How to Spot an Alcoholic Face

Estimated reading time: 30 minute(s)

Alcohol is notorious for damaging different aspects of life, even in people who use it occasionally. Most people can appreciate its mental and psychological effects, which worsen once a person develops dependence and addiction. However, not many may appreciate the physical effects alcohol consumption can trigger, especially in long-term drinkers. These physical effects are predominantly seen in the facial areas, with various changes not appreciable in non-drinkers.

Learning how to spot an alcoholic face can be an excellent way to support an underlying alcohol use disorder and use it as an indicator for seeking help. Remember that these facial features alone are not enough to form a diagnosis, as the condition is complex and usually requires multiple assessments to reach a conclusion.

How to Spot an Alcoholic Face? Common Features to Notice

Chronic alcohol use can cause multiple changes in the facial appearance of a person. Remember that while these changes may frequently occur in alcoholics, none of them are distinguished features of alcoholism and may have other alternative causes.

Read Also About High Functioning Alcoholism

Following are the features of an alcoholic face as observed in the majority of drinkers:

Puffy Face

Drinking too much alcohol may cause water retention around the face, leading to puffiness and swelling. To add to this effect, using alcohol also causes inflammation and severe damage to the liver, an organ responsible for breaking down and eliminating toxins from the body. As this organ secures damage, it may not work toward toxin elimination as efficiently as it should, causing toxins to build up and trigger facial swelling.

Dark Circles Under Eyes

People who consume too much alcohol may develop dark circles under the eyes, primarily due to disrupted sleep patterns and consistent dehydration. Both factors make the skin surrounding the eyes appear sunken, thinner, and darker and cause blood vessels to become much more visible. These signs may be milder initially but tend to become more visible with time as the body continues to engage in the same battle in every drinking session.

Broken Blood Vessels

Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to spider veins in the face due to how the beverage affects the blood vessels. When an individual drinks, the alcohol content in the body causes the walls of blood vessels to widen and relax. These blood vessels also become much more visible on the face and are highly prone to breaking over time. The more a person drinks, the more likely they are to break these blood vessels. This alcohol-led vessel breakage can happen in any area of the body, including the face.

Drinker’s Nose

Also known as rhinophyma, a drinker’s nose is a phenomenon that may cause a heavy alcoholic’s nose to appear bumpy and thick. These effects are primarily due to the effect of this beverage on blood vessels. When a person drinks, their blood vessels undergo expansion and become more visible. These vessels are also at a higher risk of collapsing or bursting at any point. With time, these vessel changes cause the skin overlying the nose to become thicker and change its texture. In most cases, a drinker’s nose happens as a combination of multiple factors, such as genetics, sun exposure, and heavy drinking. The phenomenon may not be too common as not every alcoholic will experience a drinker’s nose.

Eye Discolouration

Alcohol abuse can affect different body organs, primarily the liver. Liver damage secondary to alcohol causes bile to accumulate in the bloodstream, triggering a condition called jaundice. The symptoms of jaundice may include yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin. In some people, excessive alcohol intake irritates the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to bloodshot eyes. These red eyes are particularly prevalent in people during hangovers.

Injuries and Bruises

Alcoholics generally have low platelet counts and reduced clotting factors due to long-term abuse, making them more vulnerable to bruises and scrapes on different body parts, including the head and face. Some of these bruises may also be a result of falling due to excessive alcohol intoxication.

Disheveled Appearance 

People struggling with longstanding alcohol use disorders may eventually start neglecting their personal grooming and hygiene as they become less of a priority for them. As a result, they may look exhausted, and the lack of sleep due to alcohol use may start showing on their face. Such people frequently smell alcohol from their recent drinking session, which also makes them look generally unkempt and disheveled. They may not shave for days or wash their face regularly, giving the face an untidy appearance.


Drinking has been known to worsen rosacea, especially in females. Rosacea is a long-term skin condition that causes small, red bumps to appear on the face in addition to redness. People already diagnosed with this condition may be at risk of frequent flare-ups secondary to their alcohol use.

Alcohol Flush Reaction

Some people may experience an alcohol flush reaction whenever they engage in drinking sessions. This problem is generally expected in people who are genetically deficient in an enzyme called the aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) enzyme, which is responsible for the breakdown of acetaldehyde.

Spot an Alcoholic Face

Acetaldehyde is a toxic component produced during the breakdown of alcohol in the body. With no ALDH2, the toxin builds up in the body, causing flushing. In addition to facial flushing, people experiencing an alcohol flush reaction may also experience vomiting, nausea, and headaches.

Maximizing Skin Healing after Alcoholism: What to Keep in Mind

If you have developed facial features of alcoholics due to long-term alcohol use, it may indicate that you are struggling with a possible alcohol use disorder. Joining a professional rehab and seeking support can help you recover from the physiological and mental aspects of the addiction. Many people are also interested to know the ways to improve their skin which has undergone excessive damage due to high alcohol intake. For this purpose, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Rejuvenate your skin by drinking water. Alcohol is a diuretic substance that expels water from the body through urine which may cause dehydration.
  • Develop an effective skincare routine according to your skin type and issues. Taking help from a dermatologist may also help in this aspect. In general, adding a moisturizer with antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients, like vitamin B5, can help hydrate and soothe the face and reduce inflammation.
  • Consider sleeping with two pillows instead of one to minimize facial swelling and puffiness around the eyes caused by fluid retention.
  • Optimize your sleeping routine to reduce puffiness of the eyes and face while improving energy levels in general.

Remember that cutting off or limiting alcohol consumption from day-to-day life is usually enough to reverse most signs of alcoholism face. Most people start noticing brighter skin, smaller pores, increased hydration, fewer wrinkles, and less acne and redness within a few weeks after stopping their alcohol use. Consider contacting a skin specialist for tailored advice if no significant difference is noticed.


Are alcoholic face changes enough to determine that someone has an alcohol addiction?

While experts have identified several signs of alcoholism that face changes in people who drink heavily or consistently, it is imperative to remember that these changes alone are not enough to label a person as an alcoholic. For instance, having dark circles under the eyes is a sign of alcoholism but may occur due to other issues, like chronic sleep deficiency. Other features, such as spider veins, may occur as a part of aging, weather changes, or excessive sun exposure, in addition to excessive alcohol consumption. Hence, it is advised not to rely solely on appearances to conclude that someone is fighting alcohol addiction. In most cases, experts perform in-depth assessments and evaluations to support the diagnosis.

Can alcoholism also affect my body weight?

Experts have been successful at confirming the link between alcoholism and body weight. However, this relationship is not straightforward, with different people responding to alcohol intake differently. Factors like how much alcohol a person drinks and the type of alcohol they consume may broadly impact how it impacts the body weight. For instance, some people consume large amounts of calorie-rich alcohol, which may lead to weight gain.

Additionally, alcohol intake also makes them hungrier, leading to overeating which causes additional weight gain. This weight gain can also impact facial shapes, especially if the habits become long-term. At the same time, remember that alcohol can also affect how the body metabolizes nutrients and may even cause muscle loss, leading to weight loss. Sometimes, people start replacing their daily meals with alcohol, experiencing weight loss and thinner face shapes.

Is there a way to reduce the facial features of alcoholics?

Most alcoholic facial features are reversible, especially if people limit their drinking or stop altogether. Cutting back on alcohol not only improves the facial appearance but also improves overall health while reducing the risk of serious diseases, such as heart diseases, types of cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and liver disease.

Why do alcoholics get red faces?

Experiencing redness during alcohol intake indicates that the body is struggling to get rid of toxins from alcohol. The condition may not be an emergency but must not be ignored at the same time. Experiencing redness every time a person drinks indicates that they may be at risk of serious health problems, especially if they continue drinking. Evidence also suggests that people who experience facial redness due to alcohol intake are at a higher risk for cancer, including breast and esophageal cancer. This increased risk is correlated to excessive exposure to acetaldehyde from alcohol, a proven carcinogenic component.

Is there any way to reduce facial redness while drinking alcohol?

Follow the tips mentioned below to minimize facial redness during drinking sessions:

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink per sitting
  • Apply makeup to cover the flushing
  • Use topical rosacea creams, such as oxymetazoline, during drinking sessions
  • Consider taking medications, like Zantac, Tagamet, or Pepcid, during drinking sessions

Remember that the tips mentioned above only provide temporary relief. If alcohol continues to give you facial swelling, contact a doctor to avoid possible risks.

I feel like my alcohol use is becoming a problem. What can I do?

Alcohol addiction is a complex issue that requires compassionate and effective treatment, which many rehabilitation centers offer. These rehab centers have highly-trained professionals with years of experience in treating addiction disorders and can provide a comfortable, non-judgmental, and friendly atmosphere for patients to heal and recover. The team members evaluate each case individually and provide tailored treatment to support each patient best. Most treatment programs also incorporate other aspects of treatment, such as holistic interventions, to support the recovery journey.

Does alcohol make your face puffy?

Alcohol can make the face appear puffier due to its water-retaining properties that cause swelling.

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