how does alcohol affect your skin?

how does alcohol affect your skin?

Alcohol and your skin


We spend a lot of time making sure that what we put on our skin is healthy

But what about what we put in our skin? What we eat and drink?


That has a huge effect on how our skin looks and feels

I’ve become really interested in how our lifestyle choices affect our well being.

So, in this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at alcohol and its effect on our skin

You might think its shallow to have concerns about how we look but our outside is very often an indicator of what is going on inside. Our skin can be a good indicator of our general health and well being, so its an important factor in overall health


The Australian adult guidelines for alcohol tell us that we should have no more than 10 standard drinks per week but one in four Australians over the age of 18 exceed this amount

This has ramifications for our health in many different areas.

  • Regular drinkers are more likely to experience depression and mood disorders
  • regular drinking can lead to weight gain,
  • “Drinking too much can affect your concentration, judgement, mood and memory. It increases your risk of having a stroke and developing dementia.
  •  Heavy drinking increases your blood pressure and can lead to heart damage and heart attacks.
  •  Drinking 3 to 4 standard drinks a day increases your risk of developing liver cancer. Long-term heavy drinking also puts you at increased risk of liver cirrhosis (scarring).
  • Drinking even 1 to 2 standard drinks a day increases your risk of stomach and bowel cancer, as well as stomach ulcers.
  • : Regular heavy drinking reduces men's testosterone levels, sperm count and fertility. For women, drinking too much can affect their periods.”

(How alcohol affects your health | healthdirect)


  • “Each year in the United States, more than 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in our country. (The USA) The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.
  • Globally, alcohol misuse is the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disability.”

National institute of alcohol abuse and alcoholism)


So what about alcohol and skin?


“Alcohol is actually one of the worst, most aggressive compounds to destroy your skin,” says New York nutritionist Jairo Rodriguez

Here’s why;


Alcohol dehydrates your skin, which results in wrinkles and fine lines,

Alcohol inflames tissue and causes redness and inflammation of the skin.”  (Vogue magazine December 31 2022)


One or two drinks occasionally is unlikely to cause a noticeable change to your skin

However, dehydration and redness to some degree can occur every time you drink and if you drink regularly the effects on your skin can start to be lasting. Skin looks dehydrated and facial redness starts to be an ongoing problem. Skin becomes dry, lips can be cracked, eyes are sunken and your skin can lose elasticity

It’s a good idea to drink lots of water when drinking alcohol


Alcohol can stimulate the release of histamines, which can cause the blood vessels under the skin to dilate. This can make a person’s complexion look flushed or inflamed.

Because drinking alcohol causes facial flushing, it can worsen rosacea symptoms. Alcohol is not the cause of roseacea

However, drinking alcohol can increase the chances of developing rosacea

Sleep disruptions

Drinking causes all sorts of sleep disruptions. Alcohol causes us to wake more during the night and to have less REM sleep. It can exacerbate the condition of sleep aponea, leading to low mood, low energy and tiredness. Sleep disruption can lead to these skin changes:

  • darker circles under the eyes
  • duller complexion
  • more wrinkles or fine lines

Psoriasis and dermatitis can be exacerbated by drinking


Psoriasis is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that causes patches of thickened scaly skin that can be irritating and painful

According to, drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of developing psoriasis. It can also cause psoriasis to become resistant to treatment.

Drinking alcohol can also worsen the condition of psoriasis which could be because alcohol weakens the immune system.


Dermatitis has been observed to be more common in heavy drinkers

Porphyria cutanea tarda

Alcohol consumption is the most common cause of porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT). This condition causes painful, blistering lesions on the skin following exposure to the sun.

Skin cancer

Regularly drinking alcohol increases the risk of liver, pancreatic, and breast cancer. It also increases the risk of skin cancer including squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Alcohol is also associated with an increased risk of oral cancer.

The reasons why excessive alcohol consumption might cause cancer include:

  • Alcohol suppresses the immune system and impairs adequate nutrition, reducing the body's natural defense against skin cancer.
  • Alcohols main metabolite, acetaldehyde, is a carcinogen (cancer causing chemical). Acetaldehyde produces reactive free radicals and damages DNA.
  • The effects of ultraviolet radiation may be enhanced by photosensitising byproducts of alcohol.


In terms of your skin, The main problem with alcohol occasionally is that its dehydrates your skin, can cause redness and can exacerbate many skin issues

However, most of the lasting health effects from alcohol on your skin and your body are only a worry if you’re drinking regularly and of course, its up to you to define regularly.

This is from the the website of the  National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 

“To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.”

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