- Frequent and excessive alcohol consumption causes dehydration, inflammation and premature aging
- It also exacerbates existing skin conditions and increases your risk of developing new skin concerns
- By quitting drinking, you can reverse many of the harmful effects of alcohol on your skin
While having a glass of wine on occasion shouldn’t cause skin health issues, frequent and excessive alcohol consumption can. If you’re a frequent drinker, quitting alcohol can bring positive changes to your skin’s health. In fact, photos of people’s skin before and after quitting alcohol demonstrate that with time, you can reverse much of the damage caused by drinking.
How Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Skin
Alcohol has been shown to negatively impact the skin in a number of ways and create undesirable short-term side effects that, with time, can develop into more problematic concerns.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it promotes the elimination of liquids from the body. If you consume alcohol without sufficiently hydrating yourself (for example, having a glass of water between alcoholic drinks), your body will become dehydrated.
Signs of dehydration include dark circles beneath the eyes, puffiness, and dry skin.
One common side effect of drinking alcohol is flushing or redness. It’s often associated with red wine, which contains tannins and histamines that cause a reaction in some people.
For many people of East Asian descent, alcoholic beverages cause prominent flushing on the face, neck, shoulders and sometimes the entire body. This effect is due to a genetic condition that interferes with the metabolization of alcohol.
More importantly, this flushing is of concern as it is linked to an increased risk of squamous cell esophageal cancer due to alcohol consumption.
Although alcohol may initially help you sleep well in the first half of the night, it worsens sleep in the second half. As a result, you’re likely to see changes in your skin associated with inadequate rest, including dark circles, red or swollen eyes, fine lines and wrinkles and a drooping mouth.
Long-term Effects of Alcohol on Your Skin
Current dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest consumption should be no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men. Consuming more will, in the long term, have a negative effect on skin.
Binge drinking—consuming four drinks for women or five for men in a two-hour span—is even more damaging than when the same number is spread out over the week.
If you are a heavy drinker, your alcohol use will soon affect your skin health. Excessive alcohol use accelerates the aging process in your skin and decreases your overall skin health.
While alcohol doesn’t directly cause acne, many of its effects increase your risk of developing it.
Dehydration caused by chronic alcohol use may lead the skin to overproduce sebum, the naturally occurring oil in your skin. Alcohol’s inflammatory effect impairs the immune response, which increases your susceptibility to bacterial infection.
Combined, the higher oil levels and inability to fight off acne-causing bacteria may result in more frequent breakouts.
Excess sebum and decreased elasticity can increase pore visibility. While harmless, larger pores make your skin look older and less healthy overall.
Loss of elasticity
Chronic alcohol use limits your skin’s ability to repair itself and depletes collagen and elastin, two key proteins that give skin firmness and elasticity. With lower levels, your skin is more prone to sagging and wrinkling, aging your appearance.
Alcohol misuse has been linked to psoriasis, a disease that causes itchy, dry and scaly patches on the skin. The patches may present as a rash or red or silvery plaques.
One study of US women examining the link between type of alcohol consumption and psoriasis found an elevated risk for women who consumed 2.3 alcoholic beverages per week or more compared to nondrinkers.
Nonlight beer was associated with a greater risk of developing this skin condition; light beer, red and white wine and liquor were not.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes redness, bumps and sensitivity on the face. Alcohol consumption is both an exacerbator and risk factor for this condition. A long-term study of over 82,000 women found that alcohol intake was significantly associated with an increased risk of rosacea.
Alcohol is associated with an increased risk of cutaneous basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the latter risk being associated with white wine consumption.
Ethanol, a by-product of alcohol metabolization, has been reported to vasodilate or expand blood vessels. With chronic alcohol consumption, these blood vessels become permanently dilated, leading to visible spider veins.
Susceptibility to damage
When metabolized, alcohol releases free radicals in your blood. To fight them, your body uses antioxidants such as vitamin A, which decreases your overall levels of those antioxidants.
Without healthy levels of antioxidants, your skin is more prone to disease and infection. You’re also at a higher risk of sunburn which is associated with the detrimental effects of photoaging, such as sun spots, wrinkles and sagging skin.
Can alcohol damage to the skin be reversed?
The short-term effects of alcohol on the skin resolve fairly quickly. The average person metabolizes alcohol at a rate of one drink per hour. Once all the alcohol has been eliminated from your system, you will no longer be dehydrated, you will be well-rested and short-term symptoms such as dark circles should fade away.
If you quit drinking altogether, conditions exacerbated by frequent alcohol use are likely to improve. If you have rosacea, you’ll no longer have flare-ups caused by drinking. While no studies have directly linked alcohol cessation with reduced symptoms of psoriasis, anecdotal evidence suggests that it leads to improvement.
However, some effects of chronic, excessive alcohol use on the skin may not disappear so quickly; for example, deep lines and wrinkles caused by chronic dehydration might soften, but are likely to remain.
Skin Improvements After Quitting Alcohol
If you quit drinking alcohol, you’ll see many skin improvements both immediately and over time. You’ll also enjoy multiple other health benefits, including reduced risk of disease, lower blood pressure, improved organ function, weight loss and better mental health.
Bright, even skin tone
Blotchy, red skin associated with drinking will disappear, leaving you with a brighter-looking complexion. Enlarged pores may tighten and improve your skin’s texture.
Well-hydrated skin means a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Your skin will be better equipped to defend itself against free radicals, slowing the development of new wrinkles.
Hydrated, plumper skin
Once your skin is free of alcohol’s dehydrating effects, your skin’s balance of water and sodium will return to normal. Your skin will appear plumper and fuller without the unhealthy puffiness that is often associated with overconsumption of alcohol.
Without the chronic inflammation caused by alcohol in your system, your skin will have a better immune response. If you have rosacea, you’ll experience fewer flare-ups. Inflammatory conditions such as plaque psoriasis and acne may become less severe or resolve altogether.
Skin Before and After Quitting Alcohol
How Long After Quitting Drinking Does Skin Improve?
When you stop drinking alcohol, you’ll start seeing improvements almost immediately.
After 1–2 weeks, skin conditions related to dehydration start to improve. Fine lines and pores are less visible, and your skin appears plumper and healthier.
After about 1 month of being alcohol-free, acne and inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea clear up (provided they’re not being triggered by factors other than alcohol).
Six months to 1 year after quitting drinking, your skin will have fully recovered. The exception is in cases of liver damage; skin conditions caused by a damaged liver may be permanent.
In addition to all its other health advantages, quitting alcohol has numerous benefits for the skin.
Alcohol dehydrates and inflames the skin, and causes premature aging. Chronic misuse can lead to conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis and acne, and more serious health concerns such as skin cancer.
By stopping your alcohol consumption, you can reduce the symptoms of these conditions or heal them altogether. Over several days to 1 year, your skin will become brighter, firmer and healthier.
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