The Surprising Reason Why You’re Breaking Out: Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Acne?

The Surprising Reason Why You’re Breaking Out:

While having a good night out with friends sounds fun, waking up the next morning will probably make you regret you even got out of the house in the first place.

Aside from the nasty hangover, you’ll also have to deal with a lot of skin issues.- from dry skin to those dark undereye circles. And if these things aren’t enough, drinking booze can also make your skin breakout.

Or can it?

There are actually no solid studies to back up this claim but the effects of alcohol in your body are probably some of the reasons why a lot of people think it’s possible.

But does alcohol cause acne? Let’s discuss.

Alcohol And Your Hormones

Alcohol can cause hormonal imbalance. Although it’s actually more prominent among chronic alcoholic, it can still have an effect on the balance of your estrogen or testosterone.


Well, to start off, the ethanol in your drink lowers the amount of Coenzyme NAD+ in your body, which is essential in the production of testosterone and other androgens. If Coezyme NAD+ is low, you should also expect to have low testosterone.

Aside from this effect, alcohol can also affect the enzyme aromatase, which can increase the amount of estrogen in your body by converting testosterone to estrogen.

And that’s not all.

The relaxation you get from drinking alcohol also has an effect on your body. This is mainly due to the release of the beta-opioid endorphins in your brain that can negatively impact the production of testosterone, too.

Sad to say, this hormonal imbalance doesn’t just affect your acne. It’s actually one of the reasons why people who drink often have low sexual drive, too.

Insulin Spike

When you drink alcohol, it causes your insulin levels to spike or increase. The intensity is magnified if you drink a lot of beers mixed with colas or drinks with lemonades.

What’s wrong with excessive insulin?

High levels of insulin have a direct effect on the amount of sebum your body produces. In short, excessive insulin can lead to more oiliness.

Once there’s too much oil on your skin, your pores can get clogged and they become favorable environments for bacteria to thrive. P. Acnes, for example, can proliferate in your pores and trigger an inflammatory response in your skin.

The result? Voila! Red and swollen acne.

Aside from that, insulin also triggers DHT or Dihydrotestosterone to add to your already excessive sebum production.

Lowered Immune System

Alcohol can affect your immune system in two ways.

  • It can cause nutritional deficiency which means your body isn’t getting the nutrition it needs to build a stronger immune system.
  • Alcohol can also affect the ability of your white blood cells and killer cells to multiply. This can decrease your body’s ability to fight off bacteria and even cancer.

How can it cause acne?

Well, when your immune system is weak, it becomes hard for it to recognize and even get rid of threats. Once these threats, such as the bacteria on your skin, aren’t eliminated, they increase in number and cause you problems.


Ever wondered why you seem to pee more when you’re drinking alcohol?

It’s because alcohol decreases your body’ anti-diuretic hormone, which is mainly responsible for retaining fluid inside your body. Without enough ADH, you’ll pee more and you’ll lose more water.

Other than peeing, alcohol can also make you vomit (perhaps, you already knew that). This further reduces your body fluid, along with some electrolytes and minerals.

Dehydration, apparently, can make your skin dry and peel off. These dead skin cells, when not addressed properly, can clog and irritate your pores.

Not only that. Dehydration can also create the wrong signal to your skin.

Because your skin feels dry, it will think that it doesn’t have enough oil. As a result, it will start producing more sebum as a way to compensate.

Excess oil + dead skin cells = breakout.

Sounds logical, right?


It’s easy to think that alcohol can get you to sleep better, but sorry to burst your bubble. Experts say it may not make you feel as rested as you probably hoped for.

It’s because although you were able to doze off easily, you tend to wake up more frequently in the middle of your sleep and in the morning, you’ll probably feel crappy (Hello, hangover!)

Aside from disrupted sleep, alcohol can also result in dependence and insomnia in the long run.

Without proper sleep, your body as well as your skin won’t be able to repair effectively. This can lead to acne and several other skin issues.

This stress hormone can wreak havoc on your skin by causing inflammation, increasing sugar and affecting your testosterone level.

Other than alcohol’s effect on the quality of your sleep, drinking can also make you sleep later than your usual working schedule. And if you have to work the next day, it can mean you won’t have enough time to catch up with sleep.

So, it isn’t really just the quality of sleep that’s affected but the quantity as well.

The Effects Of Different Alcohol On Your Skin

While alcohol contains all the reasons to break your skin out, not all of them have an intense effect on your skin. Some drinks can be milder than the rest.

So, before you head out to partying tonight, see which shot can affect your skin the least:

Dark Shots

Dark shots, including whiskey and rhum, contain congeners that don’t only spell nasty hangovers but skin aging as well. Congeners are the by-products of fermentation that give these shots their distinct alcoholic taste and scent.

If you don’t want to look horrible the next day, try to skip as much dark shots as you can.

Clear Shots

Clear vodka, for example, doesn’t have the congeners you can find in dark shots. However, although clear shots are mostly free from impurities, they can still contain alcohol that can cause mayhem to your skin.

The more you drink alcohol means the more likely you’ll breakout.


Mojitos are good examples of sweet mixed drinks which, as the name implies, contains a high amount of sugar. Drinking mojitos doesn’t only expose you to alcohol but to sugar spike as well- the perfect equation for zits.

Red And White Wine

Red wine is one of the few drinks that won’t hurt your skin as much. In fact, it can actually help you get great skin, given that you don’t consume more than one glass per day.

What makes it better?

Well, red wine contains antioxidants to help fight free radicals. It also has resveratrol which isn’t only good for the heart but inflammation as well.

While red wine can sound like a good option, it’s actually not the drink for you if you have rosacea. Its antioxidant content has the ability to trigger histamine which can cause rosacea flare-ups.

White wine, on the other hand, has salt and sugar that can cause swelling, bloating and acne.


Beer, although it contains salt, can actually be better for your skin. Aside from its antioxidant content, the drink also has lower alcohol content.

Binge-drinking beer, however, is still not recommended even though it contains less alcohol. When consumed excessively, beer can still make you dehydrated and break out.

How To Drink Without Breaking Out

In case quitting alcohol is non-negotiable (yes, I can hear you reasoning out), you need to be proactive in providing support to your body, particularly your liver. If you’re not cautious, it won’t just be your hangover you’ll have to deal with the next day.

So, here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you’ll be drinking:

  1. Avoid dark shots as much as possible.
  2. Try to stick to one type of drink for the entire night.
  3. Avoid taking shots as they can make you drink faster and in larger quantities.
  4. Choose soda water instead of tonic water to cut out sugar
  5. Try to alternate alcohol with water.
  6. Make sure you’re hydrated before you drink. On the same note, keep in mind to rehydrate first thing the next morning.
  7. Try your best to get all the makeup off of your face before hitting your bed. It’s one of the sneakiest causes of acne.
  8. Skip the alcohol when you’re already feeling stressed out. The combination of stress and alcohol can make your breakouts even worse.
  9. Set drinking goals- seriously.
  10. Stay away from munching on salty snacks while drinking.


So, does drinking alcohol cause acne?

The short answer is actually “yes”.

Aside from the effects of alcohol on your body, the resulting behaviors from alcohol intoxication also make you more prone to developing pimples the morning after. Sleeping late, smoking and even hitting the bed without cleansing your face are only some of the major skin care offense you can unknowingly commit when you’re drunk.

The solution?

Drink in moderation and make sure to follow the tips shared above.

Remember: Too much of anything is never good. The same idea applies to drinking alcohol.

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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