Aestheticians, nutritionists, and health coaches have the privilege of working in very trusting relationships with their clients. Supporting clients through different types of life’s challenges with nourishment, self-care, and a bit of TLC can make a huge difference. Addiction plays a tough role on the mental, emotional, and spiritual body. Addiction to alcohol or drugs takes a toll on your skin in varying specific ways. 

As the body’s largest organ, the skin works to release toxins from the body, the internal organs of detoxification (kidneys, liver, lungs) tire from working overtime to release the buildup of toxins from drugs or alcohol. You might notice a change in your appearance due to this buildup.

Thankfully, the skin is quite resilient, and a healthy appearance can be restored during and after the addiction recovery process. This can be done without invasive procedures as well; taking simple measures to restore it helps for quicker regeneration.

How addiction affects skin

Acne, chapped lips, wrinkles, and dryness of skin are all symptoms experienced during excessive drug and alcohol use.

Alcohol use dilates blood vessels, especially in the face. Severe and prolonged use of alcohol causes these blood vessels to rupture, creating the signature red nose and appearance of “broken” or distended capillaries experienced by many alcoholics.

Methamphetamine use, on the other hand, causes blood vessels to constrict, and continued use collapses these blood vessels. With no way for blood to deliver nutrients to the skin’s surface, the skin becomes leathery in appearance and covered with unsightly sores, uneven texture, and pigmentation issues.

Addiction to toxic substances causes those toxins to build on the skin’s surface, in the outermost layers of the skin, along with affecting the blood vessels and cellular functions deeper within the dermis. In addition, addiction often diverts attention away from personal hygiene, which also exacerbates skin conditions. The following skin conditions can commonly present themselves due to an addiction:

  • Acne
  • Redness in the cheeks or nose
  • Swollen red palms
  • Broken capillaries on the face
  • Repeated sores, skin infections and rashes
  • Premature wrinkles

Those not addicted to drugs and alcohol can experience these symptoms as well, but because of a different root cause.

Healing herbs for skin conditions

Certain herbs may alleviate skin issues related to addiction. To rid of unsightly skins conditions, use milk thistle to help support the liver, the internal organ responsible for filtering toxins. By enriching liver health, the flow of toxins to the skin’s surface ceases.

Calendula contains anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe redness and skin irritation. Calendula also possesses natural antimicrobial properties which help to clear up breakouts. (Learn more about Calendula in our NAA File Card Library, a benefit exclusive to NAA Members. Click HERE to learn more.)

Dandelion is a staple detoxifying herb, and makes an excellent blood tonic. By purifying the blood of toxins, nutrient-rich blood once again flows to the skin’s surface allowing it to heal.

Lavender naturally calms the body. Stress impacts every organ in the body including the skin, and using lavender or lavender essential oil may alleviate tension. Be wary of applying it topically, however, as this may cause a rash. Always dilute, use a top quality oil, and do a patch test first.

Topically, use witch hazel to soothe acne-laden skin. Dry, flaky skin benefits from regular applications of aloe vera gel.

Nutritional tips to support skin healing during recovery

Proper nutrition helps just about any skin type, including skin recovering from addiction. Many addicts suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, either from lack of eating while still using or simply from their body’s failing to keep up with demand. Supplementing with vitamins B, C and D as well as minerals such as magnesium and zinc can nourish healing skin. (Be sure to consult with your licensed healthcare provider before making changes to your diet or adding supplements–especially if you are taking a prescription medication).

Supplementing with or adding whole food-based essential fatty acids to your diet helps plump dry, depleted skin by helping to keep moisture in, at the cellular level. Likewise, supplementing with vitamin E or applying it topically helps to restore skin’s natural, healthy glow.

Once clean, recovering addicts should take care to avoid excessive consumption of caffeine and nicotine. Caffeine can cause dependence, and too much caffeine dehydrates skin. Though legal, nicotine remains one of the most highly toxic substances known, and can halt skin healing.

Of course, staying well hydrated helps restore skin’s natural luster and plumps up wrinkles for a smoother appearance.

Restore your skin

Healing from addiction means restoring every organ in the body, including the largest and most visible one — the skin. Nourishing the body with the nutrients necessary for healing, as well as babying damaged skin with herbal supplements and other topical solutions revitalizes the appearance and leaves recovering addicts glowing with health. 

Seeing the rewards of nourishment on the outside can work wonders to help people stay motivated to stay on course with a recovery plan.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, please seek help.

Thank you to Kate Harveston, for contributing this article on this very important topic.