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Is Drinking Alcohol Bad for Your Skin?

beautiful young woman drinking alcoholic drinksPeople with chronic drinking problems often have bad skin, but not everyone realizes the two go hand-in-hand. Alcohol is extremely bad for your skin and the more you consume, the worse problems get. Often, these problems are complicated and mix with lowered immune system and dehydration. At the same time, even secondary effects of alcohol, like reduced sleep, increased likelihood of eating fatty and carbohydrate heavy foods, and increased stress will be bad for your skin. All of these add up, sometimes even quickly, to make your skin noticeably dry, red, and patchy.

While your skin is one of the smallest concerns if you’re drinking a large amount of alcohol, it can be one of the first indicators of health. If you or a loved one is drinking enough that you’re having skin problems, it may be a sign to cut back or quit, and if you can’t, to get help.

Alcohol-related Skin Problems

Alcohol directly causes a large number of skin problems. These include diagnosable illnesses as well as exacerbation of existing issues. The following include some of the most common, which you might experience if you’re drinking larger amounts of alcohol.

Dehydration – Alcohol dehydrates the body, which in turn, has a large impact on the health of your skin. Dehydration starts out by causing your skin to dry out. You might see dry or flaking skin, especially on extremities like your hands or on your forehead. You’ll also normally notice that your skin starts itching.

For many people, dehydration results in skin being duller, more oily, and more dry. But, as the problem gets worse, you’ll also see skin starting to sag around the jawline and neck. Skin under your eyes and across your nose might stretch and get thinner, making you look more tired. And, existing problems like acne or psoriasis will get considerably worse.

While the normal response to dry skin is to put lotion on it, that will not fix the issue. Alcohol dehydrates your body and the only solution is to either dramatically increase water intake or cut down on alcohol intake. And, unfortunately for many people, you can start to see the effects of drinking alcohol after even a single binge.

Rosacea red face due to alcoholismRosacea Rosacea is a skin disorder that can make you look like you’re blushing or flushing. Often, it starts in the cheeks and can spread across the nose and far up towards the forehead. This condition is already there in anyone who experiences it, but alcohol, poor sleep, and increasing stress on the digestive system all make it flare up. Because regular alcohol usage also causes immune response flareups, it can also trigger rosacea even if that rosacea had never flared up before.

Psoriasis – Psoriasis has a number of causes, not all of which are known. However, people who drink and regularly are significantly more likely to get psoriasis. Like Rosacea, chances are, it was already there and the drinking and resulting dehydration and immune system flare-ups cause it to flare up. However, if you quit drinking or reduce drinking, dry and flaking skin and even red bumps caused by psoriasis can reduce or even go away for a long time.

Scalp Rash – Drinking can cause a lot of skin and scalp problems and one of the most common is a rash or red bumps and irritated, flaking skin on the scalp. Often, this starts around the hairline and can even follow the hairline and move down onto the forehead. While uncomfortable, many people are also concerned about appearance and dandruff. Scalp rashes are most likely caused by a combination of dehydration, exacerbating existing issues, and inflammation, increases in oil in the skin, immune system response, and increased levels of yeast on the skin all combine to increase risks.

Vascular Reactions Alcohol causes the veins in your skin to swell, resulting in more visible veins and more redness. For people who drink a great deal, this can result in a pattern of visible veins across the nose and cheeks, resembling some forms of rosacea. Over time, those veins can even burst, causing discoloration and extreme changes in the appearance of the nose and cheeks. Unfortunately, some of this damage can never be repaired.

Infections – People who drink heavily are significantly more vulnerable to yeast and fungal infections on their skin. Often, these infections look like dermatitis or psoriasis flare-ups, which can make treating them difficult. Here, causes are often complicated, but interplay with increased sugars in the body, dehydration, and a decreased immune response.

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Secondary Skin Problems from Alcohol

man has dry skin due to alcoholism

Most people will notice that their skin worsens after even a weekend of two of binging alcohol. That’s often a combination of dehydration, sleep deprivation, and worsening existing issues. For example, most people who have acne will experience breakouts or worsening acne in the days or weeks following drinking more alcohol. Why is that? Secondary effects of alcohol usage can cause significant changes to your skin and appearance. These include:

  • Reduced sleep
  • Increased sugar consumption (mixed drinks, cocktails, sugar in beer)
  • Increased likelihood of eating unhealthy food
  • Increased stress (you feel tired and hungover, which increases stress)
  • Irregular skincare habits
  • Increased reliance on caffeine and other stimulants (E.g., sugary energy drinks)
  • Ongoing dehydration
  • Increased reliance on pain medication which stresses the liver
  • Increased stress to the liver, resulting in decreased efficiency in filtering

Essentially, alcohol can impact a great deal about your skin not because of the alcohol, but because of how you cope with alcohol, how you stay up with alcohol, and even unpredictable eating habits.

Reducing Skin Problems Caused by Alcohol

The first step to reducing skin problems caused by alcohol is always to cut down on alcohol usage. Some people with very sensitive skin might experience problems with only one or two drinks a week. But, for most of us, if you’re seeing skin problems, it means you’re drinking too much.

In addition, you can improve your skin by:

  • Drinking plenty of water. Drinking a glass of water per serving of alcohol throughout the night and then having a glass of water before bed can do a lot for your skin and your morning hangover
  • Wash your face with antibacterial soap before you go to bed after a night out
  • Don’t stay out too late even when drinking. Make sure you go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day.
  • Manage your food intake and make sure you eat about 80% healthy food and don’t binge when drinking

Essentially, good health habits can help you reduce many of the impacts of alcohol on your skin. However, no amount of good sleep or eating habits will compensate for heavy drinking.

getting help from addiction treatment centerGetting Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use, skin problems are a small part of the issue. While dry and red skin are visible and sometimes embarrassing, alcohol can cause significantly increase health problems including nutritional deficiencies, liver failure, gastrointestinal issues, and much more. In addition, it can and does cause significant mental health problems including substance use disorders. If you’re struggling to quit, you can ask for help and get therapy and counseling to help you understand why you’re drinking, what you can do instead, and how to manage those cravings.

Asana Recovery is located in Orange County, California. and offers detoxresidential, and outpatient addiction treatment services in our modern and comfortable addiction treatment facilities. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.