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Alcohol Skin Damage: How Drinking Affects Your Skin

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 22, 2024

Table of Contents

Excessive and frequent alcohol consumption can result in various skin-related issues, including redness, diminished skin elasticity, and dryness.

While some alcohol skin damage may be relatively harmless, prolonged alcohol abuse can give rise to more serious skin complications, often intertwined with liver disease. Beyond this, alcohol and effects on skin are inflamed in those with pre-existing skin conditions. Read on to learn more about alcohol and the skin.

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Alcohol and Skin Damage

The relationship between alcohol consumption and skin damage is intricate and influenced by factors that include the type and quantity of alcohol consumed, individual susceptibility, and overall health. Understanding this connection can help you determine how does alcohol affect your skin.

  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic that triggers increased urine production and fluid loss. Prolonged alcohol use can dehydrate the body, including the skin. Dehydrated skin is more prone to dryness, flakiness, and a lackluster appearance.
  • Vasodilation: Alcohol can cause blood vessels in the skin to dilate or expand, triggering flushing and redness. This type of skin damage from alcohol is more pronounced in individuals with conditions like rosacea. Repeated vasodilation from alcohol can contribute to persistent facial redness.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc. These nutrients play key roles in skin health, and their insufficiency is associated with bad skin from alcohol – impaired wound healing and increased vulnerability to infections, for instance.
  • Inflammation: Alcohol-induced inflammation can exacerbate skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. It can also disrupt the skin’s barrier function, making it more vulnerable to external irritants.
  • UV sensitivity: Alcohol can make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation. When combined with sun exposure, this sensitivity can increase the risk of sunburn, premature aging – wrinkles and fine lines – and potentially skin cancer.
  • Liver function: The liver processes alcohol, and prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to liver damage. A compromised liver can impact the skin’s appearance and function, leading to jaundice, itching, and other skin changes.
  • Alcoholic skin disorders: Some skin conditions are directly associated with alcohol misuse. These include alcoholic dermatitis (red, scaly patches), alcoholic purpura (bleeding and bruising), and alcoholic vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels), all of which can significantly affect the skin’s appearance and health.

Recognizing the potential for alcohol-related skin damage is beneficial, as it can serve as a visible indicator of broader health issues. Combating skin damage often begins with reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, adopting a balanced diet, and maintaining a skincare routine to nurture and protect the skin. Seeking medical guidance can also help address specific skin-related concerns stemming from alcohol misuse.

Can Alcohol Damage Your Skin?

Alcohol can harm your skin in various ways. From dehydration and premature aging to inflammation and increased UV sensitivity, the effects of alcohol on your skin are multifaceted. Developing an awareness of these potential consequences can help in maintaining a healthy balance by moderating alcohol consumption and adopting skin-friendly practices.

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Effects of Alcohol on Skin

Effects alcohol has on the skin extend beyond the visible signs of damage. It can disrupt several skin-related processes, leading to a range of effects that impact not only how the skin looks but also how it functions:

  • Skin dryness: One of the most common and immediate effects of alcohol consumption is skin dryness. Alcohol’s diuretic properties lead to dehydration, causing the skin to lose moisture. This can result in dry, flaky, and tight-feeling skin.
  • Premature aging: Alcohol can accelerate the aging process of the skin. Chronic alcohol use can lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers, which are responsible for skin’s elasticity and firmness. This can result in premature wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin.
  • Skin redness: Alcohol can cause blood vessels in the skin to dilate, leading to facial flushing and redness. Over time, repeated vasodilation can contribute to the development of persistent redness, especially in individuals with conditions like rosacea.
  • Inflammation: Alcohol-induced inflammation can exacerbate various skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Inflammation can make these conditions more challenging to manage and lead to flare-ups.
  • Wound healing: Alcohol can impair the body’s natural wound-healing processes. This can result in delayed healing of cuts, abrasions, and other skin injuries, increasing the risk of infection.
  • UV sensitivity: Alcohol can sensitize the skin to the harmful effects of UV radiation. This heightened sensitivity can increase the risk of sunburn and skin damage from sun exposure.
  • Skin disorders: Some skin disorders are directly linked to alcohol consumption, such as alcoholic dermatitis, which presents as red, scaly patches on the skin. These conditions can be challenging to treat and may require medical intervention.
  • Skin quality: Alcohol can affect the overall quality of the skin, making it appear dull, tired, and less vibrant. It can also disrupt the skin’s natural barrier function, making it more susceptible to irritants and pollutants.
  • Nutrient depletion: Chronic alcohol use can deplete essential nutrients in the body, including vitamins and minerals vital for healthy skin. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to a range of skin issues, including poor wound healing and increased susceptibility to infections.
  • Alcohol and medications: Alcohol can interact negatively with certain medications, including those prescribed for skin conditions. These interactions can hinder the effectiveness of treatments and worsen skin problems.

Limiting or abstaining from alcohol, staying well-hydrated, adopting a balanced diet, and practicing good skincare habits can help mitigate the adverse effects of alcohol on the skin and promote a healthier complexion.

Can You Reverse Alcohol Skin Damage?

Addressing alcohol-related skin damage is possible, but it often requires a multi-pronged approach that may vary depending on the severity of the damage. The most critical step is to cease or significantly reduce alcohol consumption. This can prevent further skin damage and provide the foundation for recovery.

Proper hydration is essential for skin health. Drinking plenty of water can help combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol and improve skin moisture levels. A balanced diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants can support skin repair and regeneration. Incorporating fruits, vegetables, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial.

Adopting a consistent skincare routine that includes gentle cleansing, moisturizing, and sunscreen application can help improve skin texture and reduce dryness and redness.

Consider consulting a dermatologist or healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options. They can recommend topical treatments, procedures, or medications tailored to your specific skin needs.

Embracing a healthier lifestyle can contribute to skin recovery. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management are factors that can positively impact skin health.

Given the connection between liver function and skin health, address any liver issues. Abstaining from alcohol is the primary step, but medical treatment and lifestyle changes may also be necessary for liver recovery.

Skin recovery can take time, and improvements may not be immediate. Be patient and consistent in your efforts to allow your skin to heal gradually.

The extent to which skin damage can be reversed may vary from person to person and hinges on factors like the duration and severity of alcohol abuse, genetics, and overall health. Seeking professional advice and taking a holistic approach to your well-being can improve the likelihood of skin recovery while also benefiting your overall health.


What does alcohol do to your skin?

Alcohol can dehydrate the skin, leading to dryness and dullness, and it may also cause inflammation and redness, disrupting the skin’s natural balance.

Is alcohol bad for skin?

Yes, alcohol can be bad for the skin as it dehydrates and irritates it, potentially exacerbating skin conditions like acne and rosacea.

Can alcohol cause skin problems long-term?

Long-term alcohol consumption can trigger persistent skin issues like increased wrinkling, permanent loss of skin elasticity, and exacerbation of inflammatory skin conditions.

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Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

Battling alcohol addiction can be tough, but you’re not alone. Renaissance Recovery is located right by the beautiful Huntington Beach in California, where you can find the help and support you need in a serene setting.

Whether you’re working, studying, or managing family commitments, we offer flexible outpatient programs that won’t disrupt your daily routine. If you’re looking for something more immersive, our intensive outpatient programs are there to give you even more structure and support. We can also connect you with detox centers all over California to help streamline the intensity of the withdrawal process.

We tailor treatments to each individual, drawing from the following interventions:

Ready to start a fresh chapter? Call Renaissance Recovery any time at 866.330.9449. We’re here to help you every step of the way as you recalibrate your life from alcohol addiction.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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