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Alcohol & Acne: Is Alcohol to Blame for Your Breakouts?

Teen struggling with acne due to her alcohol abuse  

Drinking alcohol can affect many of the body’s systems. Drinking alcohol regularly or in high volumes can impact how we look and feel.

As the largest organ in the body, the skin often reflects the health of other bodily systems. Alcohol can disrupt the body’s normal functioning and causing dehydration, which can cause noticeable changes in the skin.

Links have often been made between alcohol use and skin issues, but there is no clear answer to the question of if alcohol causes acne.

How Alcohol Affects the Body

In the short term, alcohol can cause intoxication, dehydration or changes in mood and behavior. Alcohol can also cause inflammation in the body, which can be a risk factor for a range of health problems or make existing problems worse.

The ways that alcohol affects the body depend on the amount of alcohol consumed and the frequency of drinking. Chronic drinking can lead to serious health problems like fatty liver disease, malnutrition or an increased risk of some cancers. What alcohol does to the body can depend on the dose, but even moderate or regular drinking can disrupt key systems in the body.

How Alcohol Impacts the Skin

There are several different reasons why alcohol is bad for your skin. Alcohol can impact the skin by changing certain behaviors, like hygiene, sleep or diet. Indirectly, alcohol can cause changes to these lifestyle factors that are related to skin issues.

Alcohol use has been linked with skin issues like acne, psoriasis and eczema. Alcohol can affect these skin conditions by impacting the immune system and bacteria that live on and in the body that helps protect our health.

While there is no research directly linking alcohol to acne, it’s thought that drinking may dilate pores or increase circulation, which can lead to acne or rosacea.

Hormone Fluctuation

Drinking alcohol can cause the release of stress hormones throughout the body. Stress hormones can impact how we feel and the body’s ability to function normally. Stress can impact other hormones, like corticotropin-releasing hormone, which has been shown to play a role in exacerbating acne.

Adrenal and gonadal hormones can also influence acne. Since alcohol can affect levels of stress and how well different bodily systems are functioning, these hormone levels may be disrupted which can lead to breakouts.

Liver Function and Toxic Byproducts

Alcohol is broken down in the liver, and the substances created through this process can be toxic. While alcohol can affect the liver directly, these byproducts produced by breaking down alcohol can also be inflammatory and cause cell damage, which impacts other systems in the body, including the skin. The liver is also responsible for detoxing the body and regulating hormones, both of which can impact skin health.


Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body and can make it hard to get rehydrated. Dehydrated skin can be colorless, flaky or itchy. The relationship between alcohol and dehydration can be made worse by drinks that have additives or preservatives.


Drinking alcohol, particularly in high volumes, can trigger the body’s defense system to help protect against damage. This effect is known as systemic inflammation, which is a low level of inflammation throughout the body. The markers of inflammation in the body caused by alcohol are a risk factor for many health problems and can aggravate existing skin conditions or worsen skin health.


While aging is inevitable, alcohol can speed up the appearance of aging on the skin. For example, a study on identical twins showed that the twin who drank less alcohol appeared younger. Alcohol can age your skin and worsen the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles by speeding up the natural aging process with the inflammatory effects of alcohol.

Minimizing Breakouts

Acne breakouts and skin flare-ups can be a result of a combination of factors. Genetics certainly play a role in skin health, but lifestyle choices are important as well. Drinking alcohol, particularly in excess, can impact the health of your body and skin.

If you choose to drink but hope to minimize the risk of breakouts, sticking with clear liquors may be the best choice. Many dark liquors or mixed drinks have added sugars or preservatives that can worsen dehydration or inflammation and worsen skin.

It’s also important to maintain usual hygiene when drinking alcohol to minimize the chances of an acne breakout. This necessity includes removing makeup, washing your face and rehydrating as much as possible. While abstaining from alcohol may be the best way to minimize these breakouts, being mindful of hydration and hygiene can help reduce the chances.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Skin

Drinking alcohol regularly and in high amounts can be hard on your body and can change the way your skin looks and feels as you age. The long-term effects of alcohol consumption on skin can speed up the aging process and can contribute to dry skin, breakouts or the development of skin conditions.

Some people may experience redness or blotchy skin on the face after drinking alcohol, which may take days to go away. Drinking alcohol is a risk factor for various health problems, and excessive alcohol consumption can make it hard to maintain clear and healthy-looking skin.

While moderation, hydration and sticking to clear liquors may improve skin, it’s important to remember that lifestyle factors like drinking alcohol have a strong influence on the long-term health of our skin.

Contact Next Generation Village if you’re a teen or the parent of a teen who struggles with a substance used disorder. Professional addiction treatment can help get teens the healthier future they deserve, call today.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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