Do you ever find yourself breaking out after a night out partying? There’s a good reason for it. Excess consumption of alcohol can trigger hormonal and inflammatory responses that lead to acne.
So, does that mean you need to cut out alcohol for good if you have acne-prone skin?
Well, not exactly. Luckily, there are some alcoholic drink choices that are much safer for your skin and your health than others.
In this article, we’ll break down why alcohol can cause acne, and then rank the best and worst alcoholic drink choices for acne-prone skin. Finally, we’ll take a look at how to avoid breaking out and control the damage after a night out drinking.
Feel free to jump ahead if you’re here for a particular alcohol drink:
Table of Contents
Why does alcohol make you break out?
Alcohol can make acne worse for a few reasons:
- First, by temporarily weakening the immune system and protective skin barriers, alcohol can be a factor in triggering inflammatory acne
- It can cause spikes in testosterone, leading to hormonal acne
- Sugary or carb-filled drinks like beer and hard cider can lead to acne-causing insulin spikes
- Alcohol dehydrates the body and skin, leading to increased sebum oil production and clogged pores
- Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage (the liver is essential for filtering out toxins that eventually lead to acne)
- Alcohol disrupts sleep, which can lead to increased stress hormones and more acne
All and all, there is no form of alcohol that is going to be good for your skin. Yes, I know, the idea of wine being a superfood is alluring (trust me, I live in Italy at the moment, and I wish wine really was healthy), but the simple fact of the matter is that alcohol is a toxin that temporarily decreases your overall health and complexion.
With that being said, alcohol can be a lot of fun, and in many cultures is a widely accepted social norm.
That’s why I don’t advocate that you cut out all alcohol just to get clear skin (unless you are dealing with a severe autoimmune disorder that requires it). Obviously, if you’re binge drinking or addicted to alcohol, you should probably try and get help, but if you feel like you have a healthy relationship with it, most people don’t need to cut it out completely.
Not all alcohol is created equal, which is why we’ll go over the best and worst forms of alcohol for acne-prone skin.
Before we begin, time for my usual disclaimer: everyone is different, and while some people might break out because of a certain type of alcohol others may not. Listen to your body and find out what works best for you.
Safest alcohol for acne-prone skin
Let’s clear something up real quick – just because these are the safest choices does not mean they are good choices for your skin. No alcohol is going to be a good choice. That’s why all alcohol starts at a Poor rating on the GoodGlow Diet Blueprint and the GoodGlow Food Database (coming soon).
Tequila, gin, vodka, whiskey, clear rum
I know what you’re probably thinking…
“Aren’t all these hard liquors made from grains, potatoes, and other acne-causing foods?”
Yes, they are, but the distillation and fermentation process for each of these hard liquors removes the vast majority of any harmful toxins, sugars, and antinutrients.
These are about as pure and safe as you can get when it comes to alcohol for acne-prone skin. In their pure form, these hard liquors are low-sugar, low-carb, low-toxin drinks. All and all, your body will have to deal with the alcohol and not much else.
But what about mixed drinks with these hard liquors in them? Well, that’s where you can run into issues.
Okay alcohol for acne-prone skin
While these aren’t the best choices for people with acne-prone skin, they certainly aren’t the worst either. Again, not your best bet to be drinking in the first place, but if you have to, these aren’t bad options.
Okay, let me start by saying this – just because wine is one of the safer alcoholic drinks for acne doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without its fair share of drawbacks.
Yes, red wine has plenty of antioxidants, is gluten-free, and can lower stress and inflammation, but most of the wine you can buy might be doing more harm than good.
The truth is, most wine is not safe for acne-prone skin.
- Most wine is loaded with pesticides1http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/french-study-finds-pesticide-residues-in-90-of-wines-21199/, which can cause stress on the body and actually trigger inflammation
- Many commercial wines contain coloring agents and additives that can trigger sensitivities in certain individuals
- Sweet wines (like Moscato) can contain a fair amount of acne-causing sugar
- Most wines are high in yeast (just like beer), which can damage the gut and worsen candida
Still, red wine has more proven health benefits than just about every other type of alcohol out there (bear in mind this could be because we study wine more than the others, not that there really is more health benefits), and the right wine can be just as safe for acne-prone skin as vodka or tequila with some added health benefits.
Natural, organic wine, from a company like Dry Farm Wines, is about as safe as you can possibly get when it comes to wine. Natural wines (not the same as organic) are:
- Mold-free, low in histamine, and dangerous yeast
- Low in sulfites
- High in antioxidants
Stick to natural wine, or drink regular wine infrequently to avoid acne flare-ups.
Like wine, champagne and sparkling wine are decent bets.
All real, authentic champagne comes from a specific region in France that utilizes lower-toxin farming than most other types of alcohol. In addition, authentic champagne must meet pretty high safety standards to be labeled “champagne”.
The takeaway? Buy real champagne.
When it comes to sparkling wine, including prosecco, there’s usually a bit more sugar and generally fewer rules and regulations regarding the quality of the grapes. Just like regular wine, you need to be careful about what types of sparkling wine you buy. It’s usually even harder to find natural sparkling wines than it is regular wines, so proceed with caution.
Believe it or not, hard cider is actually pretty decent for you compared to beer – it’s gluten-free, grain-free, and usually very low in yeast and antinutrients that prevent you from absorbing zinc, a crucial nutrient for clear skin. Not to mention hard cider tastes amazing – but that great taste comes at a cost.
The problem with hard cider is that it’s almost always high in sugar. A single bottle of your average hard cider can have other 30g of sugar. As we know, sugar is a nightmare for acne.
If you can find a dryer, less sweet hard cider, then you’re looking at a pretty skin-friendly drink. Unfortunately, most ciders sold in the US are really sweet and loaded with sugar.
Some of the ciders I’ve had in Europe are actually pretty dry and still taste amazing – if you can get your hands on them, go for it over beer.
Worst alcohol for acne-prone skin
If you really want to do your skin a favor, avoid these alcoholic drinks. Just about every bar, pub, or restaurant on the planet will have better, healthier, and skin-friendlier choices.
It doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate these drinks from your diet, but don’t expect to have great results with an acne-free diet if you’re drinking these on a regular basis.
Sweetened mixed drinks
Moscow mules, dry martinis, and (unsweetened!) margaritas, what could go wrong?
Actually, in the case of these unsweetened mixed drinks, not a whole lot. At their core, these mixed drinks are sugar-free, skin-friendly hard liqutequila tiquella, gin, and vodka with some citrus and water.
What about pina coladas, long islands, rum and coke, or fruity margaritas?
That’s where you run into problems.
All of these drinks have an insane amount of sugar, not to mention a ton of calories too. They’re almost guaranteed to spike the acne-causing hormone, insulin, and the added ingredients can trigger inflammation or food sensitivities too.
Dry mixed drinks = generally pretty safe.
Sweetened mixed drinks = hormonal acne nightmare.
Most beer is loaded with carbs, which can trigger a cascade of hormones that cause acne. A single can of regular beer has over 12g of carbs on average. While light beer has about half the carbs, it still doesn’t escape the other drawbacks of beer and acne.
Beer contains gluten, a common trigger ingredient that can damage the gut and in certain individuals lead to inflammatory acne. It also contains small amounts of phytic acid, an antinutrient that blocks zinc, one of the most important nurients for clear skin, from being absorbed.
On top of that, most beer includes its fair share of yeast and mold bacteria, which, again, can trigger inflammation and lead to nasty yeast infections (like candida) that can make it much more difficult to properly digest food and absorb crucial nutrients. As someone who’s dealt with a yeast infection and could only get rid of it through fasting, trust me, it’s not fun.
If you’re going to drink beer, light beer is your best bet. It’s lower in sugar and carbs.
How to avoid breaking out from alcohol
There are a few things you can do to avoid breaking out as much due to alcohol. Look at these as damage control tips:
- Moderation – I don’t want to sound like your mother, but overall, the best strategy to avoid breaking out from alcohol is to not overdrink in the first place. No matter how much antioxidant-packed natural wine you drink, it’s still not a net positive for your skin
- Pick your poison – Use the guide above to pick a skin-friendly drink, like straight hard spirits, natural wine, or a dry cider
- Stay hydrated – alcohol is a diuretic, which means it’ll dehydrate your body and skin. Try to drink as much water as possible during and after drinking.
- Load up on vitamin C – vitamin C helps prevent a metabolite called aldehyde from forming – aldehyde can cause premature aging, wrinkles, and weakened skin. Take a supplement or eat skin-friendly plants with vitamin C, including broccoli, strawberries, or cauliflower
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach – when you drink while eating, the alcohol will actually spend more time in the stomach and be broken down by enzymes
The #1 tip for not breaking out from alcohol?
Have your diet in check first.
Without a healthy diet, you’re not going to see the results you want. No matter how many supplements you’re taking, how much sun you’re getting, or hacks you’re using to make alcohol less damaging to your skin, a healthy diet should come first.
Don’t know where to get started? Check out the GoodGlow Diet Blueprint – it’s a one-page guide to a clear skin diet.
Do you have an experience with alcohol and acne that you’d like to share? Want more information about the link between certain drinks and acne? Let me know in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
The main reason alcohol causes acne breakouts is due to dehydration and high sugar content. Alcohols like tequila, vodka, and gin are the best options for keeping your skin clear.
Mixing equal parts of vodka with water as a topical agent can tone your skin and clean out your pores.