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How Does Alcohol Affect Your Skin?

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Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances throughout the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 219.2 million individuals, ages 12 years of age and older, reported they have engaged in alcohol use during some point of their lives. (1) Alcohol use disorder is the medical term used to describe uncontrollable alcohol use. In 2019, approximately 14.1 million individuals met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. (2) In 2021, the number of individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder increased to approximately 29.5 million individuals. Chronic alcohol use is linked to various adverse effects.

Common adverse effects associated with alcohol use disorder include: (4)

  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Liver disease.
  • Gastrointestinal and digestive problems.

One adverse effect, related to alcohol use, that is not commonly known is skin problems. Chronic alcohol use can lead to and exacerbate skin conditions.

At Guardian Recovery, we offer comprehensive treatment options for those experiencing alcohol and other substance use disorders. Providing evidence-based treatment options including psychoeducationtherapeutic interventions, and medical detoxification services, we are dedicated to the development of adaptive coping techniques needed for a sober lifestyle. Contact us today to learn more and to get started on your recovery journey.

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Hives, Red or Flush Face, & Puffy Skin Caused by Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol use can lead to unpleasant skin conditions and flushing. Some individuals who engage in alcohol use can experience the alcohol flush reaction. This flush reaction is characterized by the presence of a red face. (5)

Other symptoms that may occur due to the alcohol flush reaction include: (6)

  • Hives.
  • Nausea.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • The worsening of asthma.
  • Migraine.

The alcohol flush reaction is caused by a genetic variation which causes some individuals to not be able to metabolize alcohol as well as others. (7) Flushing has been found to be more common in those of East Asian descent. (8)

Dehydration from Alcohol Use Can Increase Wrinkles in Skin

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes the body to produce larger amounts of urine. (9) Since drinking alcohol encourages the body to expel more liquids, alcohol use can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration can cause the following effects on the skin: (10)

  • Dry skin.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Dry lips.
  • Decreased elasticity.

Dry skin, and decreased elasticity have been linked to the creation of wrinkles and aging in the skin. (11)

Reduction in Vitamins & Nutrients

Chronic alcohol use can also lead to the reduction of vitamins and nutrients being absorbed into the body. Research has found that alcohol use interferes with the development of usable molecules due to alcohol inhibiting the breakdown of nutrients and decreasing the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas. (12) Alcohol also interferes with the absorption of nutrients by disallowing the transportation of nutrients into the bloodstream, and causing damage to the intestines and stomach. (13)

Nutrients whose absorption has been found to be inhibited by alcohol use include: (14)

  • Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
  • Vitamine B12
  • Folic acid
  • Zinc

Can You Look Younger if You Stop Drinking?

Due to the way that alcohol can impact the skin and aging, stopping alcohol use can make individuals appear younger. This is due to the fact that stopping alcohol use can allow the body to operate more effectively. The body can absorb and maintain nutrients needed to keep the skin hydrated and healthy when drinking is stopped.

Alcohol Can Reduce Collagen & Elastin Production

Alcohol use has been found to reduce the production of collagen and elastin. Collagen is a

protein that is naturally produced within the body. (15)

Collagen is necessarily for the structures of the: (16)

  • Skin
  • Blood vessels
  • Tendons
  • Cartilage
  • Bone
  • Connective tissues

Alcohol use can speed up the loss of collagen through the depletion of important nutrients. (17) It is important to try to protect the collagen in our skin as it is not easy to repair.

loss of collagen can result in: (18)

  • Poor joint health.
  • Impairments in the protection of the kidneys and other important organs.
  • Poor skin elasticity.
  • Impairments in the cardiovascular system.

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Alcohol Consumption Can Potentially Increase Aging

Alcohol use can increase aging. This is because alcohol disrupts many important bodily functions needed for fresh and healthy skin. Alcohol use can disrupt an individual’s quality of sleep. (19) Alcohol use can lead to an individual not being able to stay asleep throughout the entire night.

Disrupted sleep due to alcohol use can impact aging in the following ways: (20)

  • Cause dark circles under the eyes.
  • The skin is becoming paler.
  • A duller complexion.
  • More wrinkles and fine lines.

Can Skin Aging From Alcohol Be Reversed?

Engaging in healthy coping strategies, such as regular exercising and drinking an adequate amount of water, can help individuals repair mild skin damage caused by alcohol use.

Can Alcohol Cause Psoriasis?

Depending on the individual, consuming large amounts of alcohol can increase an individual’s chances of developing psoriasis. (21) Psoriasis is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that results in thick, scaly plaques and patches on the skin. (22) Chronic alcohol use can also cause psoriasis to become resistant to treatment. (23) Alcohol use can also impair the immune system, worsening prior conditions of psoriasis. (24)

Is Alcohol Use Linked to Skin Conditions & Cancers?

Alcohol use has been linked to other skin conditions, including certain skin cancers. (25)

Other skin conditions associated with alcohol use include: (26)

  • Skin infections
  • Skin changes due to alcohol liver disease
  • Rosacea
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Discoid eczema

Signs and Symptoms Associated With Alcohol Use Disorder

It can be difficult to stop alcohol use if an individual has been engaging in it daily or chronically. Understanding the signs and symptoms associated with alcohol use disorder can help identify if you or someone you know are experiencing it.

Signs and symptoms associated with alcohol use disorder include:

  • Experiencing intense psychological cravings.
  • Continuing to engage in alcohol use despite experiencing negative consequences.
  • Experiencing poor work or school performance.
  • Neglecting occupational, relational, personal or other important obligations.
  • Socially isolating oneself from friends and family.
  • Experiencing financial instability or issues related to alcohol use.
  • Engaging in risky and dangerous behavior, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Experiencing mood swings.
  • Experiencing blackouts, or not remembering events that occurred while one was intoxicated.
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt or shame associated with alcohol use.
  • Drinking larger amounts of alcohol than intended.
  • Developing tolerance, or the need to consume larger quantities of alcohol in order to reach the desired effect.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is cut back or suddenly stopped.

Suddenly stopping alcohol use can be dangerous. At Guardian Recovery, we offer alcohol specific detox in order to provide a safe transition into sobriety. Additionally, medication assisted treatment may be utilized to help with any negative withdrawal symptoms that may occur.

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If you suspect that you, or someone you love, are experiencing alcohol use disorder, treatment may be the most beneficial option. At Guardian Recovery, we offer various levels of care, such as residential inpatientpartial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient, to help meet each individual’s specific needs. Contact us today to speak with one of our Treatment Advisors who will help guide you through our simple admissions process. A free, no obligation insurance benefits check can be provided to help determine which of our treatment options is covered by your health insurance plan. Start your wellness and recovery journey at Guardian Recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-disorder-aud-united-states-age-groups-and-demographic-characteristics
  2. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/NIAAA_Alcohol_FactsandStats_102020_0.pdf
  3. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-disorder-aud-united-states-age-groups-and-demographic-characteristics
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm#:~:text=High%20blood%20pressure%2C%20heart%20disease,liver%20disease%2C%20and%20digestive%20problems.&text=Cancer%20of%20the%20breast%2C%20mouth,liver%2C%20colon%2C%20and%20rectum.&text=Weakening%20of%20the%20immune%20system%2C%20increasing%20the%20chances%20of%20getting%20sick.&text=Learning%20and%20memory%20problems%2C%20including%20dementia%20and%20poor%20school%20performance.
  5. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/alcohol-flush-reaction#:~:text=Some%20people%20who%20drink%20alcohol,or%20an%20episode%20of%20migraine.
  6. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/alcohol-flush-reaction#:~:text=Some%20people%20who%20drink%20alcohol,or%20an%20episode%20of%20migraine.
  7. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/alcohol-flush-reaction#:~:text=Some%20people%20who%20drink%20alcohol,or%20an%20episode%20of%20migraine.
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31799996/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537780/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555956/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22672420/
  12. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa22.htm#:~:text=Alcohol%20inhibits%20the%20breakdown%20of,into%20the%20blood%20(3).
  13. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa22.htm#:~:text=Alcohol%20inhibits%20the%20breakdown%20of,into%20the%20blood%20(3).
  14. https://studenthealth.ucsd.edu/resources/health-topics/alcohol-drugs/nutrition-endurance.html
  15. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262881#collagen-explained
  16. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262881#collagen-explained
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715121/
  18. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262881#collagen-explained
  19. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcoholic-skin#short-term-effects
  20. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcoholic-skin#short-term-effects
  21. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcoholic-skin#skin-conditions
  22. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcoholic-skin#skin-conditions
  23. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcoholic-skin#skin-conditions
  24. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcoholic-skin#skin-conditions
  25. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcoholic-skin#skin-conditions
  26. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/alcoholic-skin#skin-conditions

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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