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How Drinking Alcohol Affects the Skin

January 27, 2023

In honor of Dry January – we bring you… How Drinking Alcohol Affects the Skin, in the hopes that it may motivate you to continue your dryness for the next couple of days!

We all have that aunt. Or uncle. Or friend. Or co-worker. The one that has always been the “fun one”, who may come to work periodically looking like they had a REALLY good night the night before. You might get a whiff of whatever it was they were drinking the night before as well.

And as they get older, you start to notice their face is getting redder with each passing year. Their nose is getting, well, almost purple. Their skin looks dry and worn. And if it leads you to conclude that all those years of “fun” are finally catching up to them, you may be right.

We all know that drinking alcohol in excess is not a good plan for anyone. And most people would immediately associate heavy drinking with liver problems, which is, let’s face it, the worst result of too much alcohol. BUT, there are additional affects that drinking in excess will have on your body, in particular your skin.

The most immediate affect of excessive drinking on your skin is dehydration. When you drink, you entire body becomes affected by dehydration, or lack of water and vital nutrients that it requires. As the largest organ in your body, your skin shows those effects visibly and quickly. You may notice, after a night on the town, your skin looking more wrinkly, dull or grey. That is the dehydration showing through.

Another short term effect is dark circles under your eyes. The dark circles aren’t themselves a consequence of drinking but rather of poor sleep. Alcohol has been proven to majorly disrupt natural sleep cycles, resulting in a lack of the deep REM sleep that we require to rejuvenate our bodies. After a night of heavy drinking or (gasp!) multiple nights, you will find that no matter how long you are in bed, you wake up feeling sleepy, lethargic and your eyes may look sunken with dark circles. Drink up your water consistently for the next day or two, stay off the booze and get a good nights’ sleep!

For some people who are intolerant of alcohol, hives can appear when drinking. If this happens, stop drinking and apply a cold compress to the affected area.

There are also more long term effects that will be less immediately noticeable. Primarily, there are several skin conditions that can either be caused by or exacerbated by alcohol. These include:

– Rosacea – If you have it, you know it. Your face will get red easily, flushed, especially when drinking. This has lead to the common visual of drunks with red cheeks. If you don’t have it, and don’t want it, limit your alcohol consumptions – studies have shown that your odds of getting rosacea increase with increased alcohol consumption.

– Psoriasis – If you have it, you know how annoying it is. Thick, scaly, itchy plaques of skin caused by an autoimmune disorder. If you DO have it, heavy drinking can make it worse – making it resistant to treatment. And if you DON’T have it, you guessed it, heavy drinking increases your odds of getting psoriasis.

– Seborrheic dermatitis – More common in people who drink frequently and excessively, this disorder is know to have greasy, inflamed, red patches around your body with white flakes.

Then there is the dreaded red nose. Whiskey nose. Drinker’s nose. Gin nose. Pickle nose. There are literally so many different terms for it. Scientifically it is called Rhinophyma nose. And here is the one piece of relatively good news for those who love to throw down the booze: Rhinophyma nose is not considered to be caused by alcohol abuse. Rather, it has been proven to be caused by Rosacea, which can affect both drinkers and non drinkers. HOWEVER, as shown above, rosacea can be caused or exacerbated by drinking so, take that for what you will. Once rosacea spreads to the nose, you will start to see the rough, bumpy, red skin that is associated with Rhinophyma nose.

NOW – this was a long post and I have to tell you – I left out a LOT. There are still tons of other ways that drinking can affect the skin. And here we are pushing out this post on a weekend, right when you are getting ready to go out on the town! But if you take anything away from this, know that hydration is KEY (along with just simply not overdoing it) when drinking. For every alcoholic beverage you consume, drink 8oz of water to balance it out.

Then consider going dry for a few days. 🙂

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