Does Alcohol Cause Acne Among Adults?

Does Alcohol Cause Acne?

Drinking can be fun, there’s no doubt about that. I admit, I might’ve had a few too many on several occasions and I immediately got punished for it with a hangover – more than once.

I used to wake up shaking, dehydrated and with terrible acne as a result. The swollen and extremely painful kind, too. Like tiny, red mountains right under my nose.

Was this because of the liquor, then? Does alcohol cause acne, or was it just a coincidence?

Well, over the years I’ve slowed down (or grown up, perhaps?), and can enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine in front of the TV on the weekend.

However, the binge drinking every Friday night is a thing of the past. Mainly because I got sick of it. I think there are more enjoyable things I can do with my life. I don’t find much joy in going out clubbing with my friends anymore. Like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon once said:

“I’m too old for this sh*t!”

But another reason for dialing it down is because I know that it’s not good for my skin. My overall skin health takes a heck of a beating from drinking too much alcohol. (and frankly, so does yours)

If you want to maintain your healthy skin, you’d better stay away from the giggle juice.

So, is the post-drinking acne related to the alcohol?

Please, allow me to explain.

What is Alcohol?

I’m pretty sure that you’ve already heard of alcohol (why else would you be reading this?). But to understand its effects on your body, you must first get to know what it is you’re really drinking.

Alcohol contains ethanol, which is produced by fermentation of sugars and yeast. It is classified as being a recreational psychoactive drug, and acts as a depressant on the central nervous system.

The way psychoactive drugs work is that they alter how the brain functions, which leads to changes in behavior, cognition, mood, perception and consciousness. Another popular psychoactive drug is caffeine, that you can actually find in your everyday cup of coffee!

Never thought you’d be so familiar with drugs, did you?

Apart from being a recreational drug, alcohol is also commonly used as a disinfectant and antiseptic. It can be used as a treatment for inflammatory acne, due to its ability to kill off bacteria and other bad microbes.

However, I don’t recommend it. I think there are way better alternatives for that purpose out there.

Sugar and Strawberries

Sweet, Sweet Sugar

When your body is breaking down alcohol, it’s processing it as sugar. Too much sugar means that your body is running a larger risk of inflammation. And if you mix the alcohol into a sweet cocktail, which also contains lots of sugar, that risk pretty much doubles.

Drinking alcohol increases your insulin level and triggers androgens. Furthermore, it increases IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), which boosts skin cell growth and increases sebum production in your oil glands.

Essentially, this means that alcohol causes acne.


However, it doesn’t stop there. Alcohol can affect your hormone levels in several ways.

Depending on which study you read, alcohol either lowers or increases the testosterone in your body. Consumption of alcohol has also been linked to an increase of estradiol levels among women.

If your hormone levels are boosted, your oil-glands are likely to trigger a higher sebum production, which could essentially lead to an acne outbreak.

Dry Tree


You know how you tend to visit the bathroom more often when drinking? Of course, you’re increasing your liquid intake, and that’s one of the reasons for the more frequent visits.

But there’s another reason for your potty-breaks. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it increases urine production. That extra urine is a result of your body dragging out excess water and salts.

However, keep drinking and there’ll be less and less water to drain. Eventually, you’ll become dehydrated. And one of the side effects of dehydration is… you guessed it – dry skin!

Dry skin is a major cause of increased sebum production (which is why it’s generally so important to regularly use a moisturizer that works). Too much sebum equals clogged pores. And, as you may know, clogged pores leave you with those… oh-so-wonderful pimples.

Glutathione Depletion

Glutathione, also known as the “Master Antioxidant”, gets depleted when you’re consuming alcohol. The primary function of antioxidants is to combat free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in your cells.

As you consume alcohol, glutathione levels are lowered. This allows for free radicals to spread and damage your cells. Your immune system is reduced and toxins start building up inside your body.

Studies have shown that oxidative stress, due to glutathione deficiency, could be a cause for an increase of acne.


In your gut, you’ve got friendly bacteria helping you with digesting the foods you eat. They make sure to destroy harmful bacteria and other kinds of microorganisms swimming around in there.

When drinking alcohol, these bacteria (or microbiomes) can get overwhelmed by bad bacteria, causing an imbalance of the gut flora (dysbiosis).

There are studies suggesting that dysbiosis can be a cause of acne, but right now there aren’t enough evidence for us to be able to reach a definitive conclusion.

Fishing Net

The Liver – Your Body’s Fishing Net

Think of your liver as a fishing net. The foods and drinks you consume are made up of small fish (the good stuff), and big fish (toxins).

Big fish get stuck in the fishing net, while the rest is allowed to slip through the holes.

If the net is catching too much big fish, it gets full, and the remaining fish are allowed to swim past and onward to other places (like your skin, for example).

Toxins normally get expelled through your skin to some degree, but when your liver is under distress, these toxin levels increase. This means that the amount of toxins flowing through your skin is much higher, which can result in acne outbreaks.

Is Alcohol Always Bad?

Well, no.

Whether it’s beer, wine or a smoky whiskey – drink responsibly.

A good rule of thumb is as follows:

  • Women. A maximum of 1 drink/day.
  • Men up to age 65. A maximum of 2 drinks/day.
  • Men over 65. A maximum of 1 drink/day.

So, what qualifies as “a drink”? In fact, it’s a lot less than I imagined. A drink is classified as one of the following:

  • 5 oz of wine.
  • 12 oz of beer.
  • 1.5 oz of liquor.
Party With Drinks

So, Does Alcohol Cause Acne?

Short answer: Yes, it does!

Longer answer: It’s mainly the side effects of the alcohol consumption that cause the acne outbreaks.

You see, there’s a lot going on when you “put your lips to the bottle”. Either your liver is going bonkers, or your insulin level shoots through the roof in a panic.

Drinking alcohol is not good for your skin. Especially if it’s prone to develop acne. Beyond the fact that you may wake up with a really nasty hangover, you’re also bound to be dehydrated and in a foul mood.

Alcohol affects your hormones, leaving your skin vulnerable to outbreaks.

However, it all comes down to moderation. (I believe this is true for most things in life.)

If you feel like drinking alcohol, then by all means, go ahead. You’re old enough to make your own decisions. Personally, I tend to choose something sweet to eat, like chocolate.

I do, however, recommend that you follow the guidelines listed above to reduce the risk of acne outbreaks. (and a violent headache)

What’s Your Story?

Have you noticed an increase of acne after an all nighter of booze and vino? Or maybe even your acne got worse just from that recommended drink or two?

Please leave a comment below and let me hear your thoughts on this subject!

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