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Physical Signs of Alcoholism

man drinking alcohol

Does alcohol affect the way you look? Alcohol affects the body and brain in many ways, and in some cases, the effects of alcohol can make themselves known on your face and body. If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, there are several physical signs that can help you identify the issue.

How Alcohol Affects the Skin

Skin is the largest and one of the most delicate organs in our body, and it can be affected by drinking alcohol. 

Drinking alcohol results in two core issues for the skin: dehydration and inflammation.

Dehydration

Dry skin -  Drinking alcohol can cause a significant decrease in the amount of water that is in a person's body, leading to dehydration.

Wrinkles - Because alcohol dehydrates you and depletes you of vitamins and nutrients, your skin won’t be able to produce as much collagen as it needs. Collagen is the substance that is responsible for improving the strength and elasticity of the skin. 

Inflammation

Flushing - Alcohol raises histamine levels, leading to an increase in the dilation of blood vessels under the skin. This can make a person’s complexion look flushed or inflamed.

Bloodshot Eyes - Alcohol reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the red blood cells, which can result in the eyes appearing red and swollen.

Acne - Alcohol naturally weakens the immune system, making it easier for bacteria to get under skin and cause acne. Alcohol also causes an imbalance in hormones which play a big role in the function of your skin. 

Puffiness - Since alcohol dehydrates you, it can lead to water retention in your skin, which causes the face to appear bloated and puffy.

woman with dry face skin

Long-Term Risks of Alcohol on the Skin

Increased risk of skin infections - Alcohol weakens the immune system, making the body more prone to infection.

Increased risk of skin cancer - Studies have found that every 10-gram increase in alcohol consumed each day increases the risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are the two main types of non-melanoma skin cancers.

Increased risk of liver disease - Your skin reflects the health of your liver. Liver disease can cause jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, darker skin around the eyes, and itchy skin.

Do Different Types of Alcohol Affect the Skin Differently?

Different alcohols have different effects on the skin. Generally, darker liquors are worse for your skin than clearer liquors. For example, vodka, gin, and tequila do not tend to cause much skin irritation since they leave your system quicker than other types of alcoholic drinks. 

However, cocktails are more likely to cause acne, since they contain a higher level of sugar, which can cause inflammation. 

How to Reduce the Effects of Alcohol on Your Skin

Stay hydrated - Water helps flush out the toxins associated with alcohol 

Exercise - Exercise improves blood flow, which helps nourish skin cells and keep them vital.

Stop drinking alcohol - The only way to ensure that alcohol stops having an effect on your skin is to stop drinking alcohol altogether. 

What Happens to Your Skin When You Stop Drinking?

Fortunately, skin has a remarkable ability to repair itself. Taking a break from drinking will give your skin the ability to regenerate. In just one month alcohol-free, your skin can clear up and become much healthier and more hydrated. Avoiding alcohol will allow your skin to absorb vitamins and other nutrients more easily, resulting in less bloating and inflammation.

man drinking water on workout

How to Spot Physical Signs of Alcohol Abuse

The skin is one of the first organs to show signs of alcohol abuse. Here are a few physical signs to look for if you are concerned that someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse:

Redness in the face - Alcohol can cause blood vessels to dilate or even break, giving the face a redder appearance even when the person isn’t drinking.

Puffy face - Alcohol dehydrates the body, which leads organs in the body to retain as much water as possible, resulting in a puffy face.

Rhinophyma (alcoholic nose) - a nose that is large, red, and bumpy. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, which can make rhinophyma more prominent.

Disheveled appearance - Those who are abusing alcohol often neglect their own hygiene and personal care, which can lead to skin infections and other health problems. Heavy drinking also leads to an increase in levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This hormonal imbalance can cause hair loss, thinning hair, and dandruff.

Weight loss or gain - Alcohol can have a large impact on a person’s appetite, which can lead to them either overeating or losing their appetite entirely.

Frequent skin infections - Since alcohol lowers the immune system, it makes it more likely for someone to develop skin infections.

Signs to Cut Back on Alcohol

While it’s true that alcohol can have negative physical effects, it can also negatively affect the brain. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the activities of the central nervous system. This can have consequences for both mental and physical health. For example, alcohol consumption may lead to impaired concentration, decision-making abilities, and reflexes.

The most common signs of overindulging include:

  • Unable to control drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite serious consequences
  • Experiencing cravings or withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Getting defensive when confronted about drinking

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

If alcohol is beginning to have negative consequences on various aspects of your life, it’s time to seek professional help. At Paramount Recovery Center, we offer a detox program to ensure that you can safely withdraw from alcohol in the presence of medical staff. 

From there, you can begin your recovery journey in our 90 day sober living program, where we will equip you with all the tools and skills necessary for a successful recovery. Speak with an addiction specialist to determine what the best steps are for you or your loved one.

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