The Damaging Effects of Alcohol on the Skin

Excessive alcohol intake causes many problems to the skin, especially in women, who are much more vulnerable. Although there are about four men dependent on alcohol for each woman, the female organism only needs half as much alcohol as the male to reach the same alcohol concentration in blood. Despite its physical, psychological and social consequences, alcohol consumption continues to increase. It is worth discussing the damaging effects of alcoholic beverages on the skin with the view to discourage the habit. Alcohol-induced skin problems are numerous and occur through diverse mechanisms including liver damage, constant blood vessel dilation, loss of vascular wall strength, changes in sebaceous gland metabolism, immunity and diuresis.

Psoriasis: This autoimmune disease, characterized by areas of red and scaly skin and the bizarre Koebner phenomenon, can be worsened by high alcohol consumption. Some forms of psoriasis can also appear with resistant scales on the knees and elbows.

Acne: Acne, with pimples and blackheads, may appear or worsen in people, especially in young women, who have a tendency to indulge in drinking alcoholic beverages.

Poor wound healing: A 2014 study at the Loyola University Health System found that binge drinking impairs wound healing owing to nefarious effects on the immune system. It affects not only the skin but also the whole body. The diuretic effect of alcohol also contributes to this problem by causing excessive release of water through urine – excessive alcohol consumption causes dehydration, which severely impairs the wound healing process. Often, people who have fallen into alcoholism can present alarming lesions on the skin with dark, ferruginous, intensely sun-sensitized spots that resemble burns.

Rosacea: Alcohol is one of the known triggers of symptomatic episodes of the condition. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has found that alcohol consumption increases the risk of rosacea in women. The exact mechanism of this relationship is not yet determined, but scientists suspect that it stems from alcohol’s weakening effect on immune function and its vasodilating effect. Particularly, white wine and liquor were found to significantly increase the risk of rosacea.

Melanoma: Melanoma is a type of cancer that affects the skin. A 2016 study determined that white wine is also a significant risk factor for melanoma. Surprisingly, other alcoholic drinks, such as red wine or beer, weren’t found to increase the risk significantly.

Other symptoms of heavy alcohol consumption include dilated blood vessels on the abdomen and neck, broken capillaries on the face, reddish hand palms (palmar erythema), flushed face, and swelled, reddish and congested nose.