Surprising Effects of Alcohol on Skin: How it’s Aging You Inside and Out

effects-of-alcohol-on-skin

When you think about the impact alcohol has on your health and wellbeing most people only consider what it does to their internal organs. But, do you really understand its devastating effects on your body’s largest organ?

One in eight adults in the US is battling alcoholism. If you find the recurrent use of alcohol prevents you from fulfilling a particular obligation or its excessive use is causing recurrent interpersonal problems then you might have to think about giving it up altogether.

In the meantime, this article explores the negative effects of alcohol on skin tissue that you probably weren’t aware of. Read on.

Rampant Dehydration

In case you’ve never noticed, there’s a direct correlation between the amount of alcohol you consume and the frequency of your trips to the bathroom. This is more than a mere coincidence.

Excessive consumption of alcohol decreases the production of Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH). The body uses it primarily to reabsorb water into the body tissues. Since alcohol suppresses its production your body ends up losing a lot of water through frequent urination.

So what does it do to your skin? For starters alcohol and wrinkles go hand in hand. You’ll start to notice the appearance of fine lines on your skin. It begins to lose its brightness and vitality.

Your skin contains molecules known as Hyaluronic Acid, that are designed to capture and retain water deep beneath the skin surface. When these molecules get dehydrated, you’ll start to notice wrinkles around your eye area, then your face, neck and hands – generally, the areas of your body where your skin is thinnest.

The body then attempts to combat this by secreting more sebum in the skin cells which in turn causes oily skin. You’ll see this manifest as blackheads, whiteheads, papules, and shine.

The more alcohol you consume over extended periods of time, the less Hyaluronic Acid your body produces. This leads to the appearance of deep wrinkles.

Another effect of dehydration is water retention. This is perhaps the most immediately visible alcohol effect on skin tissue.

Because of how rapidly your body loses water when you’re taking alcohol, your cells try their best to hold on to the little water that is available. This leads to your skin looking puffy especially in your face.

Chronic Skin Inflammation

After a night of heavy drinking, one’s skin tends to look flushed. There’s an alcohol-related reason for this.

When you drink, your body classifies alcohol as a toxic substance that it needs to breakdown and eliminate from the body. That’s where the liver comes in. It metabolizes the alcohol to release a by-product known as Acetaldehyde.

This chemical is toxic to body tissues and leaves them dehydrated. Alcohol skin damage comes about because the tissues are not only dehydrated but are now also inflamed. This leads the body tissues to release Histamine which dilates the blood vessels in the skin.

With more blood flowing through the skin capillaries, the overall effect is that the skin takes on a reddish appearance. When this is compounded over several years of overindulgence, the blood capillaries remain dilated making the redness on your skin permanent. So you’ll constantly have a “sunburn” look without actually having suffered any sunburn!

The negative effects of inflammation of the skin don’t end there. Alcohol also dilates the skin pores. The pores then become clogged with bacteria, sebum and dead skin cells which cause blackheads and whiteheads.

If this goes on, they could turn into full-blown cystic acne and lesion-like bumps resulting from inflamed skin papules. In the long run, they cause permanent scarring on the skin. The effects of inflammation are most visible in the face but it also affects your neck, chest, back, shoulders, upper arms, and trunk.

Poor Quality Sleep Causes Poor Skin Health

Contrary to what you might believe, alcohol and a good night’s sleep is like oil and water – they just don’t mix. It may allow you to fall asleep quicker than you normally would, but it’s actually a lot more disruptive to sleep.

You see, sleep has different stages to it. There’s the Non-REM phase and the REM phase. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement.

The non-REM phase of sleep is light. It’s easy to wake you up. As your heart rate slows down and your body temperature falls, your body starts to transition into the deep stage of Non-REM sleep.

This is when your body’s repair and maintenance processes occur. They involve the regrowth and repair of tissues as well as the regeneration of bone and muscle cells. It is also when the body works to strengthen its immune system.

So, if you’ve been wondering, “How on earth, does drinking cause wrinkles?” keep reading. Alcohol disrupts the quality of your sleep. It quite literally prevents you from getting your beauty sleep.

It doesn’t allow you to get to the deeper stages of the sleep cycle when skin cell repair and restoration occur. In the process, your skin is unable to balance itself out properly.

This means that you’ll notice it’s either too dry or too oily or, it’s losing its elasticity because of impaired collagen production. You may also notice dark circles developing around your eyes and the appearance of wrinkles as well.

Excessive long term drinking will prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep even on the nights you don’t drink. So, your body will never be able to get the deep sleep it needs to generate new skin cells.

The Negative Effects of Sugary Alcoholic Drinks on Skin Health

If you think that it’s just the hard liquor that has dilapidating effects on your skin, you’re sadly mistaken. While the occasional cocktail may not have much effect on your skin, drinking sugary alcoholic beverages often also leads to loss of skin elasticity and the development of premature wrinkles.

Here’s a little chemistry lesson for you on alcohol and aging skin. When you consume sugary drinks, the body rapidly converts this sugar into glucose. This, in turn, causes your insulin levels to spike as it works to quickly get rid of the glucose surge from the bloodstream.

A spike in your insulin levels causes a burst of inflammation throughout the body including the skin. The process produces enzymes that breakdown Collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body that’s found in all connective tissues in the tendons, ligaments muscles as well as, you guessed it – the skin.

It’s what gives your skin its structure. It’s is what also slows down your skin’s aging process by reducing the appearance of wrinkles and the onset of dryness. So, through a process called glycation, glucose molecules permanently attach themselves to the Collagen in your skin tissues. This reaction contributes to the development of acne, dark patches and skin creases all over your body.

That’s where the term “alcohol flush reaction” comes from. It’s the permanent reddish complexion people who’ve been drinking for years get even when they eventually quit.

Worst Kinds of Alcohol for the Skin

Remember, all alcohol contains Acetaldehydes which are the destructive molecules that wreak havoc on your body. They cause widespread inflammation, cellular damage both in your internal organs as well as on your skin. Combine them with those sugary chasers and you have a recipe for disaster.

Nonetheless, there are some types of alcohol that are particularly bad for your skin. Here are some of them ranked from the one that’s the least harmful, to the one that causes the most harm on your skin’s health:

Tequila

Tequila contains the least amount of sugar compared to most of the other alcoholic drinks. Its high purity makes is the most skin-friendly.

But be warned – It’s only “skin-safe” when consumed occasionally in small quantities. Excessive tequila consumption over extended durations will still eventually damage your skin.

Beer

Beer may not be great for your skin, but it’s not the worst of the bunch. This is most likely because it doesn’t contain high concentrations of alcohol like the others do.

However, it does have lots of other additives like sugars and salt that put way more stress on the liver to metabolize. Darker beers, in particular, contain a lot more additives that the clear ones. So it’s better to avoid them altogether.

Vodka / Gin and Tonic

Both vodka and gin contain substantially less sugar than other drinks making them somewhat “kinder” to your skin. The same can’t be said for the damage they cause to your internal organs.

White Wine

If you’ve ever had a wine hangover, then you know how notoriously awful they can be. The high sugar content doesn’t do your skin any favors either.

Mojito

Would you like a side of wrinkles with that? That’s how bad Mojitos are for your skin. Every glass contains unusually high levels of sugar and you know what that means for your collagen, don’t you?

Margarita

This is yet another cocktail culprit. It comes laden with salt in addition to the high levels of sugar it contains. It’s no surprise then that after a night of indulging in Margaritas you wake looking like a truck ran over your face – because of all the puffiness and inflammation.

Red Wine

Don’t be fooled into thinking that red wine is good for you. One could argue that it has no redeemable qualities.

It may be an antioxidant, but the reality is, if you weigh its pros and cons, you might as well find an alternative source of antioxidants. Eating raw grapes would be a great start.

Red wine is a notorious histamine release. So if you’re prone to acne or redness, you need to stay far away from it.

Effects of Alcohol on Skin Tissue: It’s Not Too Late to Save Your Skin

At the risk of stating the obvious having healthy skin, requires you to drastically cut down on the amount of alcohol you’re consuming. If you find yourself unable to adhere to the recommended alcohol consumption thresholds, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. To which end, quitting alcohol altogether is the best alternative.

Additionally, the importance of a balanced diet and adequate water intake cannot be overstated. While taking enough water rejuvenates your skin, too much of it may cause you to lose vital minerals.

You can also try to adjust your lifestyle by integrating a regular workout regimen.  Aside from its cardiovascular benefits, exercise holds one of the keys to healthy and vibrant skin.

It increases blood flow to your skin tissue bringing with it critical nutrients that are vital to nourishing the skin cells. Increased blood flow also helps to carry waste products like free radicals away from the working cells. So instead of a night on the town, binge drinking with your friends, hit the gym to prevent the onset of premature skin aging.

Bear in mind that prolonged inflammation of the skin could leave you with inflamed acne which can spread and eventually cause scarring. If you start to notice it, there are tons of OTC treatments you can use to treat the condition.

You can try using Benzoyl peroxide which works by neutralizing acne bacteria that might be clogging your skin pores. Salicylic acid also works well to shed dead skin cells from deep inside your skin pores.

Finally, you can start taking collagen supplements to reduce inflammation, improve your skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles. Moreover, studies show that regularly taking these supplements while cutting down (or completely eliminating) alcohol from your diet stimulates the body to produce collagen on its own.

The Bottom Line

The negative effects of alcohol on skin tissue and other internal body organs cannot be overstated. You’ll be surprised by all the benefits you’ll reap if you give it up. Doing so will not only improve your social wellbeing, but it’ll add lots more healthy and productive years to your life.

Are you looking for a comfortable and serene place to help you along your detox journey? Talk to us today. We’ll be happy to lend a helping hand.

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Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.