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Alcohol and Health

Can Alcohol Cause Wrinkles? How Drinking Can Make You Look Older

August 7, 2023
8 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 7, 2023
8 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 7, 2023
8 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 7, 2023
8 min read
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Reframe Content Team
August 7, 2023
8 min read

Let’s face it: many of us are afraid to get old. Everywhere you look, there are creams, serums, products, and magic elixirs that promise to help us look young. In the U.S. alone, the anti-aging market grew from $3.9 billion in 2016 to $4.9 billion in 2021. Some projections say it will reach $23 billion by 2028.

But what if we told you that there’s something incredibly simple we can do to help protect our youth? And that it doesn’t require spending any money? That’s right — eliminating or cutting back on our alcohol consumption is one of the best things we can do for our appearance. But why? Let’s talk about it!

How Alcohol Affects Our Skin

Alcohol can have serious impacts on our complexion. In fact, drinking excessively is known to cause redness and dry, wrinkly skin. This is because alcohol dehydrates our body, including the skin. Every time we drink, we lose fluid and nutrients that are vital for healthy-looking skin. This can make our skin look wrinkled, dull, gray, or bloated and puffy. The effects of dehydration are so pronounced that studies show a woman who has been drinking for 20 or 30 years will have significantly more wrinkles than someone the same age who hasn’t drunk at all. The drinking woman can appear 10 years older than the non-drinking woman.

Alcohol can also cause a deficiency of nutrients like vitamin A, which helps with cell regeneration and collagen production — both of which are essential to youthful skin. Over time, this deficiency can cause our skin to lose all elasticity and become wrinkled.

Furthermore, alcohol is a vasodilator; it expands blood vessels. Drinking alcohol on a regular basis leads to enlarged blood vessels in the face. Over time, this can lead to a loss of skin tone and a permanent red color. We also might notice the formation of spider veins — damaged, visible blood vessels just beneath our skin that are red, blue, or purple in color.

It’s also worth noting that drinking alcohol can also increase our risk of developing skin conditions, such as psoriasis, rosacea, or eczema. If we already have these conditions, consuming alcohol can make symptoms even worse.

5 ways alcohol makes us look older

Other Ways Alcohol Makes Us Look Older

Alcohol’s effect on our skin is only one of the ways it causes us to look older. Here are a few more ways alcohol affects our appearance:

  • Lack of sleep: Alcohol can significantly disrupt our sleep cycle.Although it can help us fall asleep quickly, it reduces the time we spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is vital for our physical and mental restoration. In fact, research suggests that just a single night of sleep deprivation can speed up cellular aging. On the other hand, good sleep patterns can actually add years to our life. Over time, inadequate sleep can cause us to look and feel much older than we are. It’s not uncommon for heavy drinkers to have puffy eyes or bags.
  • Weight gain: Most alcoholic beverages are high in empty calories, sugar, and carbohydrates. If we’re drinking regularly, it’s likely we’ll experience weight gain. Alcohol also increases our appetite, making us susceptible to consuming more calories than we would otherwise.
  • Furthermore, sugar has been linked to faster aging and is detrimental to our skin’s health. A diet high in sugar can cause oily skin, acne breakouts, and even wrinkles.
  • Aging eyes: Alcohol can also cause our eyes to age prematurely. Drinking causes irritation of the blood vessels in our eyes. This is why heavy drinking often results in bloodshot eyes. Similarly, the dehydrating effect of alcohol can leave our eyes feeling scratching and dry.
  • Furthermore, almost every adult deals with what’s known as arcus senilis — a gray ring around the colored part of our eye — by the time they’re 80. Research shows that people who drink heavily have a 33% greater chance of getting this condition before they turn 60.
  • Hair changes: While there’s no direct link between alcohol consumption and hair loss, researchers believe that drinking heavily leads to nutritional deficiencies or hormonal problems that can affect the health of our hair. For instance, too much alcohol in the body can prevent absorption of zinc, copper, and protein, which are vital for healthy skin, hair, and nails. Zinc deficiency in particular can lead to hair loss. Similarly, dehydration from alcohol can cause our hair to look dry and brittle.
  • Poor hygiene: People who drink heavily can easily forget to practice a normal hygiene routine. For instance, they may forget to wash their face or brush their teeth. Habitual actions like these can lead to cavities and acne that can cause us to appear older.

Furthermore, while our liver processes most of the alcohol we drink, some of it leaves our body through our urine, breath, and sweat. This can result in an unpleasant odor. Even one night of drinking can lead to changes in smell, but the more we drink, the more likely we’re to emit an unpleasant odor that is not typical for a young and healthy person.

Research Confirms It: Alcohol Accelerates Cellular Aging

While a lot of these changes can be seen outwardly, it’s worth noting that research has found that drinking alcohol can accelerate the aging process at a biological level. In fact, the more we drink, the greater our chances of damaging cells at a biological level, causing them to age prematurely.

One study in particular showed that heavy drinkers and those with alcohol use disorder were significantly more likely to have short telomeres — an essential part of our chromosomes linked to aging and overall health. This is significant because it further validates the changes we see occur on the surface in people who regularly consume alcohol.

The Bottom Line

Reducing our alcohol consumption or eliminating it entirely is one of the simplest (and cheapest!) things we can do to protect our youth. Drinking alcohol can cause wrinkly, dry skin from dehydration and lead to poor sleep, weight gain, and changes in eye and hair health that cause us to look older.

It’s never too late to cut back on our alcohol consumption. Even if we’ve noticed changes in our appearance from alcohol, we may be able to reverse the effects by changing our drinking habits. Reframe can help.

Stay Healthy and Look Younger with Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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