Exploring the Complex Relationship Between Alcohol Consumption and Acne Breakouts

Acne: the dreaded word that has plagued countless individuals, affecting their self-esteem and quality of life. If you’ve experienced acne, you know firsthand the frustration and self-consciousness it can bring. From occasional breakouts to chronic skin woes, acne affects people of all ages and backgrounds, leaving them searching for answers and solutions. 

As one of the most prevalent skin conditions globally, acne’s far-reaching effects highlight the importance of understanding its triggers and potential contributors. But in the pursuit of clearer skin, some surprising truths emerge, including a link between alcohol consumption and acne breakouts. 

In this blog, we explore this intriguing connection, delving into the science behind how alcohol can influence skin health and potentially exacerbate acne. By unraveling this complex relationship, we aim to empower you with the knowledge to make informed choices. So, raise a glass to uncovering the truth and paving the way for better skin and overall well-being.

Understanding Acne and Its Causes

Acne is a common skin condition characterized by the formation of various blemishes on the skin’s surface. The most typical forms of acne include:

  • Whiteheads: Closed clogged pores
  • Blackheads: Open, clogged pores with a dark appearance
  • Pimples: Inflamed and pus-filled lesions

Acne primarily occurs when the hair follicles become blocked with excess oil (sebum), dead skin cells, and bacteria. This creates an ideal environment for developing Cutibacterim (previously known as Propionibacterium) acnes, a bacteria that contributes to the inflammatory response and forms those familiar and frustrating breakouts.

Root Causes of Acne

Understanding acne requires identifying its root causes, which can include:

  • Excess sebum production: Clogs hair follicles and provides an environment for bacterial growth.
  • Accumulation of dead skin cells: Contributes to pore blockage, leading to acne formation.
  • Inflammatory response: Triggered by bacteria, resulting in red and swollen acne lesions.
  • Hormonal influence: Androgens increase sebaceous gland activity during puberty, while hormonal fluctuations throughout life stages can contribute to acne flare-ups.
  • Lifestyle choices: Diet, stress levels, and skincare habits can impact acne development

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Acne?

As one of the body’s largest organs, the skin plays a vital role in protecting us from external elements and regulating body temperature. Discovering the effects of alcohol on this remarkable organ will shed some light on how your favorite libations can either nurture or challenge your skin’s health and radiance.

So, let’s answer, “Can alcohol cause acne?”

The Link Between Drinking Alcohol and Acne

Many wonder if alcohol consumption could be contributing to their breakouts. And thanks to ongoing research, the answer may be yes. 

Let’s break down the potential link between alcohol and acne, examine the scientific evidence, and understand how alcohol might affect the skin. From the impact of alcohol on inflammation and hormones to the role of lifestyle choices, we will unravel the complexities of this connection.


Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. Dehydrated skin may produce more oil to compensate, potentially leading to clogged pores and acne.

Dehydrated skin can also compromise the skin’s natural barrier function. The skin’s protective barrier helps retain moisture and shield against external irritants. When this barrier is weakened due to dehydration, it becomes more susceptible to bacterial invasion and inflammation, which can exacerbate existing acne or trigger new breakouts.


Alcohol consumption can trigger an inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism that helps the body fight against threats like infections and injuries. Acne lesions, such as pimples and cysts, are characterized by redness, swelling, and tenderness – all classic signs of inflammation. 

Alcohol can also impact the body’s ability to control inflammation properly. It can interfere with cytokine production, signaling molecules regulating immune responses, including inflammation. This disruption in cytokine balance can further contribute to the skin’s inflammatory state, potentially aggravating acne.

Alcohol’s influence on inflammation isn’t limited to its effects on cytokines. Alcohol can also disrupt our body’s sugar balance. When we consume alcohol, it can lower inhibitions and make us more susceptible to indulging in food cravings – often for unhealthy and sugary options. This can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, promoting an environment that further fuels inflammation in the body.

Hormonal Imbalances

Alcohol can disrupt hormonal balance, especially in heavy or chronic drinkers. Alcohol-induced hormonal changes can disrupt the normal regulation of androgens, estrogen, and other hormones. Elevated levels of certain hormones, such as androgens, can lead to excessive sebum production, which promotes the formation of acne. Imbalances in estrogen and progesterone can also contribute to the skin’s sensitivity and reactivity, potentially worsening existing acne. 

Liver and Toxin Removal

The liver metabolizes alcohol, and excessive alcohol consumption can impair liver function. A compromised liver may have difficulty processing hormones and toxins properly, which can contribute to acne development.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Alcohol can interfere with the absorption and utilization of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A and zinc, essential for maintaining healthy skin and a vibrant complexion. Alcohol can also disrupt the balance of B vitamins, including thiamine (B1), which are essential for overall well-being and skin health.

Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the gut lining and contribute to leaky gut where undigested food particles and toxins escape from the intestines into the bloodstream. Leaky gut can trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body, including the skin, potentially exacerbating skin conditions like acne.

Immune Health

Alcohol can weaken the immune system by reducing protective cells, making the body more susceptible to infections. While the direct link between alcohol and the bacteria that causes acne is not established, the relationship between our immune system, bacteria, and alcohol warrants consideration.


Although drinking alcohol may be a way to cope with stress, heavy alcohol consumption can actually also be quite stressful on the body and may lead to further abnormalities in your cortisol levels. Elevated and abnormal cortisol levels can exacerbate acne in some individuals.

Alcohol and skin health goes beyond just drinking alcohol. This includes alcohol used in topical applications and skincare products. Various types of topical alcohol can impact the skin differently, and understanding their effects is essential for maintaining skin health. Here are some common types of alcohol and their effects on the skin:

  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol): Topical application of isopropyl alcohol can cause skin dryness, irritation, and inflammation. It can disrupt the skin’s natural pH balance and lead to discomfort or sensitivity. 
  • Fatty alcohols (such as cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol): These alcohols are used in skin care products as emollients and thickeners. Fatty alcohols are generally non-irritating and can provide hydration and smoothness to the skin.
  • Denatured alcohol: Often used in skincare products as a solvent or preservative, denatured alcohol can be harsh and drying. Prolonged use can strip the skin of its natural oils and disrupt the skin barrier. 
  • Benzyl alcohol: Found in some cosmetic products as a preservative, benzyl alcohol can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people.

Be mindful of the types of alcohol in your skincare products and choose products suitable for your skin type and concern. Alcohol-based products may be too drying or irritating for some, while others may tolerate them well. Maintaining a balanced skincare routine and using alcohol-containing products sparingly can help support healthier and more radiant skin.

Tips for Managing Acne and Alcohol Consumption

Managing acne while still enjoying drinking alcohol responsibly requires a balanced approach. Here are some tips:

  1. Moderation is Key: Limit alcohol intake to avoid excessive dehydration and inflammation, which can worsen acne. This includes moderating the alcohol in your skincare products as well.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after alcohol consumption to counteract its dehydrating effects. 
  3. Know Your Triggers: Be mindful of how your skin reacts to different types of alcohol and adjust your drink and skin care choices accordingly.
  4. Skincare Routine: Maintain a consistent skincare regimen with gentle cleansers, non-comedogenic moisturizers, and acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid.
  5. Consult a Dermatologist: Seek professional advice for personalized skincare recommendations and acne management strategies.

Transform Your Skin from Within

While alcohol can lead to dehydration, hormonal imbalances, and increased inflammation, it’s important to remember that acne is a complex condition influenced by various factors. While alcohol might contribute to breakouts in some individuals, it is not the sole cause of acne. It is crucial to adopt a balanced approach to alcohol consumption and consider other lifestyle factors, skincare habits, and hormonal influences that can impact skin health. 

If you’re seeking a deeper understanding of your acne, want to revitalize your skin, and uncover more invaluable insights and practical tips, I invite you to join the SkinClock Method program.

This online program offers an immersive experience, providing you with the knowledge and tools to harness the power of time and achieve optimal skincare results. 

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to transform your skincare routine. Sign up for the SkinClock Method today and unlock the secret to timeless beauty.

How “fit” is your skin? 

Find out with your “Holistic Skin Fitness” Consult in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Dr. Michelle Jeffries.

Ready to experience my full-body, inside AND out approach to skincare at Arizona Wellness Medicine in Scottsdale, AZ? If you live in Arizona, call to schedule your one-on-one personalized functional medicine dermatology consultation with me today!