C serum for brew-infused products, it does appear that they can contribute to clearer, smoother and suppler skin. Saela, a Czech company, uses beer in all of its skin care products — from a body peel to a hydrating face mask. You’ll also find it in Carlsberg Beer Beauty Body Lotion and Stout Soaps from the Beer Soap Company.
Beer in hair care
Aside from giving you the hair-flipping confidence of Beyoncé, beer may provide many more benefits for your mane. The components of beer are rich in vitamins and proteins that are good for follicular health. B vitamins have been shown to strengthen the follicle and rebuild damaged cuticles. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that a leave-on treatment of panthenol, the alcohol analog of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), significantly increased the diameter of individual, existing terminal scalp fibers and also thickened hair fibers and increased the pliability, thus reducing breakage.
In addition to B vitamins, the protein-building amino acids found in brewer’s yeast help fortify and repair hair. The malt and hops are also loaded with proteins that bind to roughed up strands, making them appear thicker and shinier. Meanwhile, the sucrose sugars in beer tighten the hair's cuticles and improve light reflection.
The alcohol also works as a cleansing and antibacterial agent. Brands like Beauty and the Bees ($12.95 in the shop) and BRÖÖ use beer in shampoo to rid of excess oil, buildup and dandruff while conditioning the hair and scalp. No need to worry about smelling like a dingy dive bar, as these products leave behind a subtly-spicy finish.