The Relationship Between Alcohol and Skin
It is true that long-term, heavy alcohol consumption can have detrimental effects human organs. This may include liver and disease, pancreatitis, and esophageal cancer. However, alcoholism also has the potential to effect every tissue in the human body – and skin is no exception.
The following is a compiled list of conditions which reveal the relationship between alcohol and skin.
Rosacea is a chronic flushing of the skin, usually found in the cheek and nose area. Rosacea has a complex etiology, as skin type, genetics, and lifestyle all play a role. It is considered an inflammatory disease, and is often exacerbated by sun damage, heat, exercise, drinking alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods. In the rosacea patient, the blood vessels in the face are either genetically weak or weakened by years of abuse (i.e. sun exposure). The vessels dilate, and in addition to being unsightly and disfiguring, can burn and become painful. Persons with a propensity for rosacea should definitely avoid drinking alcohol, as rosacea may exhibit the strongest link between alcohol and skin.
Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by thick patches of dry, flaky, itchy skin. It is a genetic disease that causes the skin cells to grow too rapidly, thus creating a buildup of skin that does not exfoliate properly. Common places for psoriasis to occur include the extremities – arms, legs, hands, and feet. However, psoriasis can also attack the scalp and other areas of the body. Like rosacea, it is an inflammatory disease, and is also positively correlated with excessive alcohol use. The exact reason for this unknown, but it’s been speculated to involve alcohol’s immune system-suppressing properties combined with the immune dysfunction seen in psoriasis patients.
Urticaria, or hives, is an itchy skin reaction to some allergen. Strangely, for persons sensitive to alcohol, drinking may induce this condition as a sort of allergic reaction. Similarly, alcohol can also cause flushing or overheating, resulting in a heat rash. Persons with a sensitivity to drinking may not be allergic to the alcohol itself, but in the byproducts and other components also present in the drink.
Alcohol and Skin Infections
Perhaps the scariest of all is how alcohol abuse compromises the immune system, due both to malnutrition and increased trauma to the body. Chronic alcoholics are more prone to bacterial blood infections, impetigo, cellulitis, folliculitis, and necrotic wounds.
Finally, because chronic alcoholism can cause vitamin deficiencies, skin conditions associated with those deficiencies are more likely to occur. These are the symptoms, followed by their respective deficiencies:
Dry skin and rough follicles (Vitamin A)
Waxy skin (Vitamin B1 Thiamine)
Cracked mouth (Vitamin B2 Riboflavin)
Pellagra (Vitamin B3)
Scurvy (Vitamin C)
In general, alcohol’s superior ability to compromise the immune system may contribute to any inflammatory skin condition. The presence of alcohol itself may not be wholly responsible for the disorder, but it can certainly exacerbate existing symptoms.
If you suspect you or someone you know is an alcoholic, please seek assistance immediately.