How alcohol affects your appearance

Drinking alcohol can affect our appearance in a variety of ways.

Alcohol can have a variety of effects on our appearance, from the way our skin looks to our weight.

How alcohol affects skin

Alcohol dehydrates our bodies, including the skin – this happens every time we drink. 

Drinking alcohol can also cause our faces to look bloated and puffy. We might find that it bloats our stomach too. This is caused by the dehydrating effects of alcohol.

Alcohol and weight gain

Calories from alcohol are 'empty calories', meaning they have no nutritional value. They don’t benefit your body in any way. Different alcoholic drinks have different calorie content and many are high in sugar. A pint of lager can contain the same amount of calories as a slice of pizza, or a large glass of wine the same an ice cream sundae.

Drinking alcohol will add to the overall calories we consume each day from the food we eat. Consuming extra calories through drinking can lead to weight gain.

Drinking alcohol reduces the amount of fat our bodies burns for energy. While we can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in our bodies, we can't store alcohol, so our systems want to get rid of it, and this takes priority. All other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.

If someone is overweight and they drink alcohol, they should find that their weight falls noticeably by reducing the amount of alcohol they drink each week. And it is easier to maintain a healthier weight by not starting to drink more again.


Alcohol causes the tiny blood vessels in our eyes to widen. This forces more blood to flow through them, leaving them looking bloodshot. Alcohol can also disrupt our sleep, contributing to dark circles around the eyes.


The liver processes most of the alcohol we drink, but some of it leaves the body straight through the breath, sweat and urine, which can result in an unpleasant odour.

How to reduce the effects of alcohol on your appearance

Many of the effects of alcohol on our appearance are reversible if we reduce the amount that we drink.

A good way to cut down on the amount we drink is to have several drink-free days each week.

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers advise that, in order to keep the health risks from alcohol to a low level, men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week, spreading it evenly over three or more days.

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