Whilst the occasional drink doesn’t present long-lasting health issues, frequently drinking or binge drinking can lead to a wide range of problems with the skin.
Whilst some changes are less severe (such as dry skin, for example), overconsumption of alcohol can lead to permanent flushing, discolouration, and in some cases, liver disease, which causes its own set of complications to the skin. Alcohol also worsens underlying skin conditions such as acne by affecting hormone levels. By reading this article, we hope that you become more familiar with the short and long-term effects that alcohol can have on the skin and what you can do to combat this.
What happens to our skin when we drink alcohol?
Alcohol dehydrates the body, including the skin. This occurs every time you have a drink which is why it is common for some people to experience puffy eyes and red cheeks. By removing the fluid in the skin, you can expect to see a greater appearance of wrinkles, dry skin, and sagging skin.
In the UK, there are specific guidelines around how much you should drink each week. These guidelines are in place to help protect your health and safety when consuming alcohol. If you are going to drink, it is recommended that you do not drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. It is further suggested for those who regularly drink that these 14 units are spread over three or more days.
As soon as we drink alcohol, the dehydration process begins. During this time, alcohol affects the mucous membrane from the pancreas to the liver and the skin. Taking fluid from the skin ultimately speeds up the ageing process, which is why those who consume a lot of alcohol often look older than they really are. Alcohol is a diuretic which explains why you may need to use the toilet more often once you start drinking. Urinating frequently means that the body is losing more water and salt than it usually would.
The effects of skin dehydration also include:
- Dry skin
- Dry lips
- Sagging skin
- Sunken eyes
Alcohol also inflames the skin, which is what causes the flushing effect known to many when consuming wine. This happens when the body struggles to digest alcohol properly. Medically recognised as a histamine reaction, this inflammation can lead to prominent facial redness that many people correct with aesthetic treatments. Whilst this may not lead to immediate damage, redness of the face can be a huge appearance-related issue for lots of people.
Although people who drink alcohol are said to fall asleep faster, alcohol actually makes people wake up more throughout the night. Not getting the right amount of rest each night can also lead to complications with the skin. Disrupted sleep is likely to cause:
- Dark circles and rings below the eyes
- Pale skin
- Dull complexion
- Wrinkles and fine lines around the eyes and mouth
What are the long-term effects of drinking alcohol?
Continuing to drink for years at a time can have long-lasting and damaging results on the skin. Not only will this exacerbate short-term problems such as dry skin and flushing, but it also increases the risk of cancer and liver disease.
Bacterial and fungal infections are also a risk to those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol. This is because, over time, alcohol weakens the immune system and damages the way the body absorbs nutrients. People who are intoxicated are also far more likely to get into accidents and receive injuries leading to skin infections.
A weakened immune system also lowers the body’s chances of fighting diseases such as alcoholic liver disease. A damaged liver can increase the risk of an individual developing cirrhosis and hepatitis. Changes to the skin are most commonly recognised through:
- Darker, purple skin around the eyes
- Visible blood vessels on the face, chest, and neck known as telangiectasia
- Itchy, red skin
- Yellowing of the skin, known as jaundice
Does alcohol aggravate skin conditions?
In short, yes. Regular alcohol consumption has been shown to cause and aggravate multiple skin conditions such as:
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes patches of flaky skin and scales. Alcohol can both aggravate and cause psoriasis, making it resistant to treatment methods. According to one study, “alcohol can affect psoriasis through several mechanisms such as increased susceptibility to infections, stimulation of lymphocyte and keratinocyte proliferation, and production of proinflammatory cytokines”
Rosacea is a chronic condition of the skin that can cause irritation, spots, and flushing. Because alcohol causes facial flushing, it can make rosacea symptoms more severe. Rosacea is often undertreated, causing a lot of distress to a patient’s quality of life.
Dermatitis refers to skin irritation which appears through itchy skin or a rash. Once irritated, it can cause blisters to form, which are likely to be irritated through regular alcohol consumption. Dermatitis encompasses a range of conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff).
- Porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT)
PCT is a rare disorder characterised by blisters and painful lesions following exposure to the sun. Excessive alcohol consumption is the number one cause of PCT.
How can I avoid bad skin from drinking alcohol?
The best thing to do to avoid damaging your skin is to stop drinking alcohol. Whilst this may feel difficult at first, nowadays, there are lots of alcohol-free beverages available plus an increase in sober social spaces, making it easier than ever to give up that glass of wine.
However, this isn’t a possibility for all, so if you are going to continue to drink, we recommend limiting your amount of units to less than 14 per week and staying hydrated. To do this, remember to drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage you enjoy.
For expert advice and aesthetic treatment options, reach out to The Bodywork Clinic today and book a free consultation with our head nurse, Ruth Holt. Through an array of aesthetic options, our team can provide anti-ageing treatments as well as chemical peels and dermal fillers, helping you on your way to achieving a youthful glow.