Alcoholic Skin

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Skin?

Men and women value how they look. This is why cosmetics and derma clinics are multi-billion industries. However, most of them don’t know that the most basic of habits – such as drinking alcohol – can affect their appearance. This is why even if they spend thousands of dollars of serums and botox treatments, they just don’t quite seem to work. 

Alcohol affects the entire body – not just the internal organs, but the skin as well. If you value your physical features, then these reminders on how alcohol affects the skin may help you re-think your life decisions.

An Overview of The Skin

The skin is the largest organ in the body. According to the National Cancer Institute, the skin is approximately 2 millimeters thick and weighs approximately six pounds. It is composed of three layers, namely: 

  • Epidermis, the topmost layer where melanocytes, which are responsible for skin pigmentation, are found
  • Dermis, the middle layer that contains hair follicles, nerve endings, oil glands, and sweat glands
  • Hypodermis or subcutaneous layer, the fatty lower layer 

Apart from protecting the internal organs from light, heat, infection, and injury, the skin performs other outstanding features as well. It is in charge of regulating body temperature, as well as storing fat, water, and Vitamin D. It also helps gather sensory data from the surroundings. 

Effects of Alcohol on Skin

How Alcohol Affects the Skin

Alcohol is comprised of small particles that are soluble in both water and fat. Because of these properties, alcohol can penetrate almost all the parts of the body – which is why it can affect the skin as well. In fact, skin disorders can be early manifestations of alcohol abuse.

And should you continue with your drinking habits, you will most likely develop the following conditions:

Dehydrated, Wrinkly Skin 

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it can prod your body to pee more than usual. Symptoms include weakness, dizziness, headache, dry mouth, and of course, dry skin. 

When you have dry skin, you can develop itching, scaling, flaking, and peeling. Your skin may feel rough and tight, and it may look ashy or gray. You may develop fine lines and cracks that can bleed out. 

If those do not seem to faze you, get this: dry skin can make you look older as well! That’s because dry skin affects the health of normally-plump skin cells. Skin moisture is important because it helps fill the skin’s usual lines and creases. If the skin is dried out, lines and wrinkles become more visible. To summarize, alcohol equals dehydration, which equates to older-looking skin. 

Inflamed, Reddened Skin

If your face usually turns red after a drink or two, then you might be experiencing what experts call as an  “Alcohol Flush Reaction.” This is not the usual cute blushing, as it is brought about by the buildup of acetaldehyde. It is a cancer-causing substance that is produced by the liver following alcohol metabolism. 

In people with Alcohol Flush Reaction, the liver converts alcohol into acetaldehyde faster than it can transform the latter into acetate, which is a safer form of the substance. More than just causing a tomato-red face, this condition increases the person’s exposure to acetaldehyde. This can lead to a higher risk of developing mouth and throat cancers. 

Rosacea Flare-ups

Rosacea is a skin condition that causes facial redness. It is characterized by visible blood vessels, as well as swollen pus-filled bumps on the face. While this is not caused by alcohol, liquor can lead to ugly flare-ups that may last for weeks – up to a few months. 

According to the National Rosacea Society, the worst trigger is red wine, which caused flare-ups 76% of the time. White wine was responsible for 56% of the flare-ups, while beer was cited as the reason behind 41% of rosacea re-occurrences. Other alcoholic drinks that have been associated with rosacea flare-ups by the manner of incidence are champagne, vodka, tequila, bourbon, gin, rum, and scotch. 

In 64% of the 700 respondents, one drink was enough to cause such a reaction. Because of this, many of the sufferers are advised to limit, if not eliminate, their alcohol consumption. 

Palmar Erythema

Alcohol can make the hands and feet turn red as well – and this condition is called palmar erythema. Just like rosacea, it results from the dilation of the blood vessels – but in the hands and feet. 

In drinkers, secondary palmar erythema can occur because alcohol can increase the levels of estradiol, a hormone that can cause the said condition.

According to a study by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, this is why 23% of alcoholics, especially those with liver cirrhosis, suffer from this skin condition. 

Jaundice or Yellowing of the Skin and Eyes

Alcoholic hepatitis is a serious liver condition caused by large amounts of alcohol. This inflammatory condition can cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, low-grade fever, weakness, and fatigue. 

One of its hallmark symptoms is jaundice or the yellowing of the skin and eyes. This happens due to the buildup of bilirubin in the blood. 

Bilirubin is a yellowish waste material produced after the breakdown of red blood cells. High bilirubin levels occur in alcohol liver disease because the impaired organ is no longer able to excrete these substances from the body. As a result, bilirubin seeps through the skin, which explains the itching associated with jaundice. 

An Increased Risk of Skin Cancer

Effects of alcoholism on your body

To make matters worse, alcohol can also increase one’s risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancers. 

According to an article published by the National Health Service, a study has shown that 10 grams of alcohol – equivalent to one glass of wine or beer – is enough to increase one’s risk of developing skin cancer. It can magnify the risk of basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer in the US, by as much as 7%. As for squamous cell carcinoma, the risk is higher at 11%. 

Although these are not as aggressive as malignant melanomas, they have a considerably high burden of disease. The Skin Cancer Foundation has reported that the treatment cost for the said condition averages at $4.8 billion annually.

Alcohol is a harmful substance that can affect the entire body, including the skin. If you wish to avoid the skin conditions and cancers stated above, then the best thing you can do is to limit your alcohol consumption today. 

Latest posts by Raychel Ria Agramon, BSN, RN, MPM (see all)

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