While drinking a moderate amount of alcohol may not be harmful, excessive alcohol consumption can have short and long-term health effects. Alcohol damage to your brain and other vital organs is not visibly obvious. However, your bathroom mirror cannot hide the negative changes to your appearance.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. The alcohol in beer, wine, and liquor is ethyl alcohol, which results from the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. A standard-sized drink, such as a 12-ounce beer or 5-ounce glass of wine, contains about .6 ounces of pure ethanol.

If you've ever been hung over, you know how it makes you sickly look the following morning. Fortunately, the symptoms quickly pass. Prolonged heavy drinking, however, permanently alters your appearance.

Signs of Excess Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol contains unnecessary calories, which can lead to unwanted weight gain and bloating. It dehydrates your body, including your hair and skin, causing wrinkles and other unsightly changes. For example, your skin may become dry and develop an unhealthy pallor. Alcohol contributes to acne and may exacerbate existing skin conditions, such as rosacea or psoriasis. Your hair and nails may become brittle because alcohol depletes the body of critical vitamins and minerals, and you may even lose some of your hair.

Drinking alcohol causes the small blood vessels in your face to dilate. As you continue to drink, eventually some of these vessels burst, producing the classic telltale signs of an alcoholic: red nose, red cheeks, and blood shot eyes. Women can partially hide these flaws with makeup; however, the signs of long-term alcohol abuse generally overpower the coverage of makeup.

On the online forum SoberRecovery.com, recovering alcoholics describe some of the ways alcohol has affected their appearance. They say it causes:

  • Bloating
  • Unhealthy skin color, pasty white skin
  • Dark, puffy bags under the eyes
  • Acne and red blotches
  • Hair loss
  • Dull eyes
  • Unexplained rash

Restoring Your Appearance

You can reverse many of these unpleasant side effects. People who reduce their alcohol consumption lose weight and notice a profound difference in their skin and eyes. Drinking water hydrates your skin and organs and flushes accumulated toxins from your body.

If prolonged drinking has taken its toll on your appearance, a new app called Drinking Mirror shows you how reducing your alcohol intake can make dramatic improvements. Simply upload a photo of yourself and the app will show you how your looks will change over 10 years with even small reductions in alcohol consumption.

Liesa Harte, MD, reviewed this article.



Bateman, Matthew. "How Alcohol Affects Your Appearance." DrinkAware.com. Web. 10 Dec 2012. http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-and-you/health/how-alcohol-affects-your-appearance

NegativeEffectsofAlcohol.com. "What Alcohol Can Do to Your Appearance." Forum. Web.

SoberRecovery.com. "Physical Appearance." Forum. Web.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Alcohol." Web. December 2012.

DrinkSmarter.org. "Drinking Mirror App." Web.

DrinkSmarter.org. The Visible Effects. Web.