Alcohol, the common term for ethanol, is produced by glucose fermenting into yeast, and the amount of alcohol in a particular drink is determined by the quantity of yeast and how long the liquid has been fermented. Alcohol provides no nutritional value to the body, and cannot be digested. The body considers alcohol a toxin that it must rid immediately. A source of "empty" calories, alcohol has many short- and long-term effects on the body, and greatly effects physical appearance because of its effects on the skin.
Alcohol intake begins to starve the body of the essential nutrients it needs, and the more alcohol taken in, the more nutrient depletion that occurs. Many nutrients act as sources of oxygen for the body, particularly for the skin, and the deficiency of oxygen in the skin weakens it against harmful free radicals in the environment. The depletion of the vitamin A supply, which occurs with alcohol intake also has bad consequences for the skin, as vitamin A is crucial to the proper functioning, protection and overall health of the skin. Depletion of vitamin A makes the skin more susceptible to bacteria, in addition to reducing the suppleness and thickness of the skin. Since vitamin A helps cell turnover, meaning the replacement of dead skin cells with new ones, its depletion inhibits skin radiance and causes an uneven skin tone. The following listed effects of alcohol on the skin have a lot to do with vitamin A depletion.
Skin hydration is extremely important to the health and appearance of the skin. Just as alcohol dehydrates the body internally and causes an intense "hangover" thirst, alcohol also dehydrates the skin, causing it to lose its dewy appearance, and magnifying any pre-existing skin irregularities, such as fine lines and wrinkles. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it draws water from the body, thereby lowering the body's water level and causing dehydration. Certain drinks have an even greater power to dehydrate the skin, since the alcohol inhibits the release of an antidiuretic hormone. Dehydrated skin looks dry and unhealthy, both in color and texture. People with naturally dry skin suffer more intense effects of alcohol dehydration.
The natural aging process entails a slow-down of elastin and collagen production, which are the necessary proteins for keeping the skin thick, firm, strong and youthful-looking. Vitamin A boosts collagen production in the skin. The natural aging process' slow-down of collagen and elastin leads to wrinkles and other natural skin conditions of old age, such as thinning skin. Drinking alcohol greatly intensifies and speeds up this natural aging process, causing premature aging, which can add aging effects that might not have otherwise occurred. The deficiency of oxygen and vitamin A supply in the skin also inhibit collagen and elastin production, depleting firmness and plumpness of the skin. Premature aging means that wrinkles and skin discoloration occur long before they're due. Add the dehydration side effect and the visibility of premature aging is even worse.
Many excessive drinkers have blotchy and red skin that is visibly similar to the effects of rosacea. Alcohol intake causes blood to flow closely to the skin's surface, since alcohol causes the skin's small blood vessels to widen and gather there, as though reaching out for oxygen. Fair-skinned people are especially prone to this facial redness. One instance of drinking can produce flushed skin, and a long-term drinking habit causes permanently red and blotchy skin. This opening up of the blood vessels also creates puffiness, which is why many drinkers appear to have a puffy face and puffy under-eyes.
Borken Capillaries and Visible Veins
The redness in the skin that occurs from drinking alcohol can worsen into broken capillaries and visible veins. The capillary dilation from alcohol intake can eventually dilate the capillaries so much that they burst, creating visible red and purple veins, especially around the nose and on the cheeks. Some naturally fair-skinned people who drink excessively appear to have a purple nose--this is the result of many tiny broken capillaries and visible veins that collectively create the purple "drinker's nose," as it's called in Ireland.
Liver and Skin Relation
Most people know that alcohol can do the most damage to the liver, but it is a lesser known fact that alcohol's effect on the liver actually causes a sallow appearance in the face when the liver is stressed out and can't perform its duties properly. Just as alcohol can encourage scar tissue or "bad collagen" growth in the liver, it can also have this effect on the skin.
Isobel Washington has been a freelance journalist since 2007. Washington's work first surfaced in Europe, where she served as a restaurant critic and journalist for "LifeStyles" magazine. Her love of travel and culture inspired her first novel, which is currently underway. Washington has a 10-year career in marketing communication and holds a Bachelor of Science degree.