How alcohol affects your appearance
Drinking alcohol can affect your appearance in a variety of ways
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Alcohol can have a variety of effects on our appearance, from the way your skin and eyes look, to your weight and body odour.
Alcohol dehydrates your body, including the skin – and this happens every time you drink.1
When you drink, the dehydrating (or ‘diuretic’) effect of alcohol means your skin loses fluid and nutrients that are vital for healthy-looking skin. This can make your skin look wrinkled, dull and grey, or bloated and puffy. Dehydrated skin may also be more prone to some types of eczema.2
The effect of alcohol on your immune system and the way your circulatory system works affect the skin too. Drinking alcohol can cause or worsen psoriasis3 (a condition that causes flaky skin) and rosacea4 (redness or flushing on the face).
Regularly drinking more than the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMOs) low risk drinking guidelines (no more than 14 units a week, with several drink-free days) harms your liver. One of the signs of severe alcohol-related liver disease is jaundice – a yellowing of the skin and of the whites of the eyes.
Alcohol contains around seven calories a gram - almost as many as pure fat.
Calories from alcohol are 'empty calories', meaning they have no nutritional value.5 They don’t benefit your body in any way.
And the calories in an alcoholic drink don’t just come from the alcohol – many have additional calories from carbohydrates as well, like sugar or starch. This can make a drink very calorific - for example, 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.
Research has found that the calories people consume through alcohol tend to be additional to the calories they consume in the rest of their diet, rather than a replacement. That means you could be having lots of extra calories ‘passively’, or without thinking about it – and that will lead to weight gain.6
When you drink alcohol, your body prioritises getting rid of it ahead of other processes, because it is recognised as a toxin (poison). Essential tasks like absorbing nutrients and burning fat are interrupted until the alcohol has been processed.7
If you are overweight reducing the amount of alcohol you drink each week is a good way to lose weight.8 And it’s easier to maintain a healthier weight by making sure you drink within the UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines – that means no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days with several drink-free days, and no bingeing.
The dehydrating effect of alcohol can leave your eyes feeling scratchy and dry, as you produce less of the tears that keep your eyes hydrated.9
The liver processes most of the alcohol you drink, but some of it leaves your body through your urine, and breath and sweat. The alcohol in your breath and sweat can result in an unpleasant odour.10
Many of the effects of alcohol on your appearance are reversible if you reduce the amount that you drink.
Cutting back on alcohol - by reducing the amount you drink and having several drink-free days a week – won’t just improve your appearance, it also lowers your risk of serious diseases, including several types of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease and stroke.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers advise that, if you choose to drink, to keep health risks from alcohol low, it’s safest for both men and women to drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days with several drink-free days, and no bingeing.
Arming yourself with strategies and tips can help you or a loved one take small steps towards big results.
 Kazakevich, N., Moody, M. N., Landau, J. M., & Goldberg, L. H. (2011). Alcohol and skin disorders: with a focus on psoriasis. Skin therapy letter, 16(4), 5–6. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21611681/
 Yeomans, M.R. (2010). Alcohol, appetite and energy balance: is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity? Physiology &Behavior, 100(1), 82-89.
 Kwok, A., Dordevic, A.L., Paton, G., Page, M.J. and Truby, H. (2019). Effect of alcohol consumption on food energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 121(5), 481-495.
Last Reviewed: 1st November 2022
Next Review due: 31st October 2025