Does Alcohol Cause Acne? Here’s What Studies Tell

Does alcohol cause acne breakouts? Research-backed analysis

Alcohol consumption has many short-term and long-term side effects. These affect your lifestyle, mental health and physical health. Heavy drinking weakens the heart, nervous system and disturbs the oxygen level in the body.

By drinking too much alcohol a person takes a serious toll at his or her health. You would be generally aware of the side effects alcohol has but what about acne? Does alcohol cause acne? Are there any links between drinking alcohol and facing breakouts? Is acne a side effect too?

This is what this post is all about.

Alcohol does have a negative impact on the skin. Although, there isn’t any direct connection between these two, alcohol leads to a situation where you might suffer from an unhealthy skin and a bunch of break outs.

However, our concern is to shed light on the situations or conditions where alcohol triggers acne and pimples. Therefore, we have listed all the potential reasons backed by scientific research on how alcohol brings about acne.

Let’s dive in!

How Alcohol Causes Acne?

Alcohol leads to acne indirectly in a number of ways. Consuming alcohol disturbs our body functions and some of these malfunctions in turn cause acne. Each of them is discussed below.

Oxidative Stress

Besides being a depressant, alcohol is also known to cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and anti-oxidants in your body.

Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules that possess uneven number of electrons. These uneven electrons easily bind with other molecules causing large chain reactions. These reactions are often harmful for the body.

Oxidative stress makes acne worse. A research study published in PubMed in January, 2013 showed the relation of oxidative stress with acne proving that it aggravates acne.

Fluctuating Hormone Levels

Alcohol greatly impacts your hormones. And any imbalance in hormones play key role in the development of acne.

Increased testosterone levels are known to cause acne.

A small study conducted by ALCOHOLISM: Clinical & Experimental Research, proved that small and consistent doses of alcohol increase testosterone levels in men.

Apart from this, another study published in PubMed claimed that alcohol also increase testosterone in women. And this increase further raises estradiol levels which is a form of estrogen. So, this overall impact can trigger acne.

What actually happens is that elevated hormones stimulate the oil glands to produce more sebum. This excess sebum clogs pores which result in pimples and break outs. However, more research needs to be made on the direct association of alcohol with hormonal acne.


InflammationInflammation often leads to acne. It occurs due to increased hormone levels and consumption of high-sugar content foods and beverages. But what role does alcohol play in causing inflammation?

Well, our body processes alcohol as sugar because of which it can lead to inflammation. Furthermore, the inflammation that results from drinking alcohol causes the body to produce more cytokines. Cytokines are inflammatory molecules according to a report.

So, the more you refrain from taking alcohol the less the chances of getting inflammation.

Increased Sweating

When a person drinks, some alcohol is secreted in the sweat. This sweat acts as a fuel for P.acnes bacteria. Once bacteria colonization occurs they metabolize alcohol and use it as a fuel for themselves. This metabolism produces a byproduct called acetaldehydes which aggravates acne.

A study published in PubMed shows alcohol secretion in human perspiration. Besides, drinking regularly causes increased sweating and even night sweats that often lead to acne.And the main reason for night sweats is alcohol intolerance.

Liver Damage

It is a well-known fact that alcohol damages the liver. But how does that link to acne?

The liver is responsible for removing all the toxins from your body. If the liver does not carry out its function properly the toxins are released through skin. Because they do not have any other channels through which they can be expelled.

This is what makes you break out. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has published a guide that explores the side effects of alcohol on the liver.


Alcohol is a diuretic drink. It brings about frequent urination due to which your body loses excess water and salt. It can leave your body dehydrated if you do not balance the water and alcohol consumption.

When your body is unable to wipe out all the toxins and dead cells due to dehydration you skin suffers from acne. Also, when the skin is dry your oil glands produce more sebum to balance hydration on your skin leading to breakouts and pimples.

Different Types of Alcohol and their Effects

There are various forms of alcohols that react differently to your skin. While some of these influence the overall health of skin others might cause acne.

Clear or Hard Liquors

Clear liquors like vodka, gin, brandy and tequila generally have high alcohol content. They lead to dehydration due to theirdiuretic property.

Dr. Dimitry Rabkin, Founder and Medical Director of Esthetica MD says, “Drinking them can lead to depletion of essential nutrients. The skin can look dry and haggard.”

She further says, “Hard liquor can also cause skin redness by dilating blood vessels, causing spider veins and broken capillaries, particularly around nose and cheeks area.”

In short, clear or hard liquors can cause both dehydration and inflammation that worsen acne.

Dark Liquors

Dark liquors such as whisky and rum contain large amount of congeners. Congeners are chemicals that enhance the alcohol flavor. They bring about inflammation and dehydration.

Makeup artist, Molly Leahy explains, “While all alcohol can have damaging effects on your skin, dark liquors contain congeners, which are impurities and extra fermentation. Congeners are responsible for the taste and smell of spirits and are produced during the fermentation process. The more congeners you consume the worse your skin will look the next day.”

Mixed Drinks

Those sugary cocktails and mojitos you enjoy along with added liquors can accelerate aging and also trigger acne.

Beauty expert from, Julie Ricevuto says, “Sugary mixers may be tasty but they can ultimately lead to bad breakouts.” She further added, “Mixers such as cranberry juice, orange juice and sodas increase your insulin level, leading to inflammation throughout the body.”


Both Red and White wine cause redness, irritation and flushing due to their high sugar content. Molly Leahy recommends that people with sensitive skin and conditions like rosacea should avoid red wine since it contains tannis (a congener) and can cause irritation and flushing.


Beers often contain gluten which causes puffiness and raises your blood sugar. This makes you crave for more sweet and destroys healthy skin cells. Moreover, it contains congener called furfural that also contributes to inflammation.

The Correct Alcohol Consumption

If you really want to enjoy drinking alcohol without making your acne worse you must take moderate amount of alcohol. Following is the way you won’t have to regret drinking.

An ideal drink is classified as

  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of liquor
If you restrict your drinking to the above mentioned amount only, you don’t have to worry about getting break outs and inflammation.

Besides this, there are different quantities of moderate drinking when it comes to age and gender. According to Mayoclinic the moderate alcohol use is:

  • 1 drink per day (for women)
  • 2 drinks per day (for men under 65 years of age)
  • 1 drink per day (for men over 65 years of age)

Minimizing Alcohol Effect

Although, taking alcohol in moderate amount relieves you from the worry of getting inflammation and bad skin, you need to make extra efforts. The first thing that counts is a good enough water intake that flushes out all toxins from your body.

Secondly, if you suffer from acne and fear that taking alcohol might aggravate it you can apply alcohol minimizing masks and mists. They hydrate your skin and help minimize the effects of alcohol.

Belif First Aid Anti-Hangover Soothing Mask

This overnight mask is formulated using soothing apothecary herbs, Chamomile and Xylitol to calm stressed out skin.

It revitalizes irritated skin and reveals a glowing complexion.

This mask is free from Paraben, Sulfates and Phthalates.


Osmosis Skincare Harmonized Water Hangover

Effectively balances the body after over-consumption of alcohol and prevents hangover, nausea and headaches.

Dilute 2ml of this essence in 2oz of water and drink sometime after consuming alcohol.

What Needs to Be Avoided?

When you regularly consume alcohol, you need to be pretty sure that you avoid eating foods that might trigger acne. Greasy, sweet and savory foods actually stimulate your oil glands that can cause pore clogs. And pore clogs often result in acne.

According to Cosmopolitan, these are the nine foods you need to avoid when you’re on substantial alcohol intake.

  • Marinara Pizza
  • Chocolate
  • Homemade Quesadillas
  • Pretzels
  • Fries
  • Liquor-laced dessert
  • Oranges
  • Candies
  • Hot Sauce

We hope this detailed postconveys you the answer to the question ‘does alcohol cause acne?’ Make sure you practice moderation while taking alcohol. Remember, moderation is the key.

Feel free to ask any further queries and share your experiences in the comments below.

Sheikh has been blogging regularly at CAA for over 5 years. He spends majority of his time studying health and technology or participating in discussions about these niches (online or offline).


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