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How does alcohol dehydrate your skin?

Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on October 25, 2023

Booze is a diuretic. It acts like a sponge, soaking up moisture inside your body and leaving your skin parched.

But its dehydrating effects go deeper than just flushed moisture. Alcohol compromises your skin’s health and its ability to retain water

Table of Contents

We have good news: your hydration and your skin’s health and beauty can be restored. Raise a glass (of water, of course), and let’s chat about the surprising ways alcohol can affect your skin. 

If you’re a heavy drinker and often experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms whenever you try to cut back, maybe it’s time to seek help. We understand that the decision to end alcohol dependency can be difficult, but it’s also life-changing. Our rehab center welcomes anyone who struggles with addiction.

This is a place to truly reset your life onto the right path. I learned such great healthy habits to live by. The staff are AMAZING so caring and friendly. I consider everyone I met at Ardu family. I truly hope the person looking for an amazing place to begin their new journey starts here.

Ashlee Partridge


How does alcohol affect the skin?

Excessive alcohol consumption isn’t exactly a recipe for good health. Heavy drinking affects your cardiovascular system, compromises brain and liver health, and can muck up your kidney function. 

Booze isn’t a friend to your skin either. Let’s uncork the facts and explore what late-night sipping can do to your skin.

  1. Alcohol can trigger inflammation in your entire body. Ever noticed that your face looks a bit redder and puffier after a night of drinking? That’s alcohol’s inflammatory effects dilating your blood vessels, making your skin appear red and flushed. 
  2. If you’re prone to acne, alcohol isn’t doing you any favors. It can increase oil production in your skin, potentially leading to clogged pores and breakouts. For those already dealing with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, alcohol often exacerbates the symptoms and increases itching, redness, and dryness.
  3. Alcohol also impairs your immune system, making you more susceptible to bacteria and skin issues.
  4. Wrinkles and fine lines might be inevitable, but alcohol can speed up the aging process. It disrupts the production of collagen, a protein that maintains your skin’s elasticity and firmness. 
  5. Alcohol also disrupts your sleep patterns and can leave you looking tired and worn out. It interferes with your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, essential for rejuvenating and giving you that fresh, rested look.

Say goodbye to alcohol once and for all and discover a healthier, more vibrant complexion. Don’t let it control your life and compromise your health any longer. Read more about the detrimental health effects of booze.

Before we shed light on alcohol’s skin-drying effects, let’s see what causes your skin to lose moisture.

What can cause your skin to dehydrate?

Dry skin is a struggle many of us face, especially when we’re not giving our skin the love and care it deserves. Alcohol abuse can certainly contribute, but even without it, our skin can sometimes lose its moisture. 

What’s happening beneath the surface of your skin when it’s parched? Let’s break it down:

  1. Low humidity, harsh weather conditions, and excessive sun exposure can sap moisture from your skin. Cold, dry winters and scorching summer sun are enemies to your hydration game.
  2. The skincare products we use are more important than you think. Harsh cleansers and soaps can strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry and prone to irritation.
  3. While incredibly relaxing, hot showers can also strip away your skin’s natural oils, making your sensitive skin dry and flaky. (Lukewarm showers, on the other hand, can help your skin retain its moisture.)
  4. What you eat matters, not just for your overall health but for your skin as well. A diet lacking essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants starves your skin of nutrients for the nutrients it needs to stay hydrated and healthy.
  5. Diuretics, acne treatments, and many types of prescription medication can dry your skin. 

Beyond the superficial desire for a radiant complexion, hydrated skin is a sign of healthy skin. Hydrated skin is more resistant to aging and acts as a natural barrier, fending off irritants and infections. Well-hydrated skin isn’t just healthier; it’s also way more comfortable, free from that tight, itchy, or flaky sensation. 

As we age, our skin slowly loses its ability to retain moisture and plumpness. It is the natural aging process, but alcohol only magnifies and speeds it up. In fact, heavy alcohol use exacerbates each and every one of the factors above.

If glowing, vibrant skin is your goal, avoid alcohol to slow visible aging and prevent the symptoms of dehydration.

What are the symptoms of alcohol-induced skin dehydration?

When your skin is parched from too much drinking, it can act out in the following ways:

  1. Dry, flaky skin
  2. Redness and irritation
  3. Dull and lackluster appearance
  4. Fine lines and wrinkles
  5. Itchiness
  6. Sensitivity
  7. Acne and breakouts
  8. Uneven texture
  9. Dark circles around the eyes

You may feel attached to that boozy happy hour, but the toxic relationship with alcohol can cost you more than a couple of hangovers. With the right help, you can regain control over your life and heal your body from alcoholism. 

Our alcohol addiction treatment program offers medical support, therapy, and comprehensive aftercare to help you through recovery. Contact Ardu today to begin your life-changing journey. 

How does alcohol dry out your skin?

It isn’t just about having to run to the restroom more often. Alcohol dehydrates the skin by flushing out moisture from both the surface and deeper levels of your dermis.

Alcohol disrupts the skin’s barrier function

Your skin’s natural barrier is essential for retaining moisture and keeping it healthy. The outer layer of the epidermis acts as a permeable barrier, controlling what gets in and what stays out. The stratum corneum is the skin barrier’s front line. It is a layer of compressed, dead skin cells reinforced with ceramides (skin cell fats and lipids) which form a tight seal to lock in moisture. 

Until you pour another glass of wine. 

Alcohol disrupts the skin’s barrier function by weakening that tight seal. This messes with the ceramides, which now lose control over what enters and exits your skin. With alcohol involved, the gate-keeping ceramides become less vigilant, and moisture slips away. 

Alcohol increases urination

As a diuretic, alcohol promotes the production of urine, making you pee more and lose more fluids. As a result, alcohol sucks the moisture out of your skin cells, leaving your body dry.

Here’s how those diuretic effects work:

  • Booze suppresses the release of an antidiuretic hormone called vasopressin from the brain’s pituitary gland. Normally, vasopressin tells your kidneys to reabsorb water. Since alcohol also has terrible effects on your brain, it inhibits the production of vasopressin. (This leaves your brain parched, as well, making room for the infamous hangover headache.) Without proper levels of the antidiuretic hormone, the kidneys release more water, and the vicious cycle of dehydration begins.
  • Your kidneys work overtime to filter out alcohol’s toxins. In doing so, they excrete more water, along with essential salts and minerals. Your body’s water balance gets thrown off, and you’re left feeling high and dry.
  • The liver metabolizes alcohol into a toxic substance, acetaldehyde. To deal with this unwelcome guest, your liver requires extra water. As it prioritizes alcohol metabolism, it hogs all the water in the process. (Find out why alcohol is so damaging to your liver.)

A 2017 study found that alcohol increased urine output in the first four hours after drinking. 

Alcohol hinders nutrient absorption

Your skin needs its supplies of vitamins A, B, C, and E that provide antioxidant benefits. Minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium help your skin regenerate and provide it with energy. Healthy fats such as omega-3s help maintain plump, flexible skin cell membranes. Booze doesn’t just drain water directly from your skin—it also hijacks these skin-loving nutrients. 

One way it does it is by impairing your intestines’ ability to properly absorb key ingredients (e.g., vitamins A and C, zinc, and linoleic acid). Without adequate hydration, they can’t be fully absorbed by your skin.

Another way is by disrupting the way your liver metabolizes these crucial nutrients. Remember how alcohol metabolism takes center stage, hoggin all the attention? The liver processes the alcohol first, leaving less room for vital nutrients to be metabolized and utilized. The resultant nutrient deficiency leaves skin vulnerable to damage, dryness, irritation, and age-accelerating oxidative stress. 

Don’t let booze deprive your skin of water AND nutrients. If you need help to kick off that nasty habit that’s turning your skin to sand, Ardu is here for you. 

It often happens that alcoholics quickly resume drinking to make the terrible symptoms of withdrawal syndrome stop, which only perpetuates the cycle of addiction. Our alcohol detox center can help you break the cycle of dependence.

If you’re struggling with chronic relapse, at Ardu, we help you overcome dependence through comprehensive prevention and recovery services, including our relapse treatment program. We’re here to support you on your journey to lasting recovery.

Alcohol impairs blood circulation

Proper blood circulation is crucial for maintaining healthy, well-hydrated skin. Imagine your circulation as the delivery system that supplies your skin with essential nutrients and oxygen. When everything flows smoothly, your skin looks and feels its best.

Here’s where alcohol throws a wrench in the works. Alcohol makes your blood vessels widen, which, counterintuitively, hampers the efficiency of blood flow. All that expanded volume with lower pressure allows fluid to leak out and pool around tissue. 

Sluggish circulation restricts blood flow to the skin’s deeper layers too. When oxygen and cell-nourishing nutrients can’t reach the dermis, collagen production suffers. Skin loses support and sags. Hello, premature wrinkles.

Alcohol increases inflammation

When you get a cut, infection, or injury, your body induces inflammation as a protective measure. In these situations, inflammation is a good thing, helping your body recover. But if your body thinks there’s a problem when there isn’t, it can create inflammation unnecessarily. This can lead to issues like redness, puffiness, and dry and irritated skin.

Alcohol triggers inflammation by messing with your immune system. Your body, thinking it’s under attack, releases a surge of inflammatory substances. These substances don’t just affect your insides; they also reach the surface of your skin. The inflammation disrupts your skin’s natural moisture balance, making it harder for your skin to remain hydrated and plump. 

A 2021 study on alcohol and psoriasis found that the hairless mice in the study experienced higher inflammation following ethanol administration, which was linked to increased water loss from their skin.

…the skin of ethanol-administrated hairless mice is characterized by attenuated skin hydration with significantly increased transepidermal water loss, up-regulated expression of TNF receptor 2 (TNFR2), decreased production of ceramide and type I collagen and increased plasma TNFα concentrations. 

Over time, this can result in a less-than-vibrant complexion. Do you really want tired, dull skin? Now might be a good time for you to quit drinking and give your skin the care it deserves.

Alcohol disrupts sebum production

Your skin has tiny sebaceous glands, whose job is to produce sebum, which helps maintain your skin’s moisture and protects it from the elements. It’s your natural, built-in moisturizer.

When you indulge in a drink, especially a bit too much, alcohol can throw these sebaceous glands into a frenzy. They start producing more sebum than your skin needs. The result is an oily, unattractive complexion. 

This excess oiliness might sound counterintuitive because we’re talking about dry skin, but bear with us. All this extra sebum can clog your pores and make your skin look greasy—on the outside. Deeper down, it’s severely dehydrated. 

So next time you’re contemplating that extra cocktail, just remember—your skin might prefer a different kind of “dry” humor.

Alcohol depletes your antioxidant levels

Antioxidants are like the defenders of your skin, fighting off rogue elements that can harm your dermis. They come in many forms, with some key players being vitamins C and E, as well as compounds like beta-carotene. These antioxidants work to neutralize harmful molecules known as free radicals, which can wreak havoc on your skin, leading to dryness, fine lines, and other signs of premature aging.

The imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants is called oxidative stress (or oxidative damage). It can cause significant damage to your skin, breaking down collagen and elastin, and harming your overall youthful appearance. When you raise that glass of wine or sip on your cold beer, you’re inviting oxidative stress to the party. 

Alcohol generates free radicals in your body, triggering a chain reaction of skin cell damage. These nefarious molecules break down your skin’s collagen and elastin, two essential components for a supple and hydrated complexion. But they don’t stop there. 

Heavy drinking also depletes your skin’s antioxidant defenses, the very heroes meant to protect your skin from oxidative stress. The more alcohol you consume, the more antioxidants are used up fighting the free radicals, leaving your skin more vulnerable to dehydration and long-term damage. 

In our medical detox center, proper nutritional therapy is an invaluable companion on your journey to recovery. The process of detoxification can be taxing on your body, both physically and emotionally, and the right nutrition can play a crucial role in supporting your well-being and recovering your skin and other organs from the negative effects of alcohol. 

Our nutritional therapy is not just about meals; it’s about nourishing your body and mind during this challenging time. It helps replenish vital nutrients that may be lacking due to alcohol abuse and assists in stabilizing your mood and energy levels. 

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, the first and most important step you can take is to seek help. 

How much alcohol does it take to dehydrate the skin?

Alcohol is alcohol, but not all drinks dehydrate your skin equally. There isn’t a fixed quantity of alcohol that universally dehydrates your skin. Instead, many factors are involved.

  • Quantity. If you drink a significant amount of booze over a short period, it can make you intoxicated quickly and seriously affect your hydration levels. The more alcohol you consume, the less water your body retains, and that’s a big problem for your skin.
  • Type of alcohol. It’s not just about how much you drink but also what you’re drinking. Spirits like vodka, whiskey, or rum typically contain more alcohol than beer or wine. The higher the alcohol content, the more dehydrating the drink can be. 
  • Hydration and diet. If you’re well-hydrated and maintain a balanced diet, your skin is better equipped to handle occasional indulgence. However, if you’re already robbing your body of fluids and vital nutrients, alcohol’s diuretic effects can magnify your dehydration.
  • Skin type. Those with naturally dry skin might experience alcohol’s dehydrating properties more than those who have naturally oily skin. 
  • Age. Older skin tends to be drier and loses elasticity and moisture content more easily than youthful, plump skin.
  • Weight. Heavier drinkers tend to need more alcohol to feel intoxicated, so they consume larger quantities which can dehydrate the body and the skin. Lower body weight also indicates less fluid reserves.
  • Overall health. If you’re already in poor health, alcohol may easily aggravate hydration challenges. Pre-existing conditions, medications, or illnesses make you more prone to dehydration. 

Here’s how different alcoholic drinks stack up when it comes to depriving your skin of moisture.

Type of alcohol

Approximate volume for skin dehydration


3–4 glasses


2–3 cans (4–6 pints)

Hard liquor (vodka, whiskey, rum)

2–3 shots


3–4 glasses

Champagne/sparkling wine

2–3 glasses

These percentages are just a ballpark. Everyone’s skin is unique, and factors like your age, weight, overall health, and hydration levels can affect how your skin responds to the booze in your glass. 

Are the effects of alcohol on the skin reversible?

There’s no sugarcoating this: alcohol can inflict some serious damage to your skin. But your skin has an incredible ability to bounce back. Even if you’re a long-term drinker, once you eliminate alcohol, your skin will recover and start regenerating itself. 

Let’s delve into the possibilities of alcohol-free, vibrant, and hydrated skin.

  • Once you quit alcohol, your body can rehydrate more effectively. Skin that was once parched can slowly regain its natural moisture.
  • Your skin’s protective barrier can start to heal itself. It rebuilds the natural defenses that booze compromised, which helps in retaining moisture and defending against irritants.
  • As the alcohol-induced inflammation triggers fade away, your skin becomes calmer and less prone to dryness. 
  • Your collagen production slowly returns to normal, allowing your skin to regain its youthful elasticity and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • In the battle between free radicals and antioxidants, once you take booze out of the equation, the antioxidants can resume their protective and nourishing roles. 
  • Your skin also restores equilibrium in the sebum production. You’ll have just the right amount of that natural moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated and glowing on the outside and the inside.

Despite the negative effects of excessive alcohol, the resilience of your skin is something to raise a glass of water to. With the right care, your skin can regain its health, hydration, and vitality. 

You can reverse some effects of excessive alcohol intake but don’t wait too long. We help you quit drinking in a safe and comfortable environment. Learn all about our outpatient treatment program that allows you to receive treatment while still living at your home. 

Wherever you are, we offer the necessary support and resources to help you overcome binge drinking and develop healthier habits.

Tips on how to stay hydrated

If you really want to restore your skin’s glow, the first step is to throw booze out of your life. For good. It’s a tough call, but when you think of the alternative—dry, damaged, lackluster skin, for starters—the choice becomes easier. 

There are a few more additional steps you can take to ensure your skin thrives. 

  1. Stay hydrated. Ditch the booze and hug your water bottle because water is your skin’s best friend. Aim for at least eight glasses of water a day (more if you’re physically active or in hot weather). 
  2. Moisturize. A quality moisturizer is another one of your BFFs. Look for products that contain hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin and avoid those that are alcohol-based. (There’s evidence that topical creams, moisturizers, and hand sanitizers containing alcohol may potentially be carcinogenic.)
  3. Cleanse your skin. Use a mild, hydrating cleanser to clean your face. Avoid harsh soaps that strip your skin of its natural oils.
  4. Stick to a balanced diet. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides your skin with essential vitamins and antioxidants. For those long-term effects, include foods high in collagen-boosting nutrients (e.g., vitamin C and protein) that support skin regeneration.
  5. Take care of your liver. Your liver’s health significantly influences your skin’s recovery, so maintain a liver-friendly diet and lifestyle. Avoid excessive fatty foods and alcohol. 
  6. Limit caffeine. Excessive caffeine can have alcohol-like dehydrating properties for your skin, so make sure to balance your coffee intake with water.
  7. Talk to a dermatologist. A skin expert can provide professional guidance, such as what skincare products to use or what treatments are tailored to your skin’s needs. A dermatologist or other healthcare professional can guide you on proper multivitamin supplement intake based on your skin’s specific needs. 

The journey to healthy and hydrated skin starts with a conscious decision to limit or quit alcohol. 

Do you want to quit drinking?

At Ardu Recovery Center, we understand that the journey to quit drinking is unique for each patient. That’s why we offer a range of detox programs to meet varying needs. Our skilled medical professionals are dedicated to providing you with the personalized care you need to navigate this challenging time successfully. 

Our outpatient treatment program allows you to receive treatment without committing to our inpatient facility, providing flexibility and support tailored to your needs. For those requiring a higher level of care, we offer an inpatient treatment program. With 24/7 support and medical care, this program is especially beneficial for people facing severe addiction.

Our holistic detox addresses the underlying causes of excessive drinking. Through therapy, counseling for alcohol misuse, and other evidence-based practices, we help you understand and manage the triggers and behaviors associated with binge drinking. You’ll see why our holistic center is one of the best addiction recovery centers in Utah.

Our team of highly trained and compassionate addiction specialists is dedicated to supporting you throughout the recovery process. We provide resources, counseling for alcohol misuse, and access to support groups to help you maintain your progress and prevent relapse. At Ardu Recovery Center, we will help you end your alcohol dependence and achieve a healthier, more fulfilling life free from the negative consequences of alcohol addiction.

Alcohol and skin FAQ

Which alcohol causes dehydration?

All types of alcoholic drinks cause dehydration because the alcohol inhibits the release of antidiuretic hormones, increasing urine output and fluid loss. Beverages with higher alcohol content like liquor will typically dehydrate the body faster than lower alcohol drinks like beer or wine. All alcohol consumption, regardless of the type or amount, causes some level of increased urination and water loss.

Do alcoholics have skin problems?

Heavy drinking over many years often leads to skin issues. Dehydration, poor nutrition, and cirrhosis cause skin dryness, flushing, spider angiomas, jaundice, easy bruising, and itchy skin. Chronic inflammation also accelerates aging, resulting in puffy complexions, enlarged pores, wrinkles, and dull tone. Alcoholics may also experience more adult acne, psoriasis, rosacea, eczema flare-ups, and other common skin conditions. 

What is alcohol-related flushing of the skin?

Alcohol-induced flushing results in reddish patches on the face, neck, and chest due to an accumulation of acetaldehyde, a toxic metabolite of alcohol breakdown. It occurs frequently in people of East Asian descent who have a genetic variant of aldehyde dehydrogenase. Skin flushing caused by alcohol is not dangerous, but it signals high acetaldehyde levels in the blood.

Will my skin improve if I stop drinking?

When you stop drinking, your skin can rebound and show significant improvement over time. The lack of alcohol’s dehydrating effects will restore moisture and suppleness. Collagen production can increase without alcohol’s inflammatory damage. Skin tones and textures will even out and brighten without dilated capillaries. These are all great news and the perfect motivation to quit drinking and restore your skin health.

What should I eat after drinking alcohol?

After a night of drinking, hydrating foods and drinks are best the next morning. Water, juices, smoothies, fruits, vegetables, eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, and whole grains help replenish depleted fluids, electrolytes, and nutrients. Foods rich in potassium like bananas and coconut water can counterbalance alcohol’s diuretic effect. Vitamin C from citrus and leafy greens aids liver detox. Avoid greasy foods which can worsen nausea.

Does drinking alcohol affect your face?

Regular heavy alcohol consumption causes many negative effects on facial skin over time. 

  • Dehydration reduces elasticity leading to sagging. 
  • Dilated blood vessels create visible redness and spider veins. 
  • Nutrient deprivation slows cell turnover. 
  • Dark under-eye circles emerge. 
  • Puffy complexions develop from inflammation. 
  • Skin tone becomes uneven and dull. 

But the good news is faces can significantly rebound after quitting drinking through proper skincare.

Does alcohol age you?

Excessive long-term alcohol intake does indeed accelerate skin aging. Alcohol’s diuretic nature and nutrient deficiency quicken the development of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging. Increased oxidative stress destroys collagen and elastin. Inflammation enlarges pores. Facial redness persists from dilated capillaries. Together these alcohol-induced skin changes make faces appear much older than they should. 

However, when you cease alcohol consumption, these harmful effects can be slowed down and even reversed. 

Does vodka clear skin?

Vodka does not clear up skin. Vodka is ethanol derived from fermented grains or potatoes, not a skin treatment. While vodka has no direct skin benefits, some people mistakenly attribute temporary vasoconstriction from drinking to improved appearance.

Vodka, like all other types of alcohol, ultimately dehydrates the skin and promotes inflammation, worsening acne and complexion. If you’re seeking clear skin, avoid alcohol altogether and implement a proper skincare routine.


Polhuis, K., Wijnen, A. H. C., Sierksma, A., Calame, W., & Tieland, M. (2017, June 28). The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverages in Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial. Nutrients; Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9070660

Szentkereszty-Kovács, Z., Gáspár, K., Szegedi, A., Kemény, L., Kovács, D., & Törőcsik, D. (2021, May 7). Alcohol in Psoriasis—From Bench to Bedside. International Journal of Molecular Sciences; Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22094987

Lachenmeier, D. W. (2008, January 1). Safety evaluation of topical applications of ethanol on the skin and inside the oral cavity. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology; BioMed Central. https://doi.org/10.1186/1745-6673-3-26

Further reading

Is alcohol a drug?

Why does alcohol give me belly fat?

What’s the difference between alcohol abuse and addiction?

How does my alcohol addiction affect my family?

Why is alcohol neurotoxic?

Can booze make my gout worse?

How can I come to terms with my alcohol addiction?

How do I tell my family I have an addiction?

How do I do an intervention?