What Does an Alcoholic’s Face Look Like?

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Alcohol addiction shall be overcome by people and live a healthy lifestyle. Many of those who have been addicted to alcohol have recovered because of helping themselves get through it.

They shall get help from their loved ones, friends, or even other people who have overcome their addiction to alcohol.

How will they know that they already have an alcohol abuse problem?

Learn the warning sign to be able to control their alcohol addiction.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism  (NIAAA) said that if a parent, sibling, or any other family member had struggled with alcohol addiction, that is already a warning sign to watch out for. 

This is because half of your risk depends on genes.

Physical Warning Signs of Long Term Alcohol Abuse

Long-term alcohol abuse might even be seen on the face. Below are some of the descriptions of an alcoholic’s face.

  • Broken capillaries on the face, including nose
  • Yellowing of eyes and skin which indicates liver damage
  • Dry, wrinkled skin
  • Flushed appearance
  • Aging more rapidly than usual such as an increase in wrinkles and spots of ageing

Too much alcohol intake damages the body, not just the face; thus, you shall make yourself physically fit by staying active and having a healthy lifestyle.

Why Do Alcoholics Have Puffy Faces?

Bloating or having puffy faces is one of the expected effects of drinking alcohol.

Most people are aware of the so-called “beer belly,” a term associated with the stubborn fat created around their middle.

Alcohol of all types like whiskey and beer is comparatively calorie-dense.

These calories denote that excessive drinking can result in fast weight gain.

Apart from weight gain, alcohol can also result in irritation of their gastrointestinal tract, and that causes their face to bloat.

Alcohol is said to be an inflammatory substance.

It means that it triggers to cause swelling in the human body.

This inflammatory may worsen, especially when alcohol is mixed with other stuff like carbonated and sugary liquids, as it will lead to discomfort, gas, and bloating.

After drinking alcohol, people may have experienced puffy and red faces.

This often occurs because alcohol parches the body.

When their body is dehydrated, vital organs like the skin try to grip to hold more water, resulting in bloating in the face and other parts of their body.

How Is Alcohol Bloating Cured?

If drinkers have noticed that they tend to have puffy faces or weight gain after drinking too much alcohol, they need to consider cutting down their liquor consumption.

The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommended the amount of alcohol for men is at least two drinks each day and one drink for women.

An alcohol drink is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of liquor (5% of alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces of alcohol (40% of alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of alcohol (12% alcohol)
  • 8 ounces of malt beer (7% of alcohol)

The human body can metabolize the exact amount of alcohol per hour.

It means that the amount of alcohol to be metabolized depends on their weight, sex, age, and other related factors.

Moderate drinking with a healthy lifestyle can help them in preventing puffy face, beer belly, and other symptoms related to alcohol.

If they keep drinking alcohol, they should always drink water to prevent puffy faces in their stomach and face.

Drinking water can greatly help in preventing its inflammatory body effects.

If they are experiencing bloated while drinking alcohol, switch to water drinking.

There are several ways to prevent a puffy face, and these include the following:

  • Drink and eat moderately to lessen the amount of air that they might swallow.
  • Keep away from carbonated beer and drinks as they trigger the release of carbon dioxide gas.
  • Stay away from hard or gum candy as these may suck in more air.
  • Stop smoking as it causes the smoker to inhale and gulp more air, leading to bloating.
  • Ensure that their dentures are perfectly fit, as a poor one can lead to swallowing extra air.
  • Exercise after drinking or eating to reduce bloating
  • Cure any heartburn problems
  • Take away gas-causing food from their diet like fatty foods, dairy, high-fibre foods, beans, lentils, peas, artificial sugars, mushrooms, cauliflower, and more.
  • Try probiotics or digestive enzymes to assist them in breaking drinks and foods down.

It is best to take note that alcohol should be consumed moderately.

Too much drinking of alcohol is not only associated with a puffy face or bloating.

It can also cause liver and brain damage.

It also increases the chance of developing cancers and risks of death from homicides, injuries, car crashes, and suicide.

Do Alcoholics Have Red Faces?

If the face turns red after drinking alcohol, then you are doing it excessively.

Most people experience this situation, especially when they are having an excessive intake of alcohol.

This condition is often referred to as an alcohol flush reaction. In most cases, the flushing occurs because they have difficulty digesting alcohol.

People who usually flush when they drink might suffer from a faulty version of ALDH2 or Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 2 gene.

This is an enzyme in the human body that assists in breaking down an alcohol substance called acetaldehyde. Excessive acetaldehyde may cause various symptoms, including a red face.

ALDH2 often works to lower acetaldehyde. However, its deficiency causes more acetaldehyde to produce in the human body.

Excessive acetaldehyde can make drinkers intolerant to alcohol. One of its common symptoms is flushing.

However, people who are fond of drinking too much alcohol might also experience the following:

  • Headache
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Flushing itself is not destructive, but it has a warning sign of other risks.

According to the study conducted last 2013, alcohol drinkers who get flushed after drinking have a massive chance of experiencing high blood pressure.

Health experts looked at several men and recognized the “flushers” who drank more alcohol within a week had a bigger risk of having high blood pressure than those who did not.

However, the "non-flushers" could only experience high blood pressure if they drink more than eight glasses of alcoholic beverages.

If they have high blood pressure, they are likely to increase of developing stroke or heart disease.

What Are the Possible Treatments?

According to experts, a drug treatment for alcoholism called H2 blockers can treat facial flushing.

These medicines work by reducing the breakdown of liquor to acetaldehyde in their bloodstream.

The typical histamine-2 blockers include:

  • Zantac
  • Pepcid
  • Tagamet

Brimonidine is also a common treatment for facial flushing. This is considered the newest therapy that reduces facial redness.

This medication works by lessening the size of very tiny blood vessels.

The U.S. FDA approved this medicine for treating rosacea, a typical skin condition that causes small bumps and redness on the face.

Another common cream for treating redness is called oxymetazoline. It was approved last 2017 to cure rosacea. In addition, it helps in treating facial redness by thinning skin blood vessels.

Some individuals also utilize lasers and light-based treatments to lessen the redness.

Medications can help boost the appearance of visible blood vessels. It is crucial to understand that medications that help to flush don’t treat the ALDH2 condition.

This can only mask significant symptoms that could signal another health concern.

The right medication depends on the situation and goals of the drinkers. Most of them find that a mix of medical procedures works best.

Some of them are considered residential programmes, where they have to stay at a centre for a while.

Others may consider outpatient treatment programmes, where they have to live at their respective homes and go to the rehab centre for medication.

For drinkers who have a severe alcohol problem, they may consider detoxification. 

The ultimate goal of this is to stop drinking and get rid of the alcohol in the system. It often takes several days or weeks before they release the alcohol into their body.

In most cases, drinkers go to the hospital or medical centre because of the different symptoms such as seizures, shaking, and hallucinations.

Doctors and other alcohol-related experts can monitor and give them the right medicine to treat these symptoms.

Another best way to treat alcohol-related conditions is to see a therapist or a counsellor. (Patients may visit our clinics at Abbeycare Scotland or Abbeycare Gloucester to schedule an appointment with our professional therapists.)

Social worker, psychologist, and even alcohol counsellors can teach them how to:

  • Deal with stress and other related conditions
  • Alter the behaviours that entice them to drink
  • Develop a strong support system
  • Set goals and attain those goals

Some drinkers need focused and short counselling sessions, while others may opt to have one-on-one therapy to deal with several alcohol-related issues.


Alcohol addiction can't be easily treated, but with the help of rehab programmes and experts, everything will be in order.

Drinkers don’t need to worry as these experts know how to handle this case.

They have to meet with an expert and focus on their goal – to eliminate alcohol in their body system.

Understanding the entire concept of alcoholism and its related symptoms can also help in the process of medication.

Overcoming alcohol addiction and symptoms can greatly help in making their lives even more effective and productive.

So, stop making excuses, stay away from your vices, and live a healthy lifestyle!

Last Updated: July 11, 2021

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.