Does Alcohol Cause Acne? The Truth You May Not Want to Hear

Does Alcohol Cause Acne? The Truth You May Not Want to Hear

Liudmila Busch

It’s been a long week (or perhaps just a long Monday) and you’re ready to pour yourself a glass of red after work. But wait, is imbibing going to undo all the effort you’ve put into your skincare routine? 

Does alcohol cause acne? 

The answer is: sort of. But maybe not in the ways you think. We’re explaining the connection between booze and those pesky pimples below. 

What Is the Relationship Between Alcohol and Acne? 

Alcohol doesn’t directly cause acne. However, just like stress, caffeine, and other things that aren’t great for you in excess, alcohol can disrupt your body’s balance in ways that promote breakouts. 

For one thing, too much alcohol can compromise your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off viruses, bacteria and infections.  This may look like coming down with a cold more often than you’d like, or it may look like an unfortunate outbreak of zits. 

Alcohol in excess can also lead to inflammation. Or it can lead you to consume more foods that cause inflammation (late night pizza, we’re looking at you). It can cause oxidative stress, and it can overload your liver with toxins. All of these problems can show up as pimples. 

And as you likely know if you’ve woken up parched after a night of indulging, alcohol also leads to serious dehydration. When your skin gets thirsty, it tries to solve the problem by creating more oil, which in turn clogs your pores and causes breakouts. 

And finally, having too much to drink can wreak havoc on your hormones, which also affect how much oil your skin produces and can lead to breakouts. 

What About Alcohol in Skincare? 

Different types of alcohol are found in many skincare products, and can lead to dry skin. In turn, you may see acne as a result. Check the ingredients on all of your skincare products to make sure you’re not using anything that contains alcohol. It’s especially common in toners, which is why we formulated a  nourishing, alcohol-free option .

Make Sure It’s Not an Alcohol Allergy 

Some folks are allergic to alcohol, which can lead to symptoms that look like acne (but aren’t). If you’re allergic to alcohol, you may experience red skin and hives. You’re also likely to have nausea or even trouble breathing. Consult with your doctor if you think you may have an alcohol allergy. Chances are you’ll need to eliminate alcohol from your diet altogether, rather than just reduce it. 

woman lounging with cocktail

How Do I Drink Without Getting Acne? 

This is the question of the hour! The good news is that for most people, it’s totally possible to enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage without breaking out. Not only that, but we think you  should  indulge once in a while--if you want to, of course. 

If having a glass of wine with friends brings you serious joy and helps you unwind, that’s hardly unhealthy. Feeling joyful is excellent for your physical health, and reduced stress hormones means your body can allocate more resources to repairing your skin and helping it glow. 

Of course, it nearly goes without saying that if you prefer not to drink, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy yourself, and we don’t advocate picking up a bottle if you prefer not to. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about balance. You may opt for a fun mixed drink at one event and choose a gut-healing glass of kombucha at the next (which also has a bevy of skin-healthy benefits, we might add.) 

Here are a few other ways to drink with your skin in mind: 

Choose a Healthier Type of Alcohol 

The words “alcohol” and “healthy” don’t typically cross paths, unless you’re talking about red wine. It turns out that in moderation, the antioxidants in  red wine  are excellent for your physical health, and that includes your skin. 

You’ll see fewer positive effects (and more negative ones) if you choose a wine that’s full of sulfates, though. So opt for one that’s sulfate-free and preferably organic. 

You may also be surprised to learn that college you was onto something when you spent one too many wild nights with a shot glass of  tequila . Again--we can’t emphasize this enough--moderation is  key  here, but tequila is actually one of the “cleaner” alcohols that you can consume. Just be sure to opt for one that is made from 100% agave, and it’s always good to go organic when you can. 

Finally, be mindful of your mixers! Nothing is going to provide maximum benefit to your skin if it’s mixed with sugary juices and sodas. If you don’t prefer your tequila straight up, experiment with adding coconut water or even aloe juice for some added hydration. 

woman on cruise ship with drink

Add Rather Than Subtract

Here at Wild Ice, we’re all about abundant nourishment, which means we’d rather focus on what you can add to nourish your body, rather than fixating on what you need to subtract. 

If you know you’re going to be consuming alcohol in the evening, be mindful of what you’re going to eat during the day. First and foremost, eat an adequate amount of food--this is not the time to skimp on calories. Additionally, see if you can make that food extra nutrient dense. Focus on fruit and veggies with every meal. 

If you’re hosting at your home, try serving your cocktails with water-rich vegetables and fruits like watermelon and cucumber. And as always, have a big pitcher of ice water on hand so guests can stay hydrated between drinks. 

And while we’re on the subject, being mindful of what you pair with your alcohol is important for another reason: it may be contributing to or causing your acne! If you’re only having one drink, but pairing it with a big plate of cheesy nachos, you may see some breakouts. 

Develop an Excellent Self Care Routine

Nourishing and caring for your body before and after drinking is essential if you want to maintain good skin health. Get plenty of rest, hydration and exercise. But word to the wise: sweating out a hangover isn’t actually a thing. At least according to science. If you feel better hitting the gym after you drink, that’s likely due to the uplifting power of endorphins. But working out too hard can actually dehydrate you further, potentially worsening the effects of alcohol. So stick with a low-key yoga practice instead. 

This is also the time to head-off any potential acne with a toxin-free, nutrient dense skincare routine. You’ll want to load up on the  Vitamin C  to stop inflammation before it starts, and a  deeply-hydrating moisturizer  to help skin that’s a little parched. 

We’ve made it easy to care for your skin post-drink (and every day) with our entirely cold-kept, preservative-free skincare line, which feels especially luxurious and indulgent going on after you’ve had a drink or two. (Not that we would know!) You can grab our four core products at a discounted rate with our  four-step facial set . Give it a try today and see your skin glow, even after a night out on the town. 

Mila Founder of Wild Ice Botanicals

Mila (pronounced 'mee-luh') is the founder of Wild Ice Botanicals, a clean & natural skincare company dedicated to using cold preservation to deliver fresh products free of chemical preservatives so that women of all ages and skin types can confidently look their natural best.