Does Alcohol Cause Acne? Experts Weigh In

Acne from alcohol

The occasional breakout or two is no cause for grief but a full-blown acne experience requires more than just an expert-led skincare routine shuffle. Holistic lifestyle changes like diet and exercise will speed up the process and help the results last longer. I learned this fact the hard way; years of struggling with adult acne finally reached a eureka moment with quitting dairy. Turns out all it needed for my sebaceous glands to behave was to refrain from yummy Gouda and delicious ice creams. It felt like a huge loss at the time but today I do not miss those post pizza-night acne flare-ups one bit!

Cutting out dairy was a chore in itself; until I started noticing my acne flare-ups showing up on Tuesdays – a pattern pointing towards weekend debauchery. Surely I thought that alcohol will have an effect on the skin. They are expert dehydrators and according to Dr Meghna Gupta, Dermatologist and Founder, Delhi Skin Centre, “One may also experience dry skin, rashes, flushing, a flare-up of rosacea, some slight oedema and dry lips from consuming alcohol. You might also notice that wrinkles and fine lines look more pronounced.”

But does it actually cause acne? And if it does, are there certain kinds of alcohols that might be more problematic for acne-prone skin than others? We investigate because while dairy is replaceable, a good time certainly isn’t!

Alcohol’s Interaction With Acne

Prachi Shah, Clinical Dietitian and Consulting Nutritionist, and founder of Health Habitat says, “Just one food or drink doesn’t cause acne but it can definitely be a trigger or an indirect cause that might aggravate an existing skin condition.” However, Prachi explains that the impact may vary from individual to individual. “If you’re consuming alcohol frequently, it could have detrimental effects on skin health,” adds Prachi. Simply put, while drinking alcohol won’t directly result in a blemish on the surface, it can certainly affect conditions around it in the following ways:

1. Alcohol causes damage to the liver cells which in turn hinders its detoxification function. 

2. Bodily hormones can go a toss after one night of binge drinking. Hormonal imbalances are well known to affect skin quality and the development of acne. 

3. Alcoholic contents can impart stress on your body, resulting in an increase in cortisol levels, leading to breakouts on the skin. 

4.  Binge drinking can even suppress the immune system which doesn’t let the body effectively guard itself against inflammation, bacteria, clogged pores, excess oil etc. 

How To Consume Alcohol Mindfully?

So, how many drinks are too many drinks? The severity of alcohol’s effect on acne depends on the number and frequency of the drinks. Dr Meghna recommends limiting your drinks to two a night and spacing them out while hydrating properly. “You should also detox and replenish with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Adding ingredients that are antioxidant-rich (vitamin C) and hydrating (hyaluronic acid) to your skincare routine will help. And don’t forget sun protection,” she cautions regular drinkers. 

In addition to limiting the number of drinks, you need to watch out for the sugary devils as well. Prachi reveals, “Different kinds of drinks affect our skin differently.” She elaborates-

1. Clear liquors (gin and vodka) if taken in small quantities might not cause extreme damage as they are low in calories.

2. Dark liquors (whiskey and rum) are high in calories and can adversely affect the skin.

3. Beers are high in calories and generally consumed in large amounts at a go which means higher damage. It contributes to inflammation.

4. Cocktails (mixed drinks) can cause even greater harm due to mixed alcohol and sugary syrups added to them. Alcohol is called empty calories which means they provide calories without any nutrients and on top of that if you mix syrups, the calorie content spikes causing adverse effects on the skin.

5. Wine also compromises skin health. Even if the consumption is minimal, it still dehydrates the skin.

Prachi concludes, “Drink in moderation and choose your drinks wisely. Eat prior to drinking so that you are already full and won’t end up bingeing on drinks. The snack you choose with the drinks matters the most – avoid fried food, refined wheat flour products, and excess salty foods.” She seconds Dr Meghna’s advice on Including antioxidant-rich foods in your diet. A variety of fruits, lemonades, coconut water, teas like ginger tea, peppermint tea etc can help rid the body of alcohol’s after effects. And yes, don’t forget to get proper sleep and exercise regularly to rejuvenate the body!

Images: Pexels, Giphy

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