Is alcohol affecting your appearance?

From your skin to your eyes and weight, drinking alcohol could be impacting the way you look more than you realise.

Most of us know that regularly over-imbibing affects many aspects of our health, but did you ever stop to think about its impact on your appearance?

“Our external appearance is largely dictated by our internal health,” says Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive Dr Erin Lalor.

“Both the short- and long-term effects of alcohol can affect our health and appearance. For example, poorer sleep is often overlooked as a side effect of alcohol consumption, yet sleep is foundational to overall health, wellbeing and can also affect our weight.”

Yup, we could be drinking ourselves out of not only our health and fitness goals, but our beauty goals too.

Here’s what you need to consider.

How alcohol affects skin

You may have experienced that bloated, puffy feeling that can result after a night on the tiles. One of the causes may be the dehydrating effects of alcohol.

“Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases the amount of water we eliminate from our body via our kidneys and urine,” Dr Lalor says.

“It also increases the amount of urine we produce and need to dispose of, which leads to increased water loss and dehydration.”

This, she says, reduces the skin’s ability to adequately remove waste and toxins, leaving it more susceptible to dryness, redness irritation and other skin conditions.

Compounding this is that chronic and heavy alcohol consumption robs our body of vitamin A – which is essential for cell renewal and turnover. Hello wrinkles.

Alcohol and weight gain

We’ve all heard about alcohol’s “empty calories” (meaning they have no nutritional value) but booze can also affect our weight in other more subtle ways.

“For some people, it impacts eating behaviour and food choices,” Dr Lalor says. “For example, they may eat more if they drink alcohol before or during a meal. Or make less healthy food decisions when they’ve consumed alcohol than they otherwise would.”

When you drink alcohol, it is broken down into acetate, which your body burns before any other calorie you’ve consumed or stored.

This means all the other processes that should be taking place (like absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted. And that’s not all.

“Poorer sleep quality is another side effect of alcohol consumption, which can also affect our weight,” Dr Lalor says.

“People may feel less inclined to get up early and exercise if they haven’t had a good night’s sleep.”

Alcohol also affects your eyes… and your odour

“Some people may notice their eyes appear more red when they’ve been consuming alcohol,” explains AFD information officer Laura Bajurny.

“This might be because alcohol can cause the blood vessels in eyes to widen and appear more prominent.”

There’s also the lack of sleep that can lead to red eyes plus nasty dark circles.

And what about the way we smell?

“Alcohol affects everyone differently and some people may find that consuming alcohol affects their body odour while their body is breaking down and excreting the alcohol,” Laura says.

“A small amount of this process happens through breath and sweat, however this will vary depending on the individual.”

Not great for the next day at work.

Consider this next time your pour

“There are no health benefits from alcohol,” Dr Lalor says.

“Cutting back can reduce your risk of injuries, accidents and developing chronic diseases like cancer and can lead to a range of other benefits including better sleep, improved physical health, financial gain and improved relationships.”

Written by Liz McGrath.