Nine ways alcohol can destroy your skin

Many people know about the liver damage alcohol can cause, but did you know it can affect your skin too? Photo: Kevin J. Wells

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2013 — People have a love affair with their looks and each year spend thousands on skincare products to keep their skin soft and younger looking. Most people use at least seven skincare products every day to keep skin young and glowing. Did you know one way to help your skin is to go easy on the alcohol?

Skin is much more than just an indicator of youth and beauty. The skin is your body’s largest organ and serves as nature’s warning system. You probably know long-term alcohol use damages your body. Some of those changes first show up on your skin.

Do you drink heavily or often? You need to consider how drinking affects your skin. Your life may depend on it. Much of the focus of alcohol is centered on the liver, but the skin is left out of the medical picture when it should not be. 

Alcohol definitely increases your risk for melanoma. It may also indirectly raise your risk for non-melanoma skin cancer. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and may make you disregard precautions for being in the sun. Another effect of alcohol, drying out your skin, makes it more susceptible to sun damage, which then increases the risk of skin cancer.

Alcohol robs your body of nutrients, including vitamins and antioxidants. Vitamin A specifically helps your body produce collagen and regenerate new skin cells. Reducing vitamin A reduces collagen, which ages your skin more rapidly. Younger skin looks older and ages faster because of heavy drinking and the lack of this vitamin. You can avoid this premature aging by limiting your alcohol intake drinking water more often.

Drinking too much alcohol causes the blood vessels in your face to dilate, causing red and spider-like veins to appear.  If you ignore this skin condition and continue to drink long term, these veins on your face can remain enlarged.

Your skin needs a fresh supply of oxygenated blood to keep it moist and free from dryness. Alcohol dehydrates or depletes your body of the water and highly oxygenated blood that it needs to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized. In addition to moisturizing, water also provides skin tissue with nutrients. A lack of moisture and vitamins causes a dull skin appearance. Drinking water during and after drinking any alcoholic beverages can prevent this from happening and your skin will thank you.

Alcohol can cause flare-ups of rosacea, a common skin disorder that produces redness in the nose, chin and cheeks.  It can irritate the skin and disfigure your appearance. A survey of rosacea patients showed two out of three indicated that alcohol caused flare-ups, with red wine being the worst culprit.  Moderating your alcohol intake can reduce any flare-ups and symptoms.

Alcohol can increase psoriasis flares, especially in women. Dry skin patches are common in psoriasis and alcohol can dry the skin, worsening this problem. In addition, alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of certain psoriasis drugs.

Drinking can affect hormone levels in the body, which can stimulate excess oil secretion and make you break out more.   

The normal discoloration from a bruise occurs more frequently when you drink heavily. Alcohol depletes vitamin C, which helps your skin cells recover quickly after a bump or bruise. 

Jaundice is yellowing of the skin that occurs when bilirubin builds up in the body. It is a sign of liver damage from alcohol, usually from alcoholic hepatitis or the severe liver scarring known as cirrhosis. Jaundice also can occur when the bile ducts become swollen from alcohol abuse. This prevents bile flow and can turn the skin yellow. Jaundice from alcoholic liver disease is an indication to stop drinking entirely. 

Your skin will be the first indication of trouble, so take a look around your body for problem areas.  Symptoms like dryness, discoloration and ulcerations are all visible in most cases. Your dermatologist is the first line of defense when it comes to skin health and the effects of alcohol.

They are in the unique position of recognizing the warning signs you may miss. So visit your doctor if you think you may have a skin condition. Ask them whether it may be alcohol-related and you may be surprised to find that it is.

The key to skin health is moderation or controlling your alcohol use. Stop a minute and be aware of your skin. Know that your skin can be healthy with some planning and a little abstinence. Many skin problems associated with alcohol could have easily been avoided by simple forethought before getting intoxicated.

If alcohol is more important to you than your health, you may need professional help at a certified rehab treatment center. Skin problems might just be an early warning sign of something serious like liver disease.  


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Jason Adams

Jason Adams is an inbound marketing strategist at Lakeview Health Systems. He is dedicated to providing valuable content for friends, families and individuals who may be struggling with drug and alcohol related problems. Follow Jason on twitter @JasonSteelz


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