Acne is a skin condition that affects the skin's hair follicles and oil glands.
Acne is caused by clogged pores, inflammation and a build up of bacteria. Certain lifestyle habits can increase your vulnerability of suffering from acne, especially if your skin is acne-prone.
The consumption of alcohol does not directly cause acne and it doesn't directly cause the condition to become worse. However, it can impact some of your bodily systems, including your hormone levels, which do contribute to the development of acne.
Below we discuss how alcohol affects your body and how these effects can indirectly contribute to the development of acne.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can affect your body in numerous ways. With regards to skin health, alcohol can affect the way different nutrients, such as oxygen, travel throughout your skin. Oxidative stress can worsen the appearance and effects of acne.
The immune system is a powerful force in keeping harmful viruses and bacteria away. It’s made up of protective cells such as cytokines to help keep you healthy. When we consume alcohol, this can decrease the number of protective cells our body has, which in turn, could put your body at higher risk of infections.
If we consider P. acne bacteria, for example - this bacteria is known to cause pustules and cysts. Even though P. acne can infect your skin at any time, you could be more at risk when your immune system is suppressed. Although researchers have not yet established a direct link between P. acnes and alcohol, the relationship between bacteria, your immune system, and alcohol is worth considering.
Alcohol has a variety of different effects on your hormone levels. It's known that alcohol can lower the levels of testosterone in men, however, in contrast, a small study has found that small doses of alcohol can increase levels of testosterone in men.
Another study indicated that alcohol can increase levels of testosterone in women. It can also increase estradiol levels (which is a form of estrogen) in women, too.
An increased amount of hormones can stimulate your oil glands, which can, in turn, increase your risk of acne due to clogged pores resulting in a breakout. Whilst more research is needed to understand the true link between hormonal acne and alcohol, there are indications of some links between the two.
Pustules, papules, nodules, and cysts are all considered to be forms of inflammatory acne.
There are a variety of reasons for inflammation, including:
When your body processes alcohol, it does so as a sugar. This can contribute to the cause of inflammation. You will also increase your risk of inflammation if you are mixing drinks that contain sugary syrups or juice.
A study in 2014 showed a large improvement in participants' acne after they consumed a low GI diet for ten weeks. A low GI diet consists of low sugar foods that don't affect your blood sugar. Therefore, a low GI diet wouldn't include alcohol since it's processed as a sugar in your body.
Water is the best drink for your health for many reasons. One of the top reasons is the benefits it brings to your skin. When your skin is hydrated properly, it's easier to balance natural oils and remove toxins and dead skin cells with ease.
Alcohol is a diuretic which means it increases the amount of urine your body produces which flushes out excess salt and water. This means that unless you are switching between alcohol and water, the process will result in both you and your skin becoming extremely dehydrated.
As a result of your skin becoming dry, your oil glands will produce more oil to rectify the water loss which in turn can increase your risk of breakouts and acne.
Your liver is responsible for removing harmful toxins, such as alcohol from your body. Alcohol consumed in moderation won't have a major impact on your liver, however, binge drinking can put lots of pressure on your liver. This makes it unable to remove the toxins from your body effectively. This could result in the toxins being expelled or stored in other areas of your body, such as your skin. This process could increase your risk of acne.
Acne is an extremely complex skin disorder. The types of alcohol that can trigger a breakout are just as complex.
One survey has indicated that specific alcohol types appear to trigger rosacea more than others. About 70% of participants reported that red wine worsened their symptoms.
Alcohol on its own isn’t enough to cause an acne or any inflammatory skin condition. However, it is important to note that different varieties of alcohol could trigger your acne more than others.
Any alcohol you drink can impact your skin and some of these effects may influence acne development.
Clear liquors, such as vodka and gin are often used in mixed drinks. These drinks are often low in congeners which are the chemicals produced during the process of alcohol fermentation and calories. The lower the number of congeners in your drink, the less likely you will suffer a hangover.
Moderation is the solution, though. Drinking excessive quantities of clear liquor can still lead to inflammation and dehydration.
Dark liquors have a large amount of congeners, which increases your risk of hangover symptoms, such as dehydration.
Mixed drinks typically consist of a liquor along with some form of fruit juice. Even if you opt for low-sugar variations, mixed drinks can still increase your blood sugar and dehydrate your skin which could lead to acne.
White wine may not cause hangovers as severe as red wine, but it can still dehydrate your skin and increase overall inflammation which could increase the risk of acne development.
Whilst also increasing your risk of hangover symptoms such as dehydration, red wine is high in tannins which can dilate your blood vessels resulting in inflamed skin.
Drinking in moderation is key to reducing your risk of acne and of course, keeping your overall health in check. Acne doesn’t mean you have to give up drinking entirely, just be aware of how different drinks and quantities of alcoholic drinks can affect your skin. If your skin is already at a higher risk of acne, then it's more likely that alcohol can cause problems.