Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Acne?


You Bet, Drinking Alcohol Causes Pimples

What’s worse than waking up with a hangover after a night of drinking all that wine, beer and vodka? Skin breakouts and/or inflammation that you’ll have to live with for days! Alcohol doesn’t do cutaneous inflammation any favors. In this post, we will discuss how it affects your facial beauty. We’ll also talk about the effects of different alcoholic drinks on your skin, particularly on its link with acne.


Your Immune System


Alcohol suppresses your immune system, weakening your body's chances of starving off acne.Alcohol consumption suppresses the immune system, which can affect just about every part of your body, from organs, joints and muscles to skin and blood vessels. Skin inflammation is one of the ways in which your immune system acts out. Together with acne bacteria, it can cause breakouts.


There’s a misconception that acne bacteria is bad for the skin. But the medical fact is that some amount of acne bacteria is good for your skin. They feed on the excess oils in your skin and reduce inflammation by releasing essential fatty acids. No problem yet. So how then does acne bacteria actually cause zits?


Your skin keeps regenerating itself. Aged cells die and fall off the epidermis, which is the outer layer of skin visible to the eye, to make way for new cells. But when, and for whatever reason (sebum overproduction), the dead cells come too close together, a cluster forms on top of acne bacteria and the bacteria cannot reach their food. The bacteria then actually releases chemicals that protects the skin against inflammation caused by the immune system. But the bacteria in this condition multiplies exponentially, disrupting the skin’s natural flora.


The inflammatory compounds released by the immune system break up the dead skin cells but also destroy the healthy cells. Therefore, the greater the inflammation from drinking hard liquor, the more your healthy skin cells are affected. Once the acne bacteria is killed and the pore opened, your immune system stops destroying your skin.


When such an over-reaction occurs and you get a zit, resist squeezing it or the acne bacteria will move deeper into the skin. When this happens and the bacteria cannot get out, the skin around the zit will become more and more inflamed.




Testosterone can turn into Di-hydrotestosterone which stimulates sebum production which could potentially cause acne.Studies have shown that heavy alcohol consumption can affect the normal functioning of male and female sex hormones. This, in turn, affects the production of sebum, an oily substance released to prevent your skin and hair from becoming dry. But excessive sebum – or very oil skin as we say – often sets the stage for acne. Let’s look at this in a little more detail.


Testosterone is secreted by the male sex organs in men, and the adrenal glands and ovaries in women. It moves into the sebaceous gland where it is converted into di-hydrotestosterone, which stimulates the production of sebum. When testosterone levels elevate, excessive sebum is produced and face oiliness increases. The excess sebum clumps with dead skin cells, white blood cells and forms a plugged follicle. This is the white bulge – or whitehead – that you see on your face. The plugged follicle can also open up to the skin to form a blackhead. There is a possibility that the acne bacteria can enter and infect plugged follicles to form cysts, nodules or pustules.


Insulin Spikes are Linked to Acne


The sugars and carbohydrates in alcohol can increase your insulin levels. This can trigger acne in the following three ways:

•  By causing skin inflammation, which clogs pores

•  Insulin is a growth hormone that stimulates cell growth and reproduction. An insulin spike can lead to overgrowth and accumulation of skin cells.

•  High insulin levels raise the levels of testosterone and androgen, which in turn put sebum production into an overdrive.


By Dehydrating Your Body and Affecting Detoxification


Does drinking alcohol cause pimples? Yes, it most certainly does!Alcohol is a hepatotoxin, a toxic chemical responsible for liver diseases. It destroys the cells that detoxify your body, making your skin sallow and enlarging pores. Alcohol is also a diuretic that promotes urination (does that explain the multiple trips to the men’s/women’s bathroom during drinking sessions with pals?). The more you drink, the more you urinate, and the more dehydrated you get. Dehydration makes your skin very dry, causing it to peel, and increasing the number of dead skin cells. These cells then clog pores to form plugged follicles as discussed above.


Dehydration also causes sebaceous glands to go into overdrive to provide extra skin lubrication. The excess oil combines with dead skin cells and dirt to plug pores, and causes acne. It is best to drink a non-alcoholic beverage between an alcoholic drink to hydrate your body.


Keeping your skin hydrated also has another benefit. Dry skin can delay the time required for an injury to heal. It can also cause scars to fade slowly. If you have a fresh scar and you drink heavily, your scar may take longer to heal. It can also worsen the appearance of the scar. Along with topical treatments or medication prescribed by your doctor, limiting alcohol consumption can help the scar fade normally.


Is There a Link Between Alcohol and Acne Rosacea?


It is important to discuss rosacea in the context of how alcohol affects our skin. Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by redness on the cheeks, chin, nose and forehead. As it looks like an acne breakout, the condition is also called acne rosacea. It is a different condition to acne, with genetic and ethnic make-up being the major causes.


Although drinking alcohol causes pimples, it does not cause rosacea.  But it has been seen to trigger it in some patients. It is one among the other four factors – heat, sunlight and environmental pollution – responsible for rosacea flare-ups. Consuming just one alcoholic drink can trigger the condition in two out of three patients. The National Rosacea Society says that some drinks are more likely than others to set it off. Red wine triggers a reaction in about 76% of patients, followed by white wine (56%) and beer (41%). Skin reactions have also been reported after drinking champagne, vodka, tequila, bourbon, rum, gin and scotch. Surveys also suggest that nine out of ten patients watch their alcohol consumption limits to prevent or limit flare-ups.


How Different Alcoholic Drinks Affect Your Skin


Dark Shots Clear Shots Margaritas Beer Mojitos Red Wine White Wine
Rum, Tequila and Whiskey contain congeners (a byproduct of fermentation) that, besides giving you a terrible hangover, make your skin age faster.                                                                                              Most often, there is no such thing as a single shot of gin, vodka or tequila! It’s easy to drink more than you intended to. More alcohol means more skin dehydration.                                                Margaritas made with mixes contain sugar, excessive amounts of which cause inflammation, trigger acne and promote skin aging. Additionally, the salt in margaritas makes you skin bloat and look puffy.                                                                                                                                                                      Beer contains salt in moderate levels. A few too many beers can dehydrate your body and make your skin very dry.                                           Mojitos are very high in sugar, which causes inflammation and acne.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Red wine,  though rich in antioxidants, also triggers the release of histamine in some people. Histamine is a chemical neurotransmitter that can cause inflammation directly or indirectly. The sugar and salt content in white wine can make your skin swell and bloat.                                                                                                                                                      



What Acne On Different Areas of Your Face Could Possibly Point to:


Upper Forehead

Pimples on your upper forehead are most often a sign of digestion-related problems. It indicates that your digestive system could be having issues breaking down food, causing a build-up of toxins.


Lower Forehead

Stress, depression, lack of sleep and poor blood circulation are all potential reasons for pimples on the lower forehead.


Between your eyebrows

Acne sprouting between your eyebrows is a tell-tale sign of very liberal alcohol consumption and a high-fat diet.



Acne or skin affliction on or in the vicinity of your nose could point to stress and fluctuations in blood pressure



Acne breakouts on the left and/or right cheeks are often triggered by smoking. Pimples on the lower parts of your cheek may indicate dental issues like gingivitis.



Breakouts on the side of the chin occur due to hormonal fluctuations, usually during the onset of your monthly menstrual cycle. On the bottom of the chin, pimples indicate digestive problems.



Acne on the ears can be attributed to dehydration caused due to the over-consumption of alcohol, coffee or carbonated drinks.


  Depending on where acne shows up on your face, this identifies what is wrong inside your body causing the acne.


How to Cut Down on Alcohol


You may be aware that you’ve been drinking a few too many of late. Or you may inadvertently end up drinking too much….every weekend. If you want to make a concerted effort to limit your alcohol consumption, here are some tips.


Track your drinking habits : Monitor how much and how often you drink. Make a note of the occasions or events where you’re more likely to down a couple. This will help you stay cautious and take necessary action.


Set drinking goals : When you know how much you’re drinking each week/weekend, you’ll be in a better position to set goals around how to limit your consumption. Even if you love to drink, ideally you should have two alcohol-free days every week.


Opt out of rounds : The easiest way to get less alcohol into your system is by drinking at your own pace and avoiding rounds, which often tend to make you drink much faster. Instead, you can consider drinking with a smaller group of buddies.


Opt for a smaller glass of beer when drinking.Go small : Instead of pints, opt for halves. Bottled beer and a smaller wine glass can keep you from drinking more than you intended to.


Don’t eat salty snacks : Salt makes you thirsty, and the more thirsty you feel, the more alcohol you gulp down.


Don’t drink on an empty stomach : Food slows down the absorption of alcohol while an empty stomach speeds up the process. When you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, it also reaches your brain within a few minutes, and coordination and behavior start changing quickly. Consuming an alcoholic drink after a full meal can delay its journey to the brain by up to six hours.


Space it out : Take a break between alcoholic drinks with a non alcoholic beverage, preferably  regular water, to stay hydrated.


Keep an eye out for cocktails : Cocktails have a high alcohol content. Not just that, they’re also loaded with sugar. When you eat sugar, your body breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose, which spikes your insulin levels. Insulin spikes cause inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation, in turn, produces enzymes that break down elastin and collagen, leading to wrinkles and saggy skin.


Other Lifestyle Changes to Manage Acne Effectively


Get enough sleep : For every hour of sleep you lose at night, your psychological stress rises by 14%. Stress increases the production of steroid hormones, which can cause abnormalities in skin function and structure.


Give your body a good workout : Exercise keeps your mind occupied and alleviates stress. It also improves blood circulation by sending more oxygen to your skin cells and removing cell waste.  However, remember that sweat from exercising can make dirt and germs stick to your skin, irritating it and triggering body acne. Showering soon after a workout session or a sweaty game of tennis can solve this problem.


Stay hydrated : Increasing your H2O intake is an excellent way of flushing out toxins from your body and hydrating your skin. While there is no definite proof to show that toxins can cause breakouts, studies have found that two cups of water can boost blood flow throughout the skin and body.


Sunscreen is your friend : Skin inflammation from sunburn can make your acne worse and increase black spots.


Exfoliate : Oil glands on an overdrive can trigger breakouts, but so can under-performing oil glands. The tiny cracks in dry skin can become a breeding ground for bacteria while excessive flaking can clog pores.



So What Do You Intend To Do Now?


Too much alcohol is never good for your skin. If you have acne, you definitely want to keep a tab on the number of drinks you’re gulping down. Because as you are well aware now, drinking alcohol causes pimples quite easily.  I would say it’s best you sip instead of gulp. Importantly, start off on an acne treatment regimen that helps you manage breakouts, prevents scars,  and promotes overall good skin.


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