Alcohol causes a whole series of psychic and physical manifestations, ranging from minor to major. Among its milder consequences we can feel redness in the face, after drinking a few glasses of wine or beer we can observe how our face turns red. The specific technical term for this condition is “alcohol flushing reaction”.
In addition, many people experience facial redness when drinking alcohol, it is not the only manifestation in relation to the face, there are other less known and frequent, but more serious ones. In this article we expose them all signs of alcoholism on the face that can be found in a person.
What are the main signs of alcoholism on the face?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcoholism is defined as “any impairment of a person’s physical, mental or social functioning, the nature of which reasonably suggests that alcohol is part of the causal link to the origin of the said disorder”.
To eliminate alcohol, our liver breaks down ethanol which enters our stomach and intestines and circulates in our blood. Certain digestive enzymes help metabolize and break down alcohol before our bodies eliminate it. Additionally, the alcoholic byproducts created after they are broken down in the body can cause unwanted symptoms on many levels.
Among the physical signs in alcoholics, certain manifestations vis-à-vis the face stand out, such as facial redness, skin infections, acne…. Let us then see the most striking expressions of alcohol in the physiognomy of the face.
1. Facial redness
“Alcohol flushing reaction” refers to flushing that occurs after drinking alcohol. In some people, this effect occurs every time they drink a glass or two of wine.. However, in others it only happens when they ingest large amounts. Even so, we can consider this reaction to be frequent.
The most important factor in determining whether we turn red after drinking beer is genetics. This is related to the deficiency of a specific protein. Well people with a deficiency in the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (known as ALDH2) are more likely to suffer from this redness, even due to the consumption of small amounts of ethanol.
But what makes this enzyme responsible for facial redness? ALDH2 is responsible, among other things, for the process of eliminating toxic substances after alcohol consumption. By presenting low levels of this enzyme, all the toxic components that should have been expelled accumulate in our organism, causing the dilation of blood vessels and, consequently, the reddening of the skin, especially that of the face and neck. .
Over time and excessive alcohol consumption, this facial redness can lead to cuperosiswhat we commonly call “vascular spiders”, this refers to the visibility of blood capillaries through the skin of the face.
2. Skin infections
Skin infections and sores on the face are other common signs that can be seen on the face of people who suffer from alcoholism. It happens because Excessive alcohol consumption can affect a person’s immune system and, therefore, it is more prone to all types of infections, including skin infections.
In addition, alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the skin. Additionally, the dryness, coupled with exposure to painful infections, makes visible sores and more emaciated skin than usual.
3. Yellow skin
The manifestations on the face of an alcoholic person may be the consequence of conditions in other systems or organs of the body. Chronic alcohol can lead to various types of diseases, the liver is one of the organs most affected by excessive alcohol consumption, since it is responsible for its decomposition. There are three major clinical pictures of hepatopathy produced, of minor to major severity: alcoholic hepatic steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis. These are more or less serious inflammations of the liver.
One of the consequences of alcoholic hepatitis is a yellowish tint to the skin and the whites of the eyes. Although, depending on genetics, there may be people who drink in moderation and suffer from alcoholic hepatitis, it is important to stop consuming alcohol knowing that we suffer from this disease.
4. Facial Hair Growth
Facial hair growth in women may be due to high levels of so-called male hormones (androgens). Alcohol does not produce these hormones directly, the excess production of androgens in the body is the last consequence of a series of metabolic reactions.
Alcohol has a high sugar content. Thus, by consuming large quantities of alcohol, we consume, consequently, large quantities of glucose that our body must metabolize; this causes greater production of the hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, to regulate blood sugar. In the frequently consuming large amounts of glucosethere is a risk of developing a condition known as insulin resistance, cells capable of storing glucose begin to respond in a deficient manner.
When insulin resistance occurs, the result leads to high production of androgens in the bodycausing the appearance of acne or hirsutism (excessive hair growth in women).
5. Premature aging
Alcohol has several effects on the skin, including premature aging. As we mentioned above, excessive alcohol consumption can cause dry skin. It happens becauseAlcohol dehydrates us faster and our skin loses fluids. On the other hand, this loss of water leads to a loss of vitamins and nutrients, for example the loss of vitamin A, which helps our skin to stay healthy and young.
6. Facial swelling
Drinking alcohol can cause our body to retain fluids in the face, thereby causing swelling. This is called facial edema and it responds to various causes. In the case of alcohol, this leads a state of dehydration that the body tries to compensate for by retaining watertherefore, the blood vessels widen and swell.
7. Red eyes
Constant and excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages causes red blood cells to carry less oxygen, so the fine blood vessels in the sclera of the eyes dilate. This causes more blood to pass through these “ducts”which makes it possible to appreciate at a glance the redness of the eyes.
8. Dry and fragile hair
Drinking heavily can damage hair and cause alopecia; although it does not cause hair loss by itself. Hair may be drier when you drink alcohol. As we mentioned earlier, alcohol causes dehydration in our body. This dehydration can further damage hair strands, which are a cyclical process in the body..
On the other hand, high levels of alcohol in the blood reduce the levels of vitamin B16, which is essential for maintaining the amount of red blood cells in the body, as well as the amount of oxygen in the blood. Vitamin C decreases significantly, zinc being necessary, the basic mineral for the formation of keratin, the quantity of which decreases. Collagen is vital for the structural integrity of the body, and the lack of vitamins C and E causes this decrease in quantity.
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- Liu, SW; Link, MH; Fenske, NA (2010). The effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the skin. Dermatology Clinics, 28(4): p. 391 – 399.
- Moonat, S.; Pandey, SC (2012). Stress, epigenetics and alcoholism. Alcohol Research, 34(4): pp. 495 – 505.