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Effects of Alcohol on Skin and Aging

As we grow older and age, our skin ages. This is no secret. However, just as there are ways to keep your skin looking younger, there are factors that can contribute to the appearance of aging skin. This is especially true for people who consume alcohol. The effects of alcohol on skin and aging may not be something you have considered before, but there is a correlation.

Similar to smoking cigarettes, alcohol and aging skin are highly correlated. In fact, alcohol is considered to be one of the top lifestyle choices that can age your skin prematurely. Other causes of premature skin aging are excessive UV exposure, genetics, and illicit drug use. Thus, it’s important to practice moderation to prevent the unfortunate effects of alcohol on skin and aging.

The Effects of Alcohol on Skin and Aging

Alcohol is a substance that is made up of water, ethanol, and carbon dioxide. It is a depressant that can be found in beverages such as beer, wine, liquor, and mixed drinks. Furthermore, alcohol is considered to be a psychoactive drug, meaning it affects the mind. When consumed, it causes the drinker to feel relaxed and sometimes happy. This causes some people who drink alcohol to consume far more than what is recommended. Unfortunately, consuming too much of the aforementioned drinks can lead to an individual experiencing the effects of alcohol on skin and aging. 

When you drink alcohol, the ethanol is absorbed into your bloodstream and then circulated throughout your body. It affects different areas of the body in different ways. For example, when it comes to the effects of alcohol on the skin, ethanol can cause dehydration. This is because ethanol competes with water for absorption into the cells, and when there is more ethanol present, less water is available to the cells.

Alcohol can also be considered a toxin that the body has to work hard to eliminate. After alcohol travels throughout the body, your liver then tries to break it down and remove it from your system. This process uses up valuable resources that are needed for other important functions, like repairing damaged cells. Subsequently, this can result in the following negative effects of alcohol on skin and aging:


Dehydration is always a major concern of healthcare professionals when it comes to alcohol consumption or abuse. This is because alcohol abuse is dangerous for many reasons. It can negatively impact health or affect medications a person is taking. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there as there are also negative effects of alcohol on skin and aging regarding dehydration. The dehydration that results from drinking alcohol can lead to many negative effects on the skin, including dryness, wrinkles, and sagging skin. 

Collagen Depletion

Alcohol can also accelerate the aging process by decreasing collagen production in the skin. Collagen is responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the skin, so a decrease in collagen production can lead to wrinkles, sagging skin, and a generally older appearance. In addition to the effects of dehydration and decreased collagen production, alcohol can also cause blood vessels to dilate, which leads to flushing and redness in the skin. 


In addition to these effects, alcohol can produce a dulling effect on the skin.  This is because alcohol can interfere with the skin’s ability to absorb vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy, radiant skin.


Alcohol can also increase the production of oils in the skin, which can lead to acne breakouts. Too much alcohol intake will also increase your sebum production. Sebum is the oil secretion on your face).  

When this excess sebum mixes with dead skin, dirt, or bacteria, it forms blackheads which later turn into whiteheads or pimples. Pimples may appear even if you are not breaking out because these bumps are blocked pores filled with excess sebum mixed with dirt, skin, or bacteria.

Blood Vessel Dilation

Blood vessel dilation is another one of the effects of alcohol on skin and aging. Alcohol causes the blood vessels to expand, which may lead to redness and flushed skin. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also cause spider veins or broken capillaries due to the effects of the alcohol on blood vessels. 

Capillaries are extremely small blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood throughout the body; however, drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time can damage these tiny vessels. This is where the trope of the red-faced alcoholic in television and movies is derived from. As the capillaries rupture, areas around the cheeks, nose, and mouth become red. These may go away with time or treatment, but only if the individual stops drinking alcohol. 

Sugar Spikes

Many types of alcohol contain large amounts of sugar. Wine and mixed drinks in particular have high sugar content. Subsequently, this leads to one of the other effects of alcohol on skin and aging: spiking your levels of insulin. 

High levels of insulin contribute to aging effects because they prevent collagen production and increase collagen breakdown in the skin, which would normally occur at a slower rate than this spike in insulin levels. The effects of high insulin levels on the skin are visible first on the face, neck, and body. The effects of this include facial flushing, saggy skin, and wrinkles.

Premature Aging

The effects of drinking too much alcohol don’t stop at collagen destruction and spiking insulin levels. Concerningly, excess drinking has been linked to an increased risk for contracting diseases that are more commonly contracted as humans age. These can include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and osteoporosis.

DNA Damage

Drinking too much alcohol can also affect the DNA in your cells. It does this by causing permanent or chronic inflammation within the body that continues to damage cells as time goes on. Inflammation is caused by high levels of free radicals. Free radicals are breakers of chemical bonds and cause oxidative stress brought about by drinking too much alcohol. These effects of alcohol on skin and aging contribute greatly to premature aging effects such as wrinkles and age spots.

Skin Disorders

Alcohol is also known to cause or worsen many different skin disorders such as:

  • Flushing
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Seborrhea
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Swelling (edema)
  • Erythema (redness)
  • Sunburn susceptibility
  • Dermatitis (including dermatitis acneiform)

In addition, it has effects on your immune system which can lead to a worsening of autoimmune conditions such as lupus erythematosus.

Internal Aging

The effects of alcohol on the skin aren’t the only consequences of consuming too much alcohol too frequently. Inner effects from drinking too much alcohol have been linked with brain damage leading to memory loss and neurological issues including Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s may be accelerated by years of problem drinking. Furthermore, research concludes that alcohol can contribute to the development of dementia. 

Other Negative Effects of Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can also have other negative effects on the skin, such as causing rosacea to flare up and increasing the risk of sunburn. Sunburn is one of the main risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Sunburns caused by excessive drinking can be particularly severe and long-lasting, since alcohol decreases the body’s ability to release heat, allowing the effects of radiation to penetrate deeper into the skin.

If you were wondering, does alcohol change your appearance? The answer is a resounding yes. In many different ways, excessive alcohol consumption entirely changes a person’s appearance. However, there are other factors to consider when it comes to premature aging. 

Other Factors That Can Contribute to Premature Aging

The effects of alcohol on skin and aging may be serious, but other factors can accelerate aging. When the above factors are taking a toll on your skin, other lifestyle choices may also be contributing to the deterioration of your youth. The following factors may also contribute to the premature aging of your skin:

  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Exposure to the sun and UV rays

How to Prevent Premature Aging

While you may not be able to stop the natural effects of aging, there are some things you can do to prevent premature aging. Of course one of the methods that will help keep your youthful glow is to avoid the effects of alcohol on skin and aging. Drinking in moderation, if possible, or forgoing alcohol entirely will allow you to avoid these effects. 

To keep your skin looking young and healthy, you can also follow these tips:

  • Drink plenty of water: drink about eight 8-ounce glasses per day if possible.
  • Get enough sleep: most people need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Avoid smoking: smoking is bad for your skin and your overall health.
  • Protect your skin: protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays by using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every single day.
  • Eat healthily: Eating a balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and other essential food.

When looking at how alcohol ages the skin, it becomes evident that drinking has the same effects as UV radiation from the sun’s rays. This means that prolonged exposure time, or how long you are exposed to the effects, will accelerate skin aging. Just like with too much sun exposure, too much alcohol intake also encourages wrinkles and fine lines which can make someone appear much older than he or she is.

Do Certain Types of Alcohol Reverse Aging?

The short answer to this question is no. Alcohol is made with many different ingredients but most commonly contains the ingredient known as ethanol. Ethanol is an organic compound that forms when sugars are fermented by yeast, which is found in fruits or grains. It’s also an ingredient found in alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine. 

Although alcohol provides some health benefits when consumed in moderation by adults 21 years or older, consuming too much alcohol has negative effects. Many people mistakenly believe that red wine (or even white wine) contains resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory that has resulted in the recommendation of drinking a small amount of wine. 

Some studies suggest that wine consumption may even lower mortality rates. But there is not enough evidence to suggest that this theory is true. This is especially true since drinking too much alcohol has many dangerous side effects. 

So just like the effects of too much sun and smoking, drinking too much alcohol can damage your skin and reduce its ability to heal itself. It also speeds up the aging effects since alcohol is a toxin that damages cells in our body—including skin cells.

Getting Treatment for Alcohol Addiction with Harmony Place

Observing detrimental changes to your skin due to alcohol consumption could be a sign that you’re drinking excessively. The impact of alcohol on your skin and the aging process can serve as a red flag that your drinking habits may be more frequent or heavier than is healthy. If you find yourself struggling to quit drinking, this could indicate a physical dependency or even an addiction.

Harmony Place recognizes the financial aspects associated with seeking help for addiction. To help ease this burden, we’re pleased to accept health insurance from a range of providers, including Anthem Blue Cross cover, Aetna, Cigna, Blue Shield of CA, Carelon, and Humana. This commitment allows you or your loved one to focus primarily on recovery, without the added worry of financial constraints.

Being unable to stop drinking on your own does not mean that this cycle of alcohol abuse has to continue. There is help available to safely stop abusing alcohol. Here at Harmony Place, we offer alcohol addiction treatment to help you or a loved one to take your life back from the grip addiction has over it. Contact us today to see which treatment option will work best for you.