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San Diego Sober Living - Recovery

The Impact of Alcohol on Your Looks: Aging, Dehydration, & Recovery

In the history of Hollywood stars whose careers were impacted by alcoholism, a few leading men tragically stand out as having lost their good looks just as their careers were taking off. Errol Flynn and William Holden are examples from the Golden Age of Hollywood. More recent examples include Macaulay Culkin of Home Alone fame and the late Matthew Perry of the iconic ’90s television sitcom Friends. Although Culkin and Perry also struggled with addiction to other substances, their excessive drinking had already alarmed film producers and makeup artists who saw how the stars were quickly aging before their time.

Direct Effects of Drinking on the Skin

Drinking in moderation doesn’t have an extremely deleterious effect on the skin. You have to consume ethanol at levels that become moderately hepatotoxic before negative effects can be seen, and this can happen during any phase of alcohol use disorder (AUD). 


Your skin will visibly react when your liver has grown tired of filtering ethanol molecules. This usually happens when you’ve drunk enough to cause a terrible hangover the next day. Your skin goes from red and flushed to dry, gray, and sometimes yellow. Dark circles form under your eyes, and your face feels like it’s going to fall off because it has lost elasticity. The ethanol hepatotoxins have deprived your skin of vitamins your liver is having a hard time metabolizing.

Instant Dehydration of the Skin

AUD is a paradox because you’re simultaneously drinking and getting dehydrated in the process. Some beverages are more diuretic than others, thus compounding the issue of dehydration through constant urination. This is an issue many beer drinkers deal with. 

AUD causes a disruption of the water reabsorption process at the dermis, which results from impaired release of the vasopressin hormone. Those puffy skin folds many alcoholics deal with for years are there because the dermis retains water under distress.

Inflammation, Insomnia, & Premature Aging

Skin and muscle tissue can be deeply affected by AUD beyond liver function. All those hours of poor sleep caused by excessive drinking will add up to general damage. Alcoholics who deal with insomnia for many years tend to age very rapidly, and this will be reflected in their skin and muscle tone, particularly if they’re not physically active. 

There may come a point in the lives of AUD patients where they look bloated even after taking diuretics such as Lasix. This is no longer a dermal issue but a systemic one because the liver and the immune system are operating under duress.

Looking Younger with AUD Recovery

It’s not unusual for residents of a facility such as an Encinitas sober living home to start looking better just a few days after the program begins. Healthcare professionals at inpatient detoxification facilities are used to seeing patients look a couple of years younger by the time they go through counseling. 


We’re not talking about people who look more youthful when they smile. Some patients recover significant skin elasticity in a short time, and others completely shed their bloated look after a couple of days. Of the few things that are certain in life, this one is pretty reliable: you’ll look better and younger once AUD is out of the way. 

If you’re newly sober and you need help with avoiding relapse, call on the compassionate team at Casa Pacifica. Along with providing sober living housing for men in Encinitas, we work with our individual residents to develop customized plans that integrate treatment, aftercare, and recovery support. Our services include sober companionship, coaching, and mentorship for those who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. For more information about our sober living facilities, call us today.

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