Are Your Drinking Habits Causing Acne?

Are Your Drinking Habits Causing Acne?

Acne is a communal skin problem that is one of the most hated things. It is highly undesirable to see little painful bumps on your skin, which absolutely look bad. Bacteria cause acne. It is also caused by inflammation and clogging of the pores.

It is your lifestyle habits that make up for developing acne. Also if you have acne prone skin i.e. oily skin, you are more likely to suffer from it. Many people link acne with alcohol but in reality, it doesn’t cause it. But it may worsen the condition by affecting hormones, leading to acne development.

In this article, read on to how drinking habits are linked with acne on your skin and whether it has a contributing effect or not.

Can alcohol consumption cause or worsen acne?

Drinking alcohol is linked to overcoming stress. In this way, alcohol affects the body in many ways. Such as it affects your skin, liver, oxygen uptake, nutrient uptake and much more. The oxidative stress in your body can make the acne become worse.

Effect of alcohol on immune system

The immune system is the natural defence system of the body. It protects the body against possible bacterial and viral attacks. It also reduces the risk of infections by enabling the body to self-repair itself. The immune system is made of cytokines and other protective cells that together work to make your function healthily.

Using an excessive amount of alcohol may decrease the number of protective cells in the body. It can sometimes destroy them too. It means that immune system will be no more functional and a weak immune system makes your body more susceptible to infections.

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If we consider an example, P. acnes, a bacterium is able to infect human skin. It is usual for bacterial strains to cause cysts and pustules in humans. P. acnes is only able to affect the skin but the risk of it affecting you is higher when your immunity is suppressed.

There is not much research that shows a direct link between alcohol consumption and P. acnes. But considering the effect of immune system and microbes, it is obvious that weaker immunity invites more infections to you.

Effect of alcohol on hormones

Alcohol has a huge potential to disturb and manipulate hormones. It is obvious that alcohol reduces the testosterone level in men. It is even proven by a research that small amount of alcohol is able to increase testosterone levels in men. Another study showed that alcohol is also able to increase testosterone in women. Not just this, it is also able to increase estradiol levels in women, which is another form of estrogen, the study investigates.

When hormones are disturbed, they can stimulate the oil glands to work more. It means the increased oil or technically called sebum production is enhanced. It makes your pores clogged and it surely results in an acne breakout.

However, there is more research required to understand the actual relation between drinking habits and acne linked with it, most of the times it is termed hormonal acne that is caused by alcohol.

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Effect of alcohol on inflammation

There is another type of acne called inflammatory acne, which results in papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. All these things, which are close to acne, are caused by inflammation.

There are many reasons for this inflammatory response.

  • The disturbed hormones cause inflammation.
  • Autoimmune diseases i.e. psoriasis can also cause inflammation.
  • Foods and beverages with high sugar cause inflammation.

Inflammation is a warnings sign of the body that something is just not right. When the body processes alcohol as a sugar, it also caused inflammation. When you mix drinks i.e. fruit cocktails, the risk of inflammation practically doubles.

It is proven by research that acne is improved considerably when you switch to a low Glycemic Index (GI) for 10 weeks. People who are following a low glycemic index food without an effect on blood sugar. If you reduce your alcohol intake, it will lead to a low GI diet.

Foods That Can Cause Acne

Effect of alcohol on dehydration

Water is the biggest constituent of your body. It is essentially required for a good health. It also includes the skin health. When there is sufficient water available for your skin, the natural balance of oil is in its best form. It is easier this way to get rid of the dirt, dead skin cells, toxins and debris easily.

Alcohol is a diuretic by nature. It means when you will increase your urine production. In this way, it will flush the extra water, minerals and salts out of your body. This is a good thing unless you start to alternate between water and alcohol. This is very damaging to your health and it will make you dehydrated.

When your skin becomes dry, the natural oil production makes oil to hydrate it. Somehow this is a compensation for the water loss. But the excessive oil production can make your skin to suffer from breakouts.

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Effect of alcohol on the liver

Talking about detoxification, the liver is the principal organ involved. It also helps to get rid of alcohol from your body. When you drink a moderate amount of alcohol, it doesn’t really cause a big impact on the liver. But if you start drinking aggressively, the liver is the first organ to be affected.

The inflammation of liver can cause many problems. It is even impossible to remove the toxins this way. All these toxins are stored in the body and cause more problems. Or they all expel through other channels i.e. skin making you suffer from an acne breakout.

Do all types of alcohol cause acne?

Acne is a multifaceted skin condition that has many reasons. Certain types of alcohol are linked with triggering a particular type of acne i.e. rosacea more than other types, as per National Rosacea Society. Most of the times, it is a wine that causes these symptoms to show up.About 76 percent of respondents reported that red wine made their symptoms worse.

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However, alcohol is not the only reason behind an inflammatory condition. But still, you must know that certain types of alcohol are more likely to cause acne in you. Alcohol surely affects the skin in many ways. Not just acne, different types of alcohol impact overall skin. Check the following details.

  • Clear liquors

Alcohol classified as clear liquors i.e. gin and vodka are usually a part of mixed drinks. Clear liquids have a low-calorie count and have a congeners nature. It means they contain the chemical, which is produced while fermenting alcohol. These chemicals are also responsible for a hangover.

Ideally, you should consume drinks that have fewer congeners in them. Also, drinking huge amounts of clear liquor can lead to dehydration, inflammation and acne.

  • Dark liquors

Dark liquors are those, which have large amounts of congeners in them. The strong flavour of alcohol is due to congeners but they are associated with risks of hangover symptoms. These symptoms include dehydration and linked acne. They also disturb the body sugar level and raise it. A high blood sugar trigger inflammation and all of these can affect your skin.

  • Mixed drinks

Mixed drinks are a particular type of drinks that have sugary syrups or fruit juices in them. Even if you are consuming low-sugar mixed drinks, they are still capable of raising your blood sugar and in this way, they may dehydrate your skin. 


  • Beer
  • Beer also has a congener called furfural, which is basically a yeast inhibitor. It can cause inflammation, dehydration and skin problems when consumed in large amounts.
  • Wine
  • White wine is not usually linked with hangovers. It is less potent as compared to red wine but it still has a potential to dehydrate the skin and cause inflammation. Red wine is high in tannins, which dilate the blood vessels. It also makes the skin inflamed and subjected to acne breakout.

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What is the solution?

Knowing about all these possible risks doesn’t mean that you should give up drinking for the risk of acne. Moderation is the best key. When you are drinking in moderation, you can control the acne breakouts easily.

Moderation drinking in women means only one drink per day, men can enjoy two but older men should be restricted to one drink per day as well. You should also focus on hydrating the skin to reduce the side effects of alcohol on the skin.


Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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