October 10, 2023

Alcohol-Related Skin Issues: Common Problems & Causes

woman's face representing alcohol-related skin issues

One of the most common questions asked by those looking to make positive lifestyle changes is, “How does too much alcohol affect the skin?”

Sustained or excessive drinking can trigger many alcohol-related skin issues, including dryness, reduced elasticity, and flushing. While some skin damage from alcohol like flushing or dry skin is benign, more severe alcoholic skin issues like liver disease can develop as a result of chronic alcohol abuse. Additionally, alcohol abuse may inflame underlying skin conditions.

This guide addresses the question, “does alcohol affect skin”, and explores the various effects of alcohol on skin, both short-term and long-term.

HOW DOES ALCOHOL AFFECT YOUR SKIN?

Adverse alcohol effect on skin can occur after a single night of drinking. Skin damage to alcohol is not a common concern for those who haven’t experienced it, however it is a concern that many people who drink a moderate to large amount of alcohol on a regular basis suffer from, even affecting the occasional drinker at times. 

Since alcohol is a diuretic, the substance causes your body to make increased amounts of urine. Resultantly, your system will lose more salt and water than normal, leading to dehydration that impacts the skin as follows:

    • Sunken, dull eyes

    • Reduced skin elasticity

    • Dry skin and lips

    Space alcoholic beverages with a glass of water to mitigate the risk of dehydration while drinking alcohol.

    Flushing is another common side effect associated with alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol stimulates the release of histamines, causing blood vessels under your skin to dilate, giving your complexion an inflamed, flushed appearance.

    Alcohol abuse can disrupt sleep patterns. Ongoing sleep disruption may trigger temporary changes to skin that include:

      • Pale skin

      • Dark circles under eyes

      • More fine lines and wrinkles

      • Dull complexion

      SKIN CONDITIONS CAUSED BY EXCESSIVE DRINKING

      The sustained abuse of alcohol may provoke or aggravate alcoholic skin conditions that include:

        • Rosacea: This chronic skin condition is characterized by irritation, flushing, and pimples on the face. Alcohol abuse often inflames rosacea as it causes facial flushing.
        • Discoid eczema: Discoid eczema or nummular dermatitis, occurs more frequently in those who abuse alcohol, particularly if they have existing liver problems.
        • Psoriasis: An autoimmune inflammatory condition, psoriasis is associated with thick and scaly patches on the skin. Consuming large quantities of alcohol may increase the risk of someone developing psoriasis. Alcohol abuse may also lead this condition to become treatment-resistant.
        • PCT: PCT (porphyria cutanea tarda) is commonly caused by alcohol abuse and results in blistering lesions on your skin after sun exposure.
        • Seborrheic dermatitis: This common skin condition is associated with greasy and inflamed patches of skin peppered with white flakes. Seborrheic dermatitis is more likely to affect those who exceed moderate drinking guidelines.

        SKIN DAMAGE FROM ALCOHOL

        The sustained abuse of alcohol is likely to involve persistent flare-ups of flushing and dry skin from alcohol.

        Long-term effects of heavy drinking on the skin include:

          • Increased risk of skin infections: Bacterial and fungal infections are more likely to occur in those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol because alcohol weakens the immune system and impairs the ability of your system to absorb nutrients. People are also more likely to sustain injuries while drinking alcohol, potentially leading to skin infections and alcoholic skin sores.
          • Increased risk of skin cancer:  Chronic alcohol abuse may also heighten the risk of more serious conditions, including skin cancer, by compromising the immune system and lowering defenses against various diseases, including cancer. Research suggests that consuming alcohol can exacerbate the effects of UV light on the skin, causing even more damage.

          • Skin changes related to alcoholic liver disease: Over time, alcohol abuse can bring on liver complications that include cirrhosis and hepatitis. These conditions often cause skin changes like jaundice, itchy skin, and dark skin around the eyes. Dry skin from alcohol use is also a concern. 

          DOES ALCOHOL CAUSE DRY SKIN?

          Yes, alcohol consumption can cause dry skin. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases urine production and causes dehydration in the body. When your body is dehydrated, your skin can become dry and flaky. Beyond this, the effects of alcohol on skin cause a decrease in oil production by the skin, further inflaming dryness.

          Additionally, alcohol can also impair your skin’s natural barrier function, making it more prone to drying and moisture, prompting redness, irritation, and other skin complications.

          To prevent alcohol-related dry skin, drink at least eight glasses of water each day, especially when consuming alcohol. Using a moisturizer regularly and avoiding harsh soaps and skincare products can help maintain the skin’s moisture barrier. Limiting alcohol consumption or avoiding it altogether can also help reduce the likelihood of alcohol-related dry skin and other skin issues.

          WHAT ALCOHOL DOES TO YOUR FACE

          Here are some of the most common alcohol-related skin issues:

          • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose fluids, dehydrates the skin, and makes it appear dry and dull.

          • Bloating and puffiness: Your skin may appear bloated and your eyes puffy after consuming alcohol due to its dehydrating effects.

          • Acne: Alcohol can cause hormonal imbalances, which can trigger acne breakouts. Additionally, alcohol can cause inflammation in the body, potentially worsening existing acne.

          • Premature aging: Alcohol can damage collagen and elastin in the skin, prompting premature aging that manifests in wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin.

          • Dark circles: Alcohol can cause blood vessels to dilate, causing dark circles and puffiness under the eyes to develop.

          • Eczema: Alcohol may trigger eczema flare-ups, making this condition more difficult to manage.

          EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ON FACE

          In addition to the adverse effects outlined above, chronic alcohol consumption may also lead to the following facial issues and alcoholic skin conditions:

          • Inflammation: Alcohol can cause inflammation in the body, including on the face. This can appear as puffiness, redness, or acne.

          • Broken blood vessels: Heavy alcohol consumption can cause small blood vessels on the face to dilate and break, leading to redness and spider veins.

          • Skin discoloration: Over time, chronic alcohol abuse may lead to discoloration of the skin in the form of a yellowish tinge stemming from impaired liver function.

          OVERCOME ALCOHOLISM AT GRATITUDE LODGE

          Although there is no cure for alcohol use disorder, the condition responds positively to pharmacological and behavioral treatment, meaning you can reverse the effects of alcohol on skin. We can help you from detox to discharge and beyond at Gratitude Lodge’s addiction rehabs in Orange County.

          We offer alcohol addiction treatment programs at all levels of intensity at our locations throughout Southern California. Begin your recovery journey with a supervised medical detox and access medications to streamline withdrawal while being continuously medically monitored. After a week or so, you can transition into one of the following programs:

          • Intensive outpatient program

          All treatment programs involve personalized therapy that combines science-backed and holistic interventions such as:

          • Psychotherapy

          • Group therapy

          • Individual counseling

          • Family therapy

          Call 888-861-1658 to begin your recovery journey at Gratitude Lodge.

          Alcohol Related Skin Issues FAQs

          Yes, drinking alcohol can cause skin issues. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, which can make the skin appear dull and dry. Additionally, alcohol can dilate blood vessels, leading to a flushed appearance or exacerbating skin conditions like rosacea. Long-term heavy drinking may also contribute to more severe skin problems, such as acne, eczema, and premature aging.

          Alcohol rash, also known as alcohol flush reaction, typically appears as red, flushed, or blotchy patches on the skin, often affecting the face, neck, and chest. The rash can be accompanied by a warm or tingling sensation and is more commonly experienced by individuals who have difficulty metabolizing alcohol properly.

          Alcohol-related skin reactions can include alcohol flush reaction (red, flushed skin), dehydration leading to dry and dull skin, worsening of skin conditions like rosacea and eczema, and premature aging due to the damaging effects of alcohol on collagen and elastin in the skin. Excessive alcohol consumption can also impair the body’s ability to heal wounds and make the skin more susceptible to infections.

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          Joe Gilmore

          Joseph Gilmore

          Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
          Jenni Bussi

          Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

          Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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