How Does Alcohol Cause Premature Aging?

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We know alcohol impairs one’s health and can often contribute to life-threatening illnesses such as cancerliver diseaseheart diseasestroke, and neurological impairment. Did you know that it also impacts a person’s physical appearance? Alcohol changes the skin’s texture, changes pigmentation, worsens diseases such as eczema and psoriasis, increases the risk of infection, adds extra weight to a person’s midsection, and can even cause breasts to form in men due to increased levels of estrogen.

This article will discuss how alcohol impacts our appearance, how alcohol contributes to premature aging, and ways to prioritize our health and wellness.

Are you worried alcohol is impacting your health? You don’t have to wait until serious risks or complications arise. Reach out to Guardian Recovery. We have a team of experts with over two decades of experience with addiction recovery. When you contact us, you will speak with a Treatment Advisor. Not only can they help guide you through our process with compassion, but they can also help complete a comprehensive and individualized plan to meet your specific needs. You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to Guardian Recovery today.

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Visible Signs of Drinking

One of the most noticeable signs of aging is seeing a person’s face and how their skin looks. Unfortunately, alcohol affects a person’s appearance through inflammation, blotchy skin, increased redness, and age spots. Here are the following ways alcohol impacts appearance through the skin, weight distribution, and the invisible signs of aging.

Skin Changes & Alcohol

Alcohol hasn’t been linked with wrinkles like sun exposure and cigarettes. However, there are a significant amount of skin issues associated with alcohol use. Research shows that changes in the skin are often the first clinical manifestation of a drug or alcohol use disorder. People with an alcohol use disorder may exhibit symptoms of jaundice, facial redness, and increased infection, such as cellulitis. Here are the common skin changes associated with alcohol use.

Common Skin Changes From Alcohol: 

  • Dark circles under eyes.
  • Puffiness and bloating.
  • Rosacea.
  • Hives.
  • Cellulitis.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Sun sensitivity.
  • Dandruff.
  • Skin cancer.
  • Red palms.

Weight Changes & Alcohol

There are a few different ways why people may experience weight gain while engaging in alcohol use. First of all, alcohol keeps the body from burning fat. You may have heard the term that alcohol contains “empty calories.” This means that alcohol adds calories to the body but does not provide any nutritional benefit to the body. Additionally, the body is working hard to remove alcohol from the system. So, if you were to eat a meal while drinking alcohol, the nutritional intake would be decreased due to the amount of work the body has to spend to rid the body of the alcohol content.

Secondly, alcoholic drinks are typically high in calories. If it is mixed with other substances, you add more calories and sugar to your daily intake. Juice, whipped cream, soda, syrups, and cream are all added calories one may consume throughout the night while also slowing the metabolism down from the alcohol.

Additionally, alcohol can mess with your hormones. Alcohol increases the hormone called cortisol, which is linked to weight gain. It remains unclear how much cortisol people may produce from alcohol; each person may respond differently to alcohol use and hormone production. However, research indicates long-term alcohol use can disrupt hormone production, resulting in thyroid dysfunction, immunity, and bone health.

Finally, alcohol impacts sleep and eating habits which can result in increased consumption of high-calorie foods. When we are sleep deprived, we typically tend to eat more to cope with the stress. Additionally, drinking alcohol increases the desire to eat certain foods. People with diabetes are especially at high risk as the types of food and alcohol alone may have with raising or lowering blood sugars.

Invisible Signs of Aging

Skin and weight may be obvious signs of aging. However, there are more indirect signs that alcohol is creating premature aging in people. For example, neurological functioning is often a significant indicator of early aging for people with alcohol use disorder. A research study was conducted looking at young adults’ drinking habits and their cognitive functioning to see if significant alcohol or binge drinking on weekends may be impairing executive functioning tasks and neurological health. It was found that young adults who consumed excessive amounts of alcohol consistently over time showed neurological impairments primarily in executive functioning. Here are the following tasks that were negatively impacted by alcohol use.

Executive Functioning Skills Impacted by Alcohol

  • Organizational skills.
  • Planning.
  • Setting goals.
  • Paying attention.
  • Memory.
  • Task completion.
  • Learning.

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How Does Alcohol Change the Body’s Aging Process?

There are a couple of reasons why alcohol creates premature aging. First, alcohol is a diuretic that can lead to dehydration if water is not consumed during alcohol intake. Over time, dehydration can rid the skin of moisture and elasticity, leading to skin sagginess, dryness, and wrinkles.

The increase in the hormone cortisol puts extra strain on the body, leading to organ impairment and speeding up the aging process. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Chronic stress can adversely affect the skin, creating wrinkles and inflammation and impairing the ability to repair.

Finally, alcohol has been found to produce free radicals, adding oxidative stress and leading to breakdowns of cellular and metabolic processes. This process of internal damage contributes to aging, disease, injury, and alcohol-related health conditions.

So one question you may have now that you notice that alcohol impacts your health and wellness is, can this be reversed if I stop my alcohol use? You may not be able to reverse some of the damage that excessive alcohol use has already done, but making a change can significantly help improve health, wellness, and physical appearance. Here are some additional tips for improving the effects of aging from alcohol.

How to Improve Physical Health & Wellness 

  • Stop alcohol use.
  • Increase water intake.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Limit snacking, and reduce sugar intake.
  • Take vitamins.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid tobacco use.

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The most crucial step in overcoming alcohol addiction is to reach out for help. When you contact us, we will put you in touch with an experienced Treatment Advisor who will conduct a brief pre-assessment over the phone. Then, they will gather information to help our clinical team decide which treatment options are appropriate for your unique circumstances. We also offer a free, no-obligation health insurance benefit check if you are insured.

We work with most major health insurance providers, ensuring our programs remain as accessible as possible to those who need them. However, we will help you explore alternatives, such as self-pay and private pay, if you are uninsured or underinsured. It can be frightening to reach out for help, and our goal is to ensure our streamlined process is stress-free from beginning to end. Contact us today to begin your new life in recovery.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


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.

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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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