How To Hide A Hangover
It is no small irony that all the grooming done in preparation for a night on the tiles is swiftly undone by the event itself. Your first, maybe your second drink tends to leave your skin and renal system intact. But by your third glass of champagne, your face may start to flush as acetaldehyde, the main metabolite in alcohol, causes your blood vessels to dilate. This may or may not pass as a healthy glow.
It’s after your fourth Barrel Aged Martinez that things get a little tricky. Your argument about Mr Harrison Ford’s character in Blade Runner no longer holds up, lavatory breaks have become all too frequent and there’s a suspicious bouquet emanating from your pores.
Waking up with a mouth like an outhouse is par for the course when you give the barman carte blanche by handing him your gold card. Unless, of course, you’re sensible enough to atone for your hangover straightaway with a few easy hacks.
Granted, the following tips might not do much to ease the memory of last night’s car-park incident, but they will definitely hide the telltale signs of excess. In the idiomatic parlance of many a life coach, faking it until you make it can, at the very least, convince others that your liver hasn’t turned into a sad, deflated party balloon.
Much of the wisdom that follows is designed to offset the diuretic effects of alcohol. Just be sure to start your night out well-hydrated and satiated by a carb-heavy meal (beans, rice, sweet potato; not pizza and pasta). This one preventive measure will slow down the absorption of ethanol and create a good jumping-off point.
The Sahara-like condition of your skin is the first calling card of alcoholic diuresis. Ethanol has robbed fluid from every cell in your body, leaving you in a hungover stupor and with a series of new wrinkles to boot. This is largely to do with the suppression of vasopressin, an anti-diuretic hormone. Its sudden absence plays a central role in making your insides shrivel like a handful of raisins.
The reduction in vasopressin prevents reabsorption of water by the kidneys, which leads to regular urinal visits. And, somewhat counterintuitively, downing gallons of water after the damage is done isn’t going to help you rehydrate as quickly as you think.
Morning-after beverages should be hypotonic in nature. That means the fluid of choice should contain a higher concentration of water than a human cell. Water is hypotonic, but fluids are best absorbed from the gut if there are some carbohydrates in the drink. Moreover, water absorption hinges on the renal system’s ability to gauge how many electrolytes are passing through your kidneys at any given time. Water fails on both counts. Coconut water, for example, is a considerably better option.
As for your skin, a run-of-the-mill moisturiser isn’t going to cut it. A formula that contains hyaluronic acid will get you through the next 24 hours. The sponge-like molecule possesses the ability to hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, which means it can expand and plump out dehydration lines from the inside out.
The sudden appearance of mouth ulcers in the morning may cause alarm. The good news is that you probably didn’t contract herpes last night. Probably. Unlike cold sores, alcohol-induced canker sores are not caused by the herpes virus and are not contagious. The bad news is that they can be intensely uncomfortable and take days to subside. Cankers are essentially a sign that the body’s immune system has started attacking itself, which, you may surmise, is not a good thing.
There’s a fair bit of speculation as to why cankers appear the morning after a night out. One explanation is that alcohol depletes the body of folic acid, a B vitamin that plays an important role in DNA repair and synthesis. Consulting with a doctor and topping up on folic acid (vitamin B12), zinc and iron is never a bad idea, especially given the prevalence of vitamin deficiency in today’s world.
There are, however, quicker ways to zap the little blighter on your lip. If you have the time and inclination, you could visit a dentist who offers laser removal. Otherwise, a dab of alum powder (the pickling ingredient that pulls water out of cucumbers) placed directly on the spot for 60 seconds will speed up the healing process. The most common over-the-counter remedy is an oral “bandage” that will seal the lesion, allowing it to heal on its own and without too much discomfort.
Alcohol, combined with shouting across the bar or singing on your Uber ride home, does an exceptional job of drying out the tissues in your throat, culminating in cotton mouth and a painfully arid oesophagus. To the ear, nothing is more annoying than vocal fry, so the sooner you can re-lubricate your vocal cords, the better.
One way to do this is by jump-starting the salivary glands back into action. Chewing on sugar-free gum, sucking on an ice cube or gargling with saltwater are some of the more pedestrian solutions to this morning-after ailment. A teaspoon of manuka honey (with hot water and lemon or straight up) will help line the throat, kill any streptococcus bacteria and boost your immune system in the process. If your dry throat is the result of acid reflux while you were sleeping, then the honey should help protect your throat from acids that bubble up from the stomach.
Professional vocalists and public speakers rely on slippery elm, either in tea form or as a lozenge, to help their voices recover after a taxing performance. The mucilaginous components in this herbal remedy reduce irritation of the mucous membranes and thus reduce the likelihood of you sounding like a Kardashian in your morning meeting.
Canapés and alcohol go together like, well, alcohol and canapés. But, given that you weren’t the one skewering those tiny kebabs, you can’t always account for the ingredients. Gluten is more than likely to have featured in the recipe and, shortly thereafter, on your face. While gluten intolerance is the most modern of maladies, its prevalence in our diet means that even hardened sceptics are prone to react to the protein in some shape or form.
The phenomenon is so common that dermatologists have started using the term “gluten face” to describe those who walk around sporting clear-cut signs of inflammation: puffy, flushed cheeks, dark shadows and spots around the chin in the case of gluten; sagging under the eyes, pimples and a grey hue to the skin as a result of sugar.
The good news is that abstinence sorts out the problem in three to four days. A probiotic will help repopulate a gut that has been compromised by gluten, and go a long way to rectifying party-induced pimples.
Of all the telltale signs, puffy, bloodshot eyes are somewhere at the top of the list. Reaching for a pair of impenetrably black Wayfarers, or simply refusing to get out of bed on a work day, only causes more suspicion. Instead, treat each ophthalmic concern individually.
Even though alcohol is a diuretic, your body desperately tries to retain fluid. By the time your hangover is in full swing, this condition, known as oedema, almost guarantees puffy peepers. The solution is far simpler than the chemistry that caused the situation in the first place. Boil two camomile tea bags and let them cool or put them in the fridge before placing them over your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes. The tannins in the tea will help constrict the tissue and blood vessels, thus deflating the area.
Specialist eye drops can sort out bloodshot eyes in a matter of minutes. Make-up artists, models and music industry types rely on Rohto Cooling Eye Drops, a cult product from Japan that whitens eyes instantly, irrespective of how little sleep you’ve had. If the whites of your eyes are looking a more yellow than red, then Innoxa Blue Drops will bring them back to a normal hue.
Dark circles may warrant a little cosmetic camouflage. The trick is to opt for an orangey concealer that is a shade or two lighter than your natural skin tone. This will brighten the area and neutralise any purple or blue pigments.
The most unfortunate part about funky breath is that you’re usually the last person to know about it. So that you don’t suffer the shame of a faster-than-lightning cheek turn, it’s worth knowing why you’re emanating fumes in the first place.
When you ingest alcohol, the body recognises it as a toxin and does its very best to metabolise it as quickly as it can. But because you’re necking espresso martinis at a faster rate than your organs can handle, there is an inevitable backlog of booze floating around your body. The alcohol passes from the stomach to the blood and, with each breath you take, it starts to vaporise, moving from the alveoli in your lungs and out of your mouth mid-conversation. This is where bad breath begins. It also explains why the taste of vodka can haunt you for hours the following day.
The distinct and rancid facet, however, is due to bacteria. As we’ve established several times already, alcohol pickles your body. This includes your mouth, which promptly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria that feed off the remnants of those canapés you ingested earlier in the evening. In doing so, they pump out a foul stench.
Given that breath mints don’t work on your lungs (and it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to have a good floss mid-binge), the only piece of advice we can give you during a night out is both irritating and uninspiring: slow down and drink more water. And definitely brush your teeth before you go to bed.
Illustrations by Mr Andrea Mongia