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Is Alcohol Making You Break Out?

 

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:

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

Tequila, rum, vodka, and gin are all great choices of alcohol for acne-prone skin.

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.

Wine

Natural red and white wines are a good choice for acne-prone skin, and even have some antioxidants that can improve skin health. Most wines are not skin-friendly.

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:

  • Sugar/carb-free
  • Mold-free, low in histamine, and dangerous yeast
  • Low in sulfites
  • Organic
  • High in antioxidants

Stick to natural wine, or drink regular wine infrequently to avoid acne flare-ups.

Champagne/Sparkling wine

High-quality dry champagne and sparking wine are good choices for acne-prone skin

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.

Hard Cider

Hard ciders that are low in sugar are okay for acne, but ciders higher in sugar can cause problems

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

Sweetened mixed drinks are full of sugar and additives that can make you break out and trigger inflammation

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.

Beer

Beer can damage your gut and has a lot of carbs, which can trigger insulin (an acne-causing hormone) and insulin. It's best to avoid beer for clear skin.

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:

  1. 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
  2. Pick your poison – Use the guide above to pick a skin-friendly drink, like straight hard spirits, natural wine, or a dry cider
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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

What is the best alcoholic drink for acne?

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.

Can vodka help acne?

Mixing equal parts of vodka with water as a topical agent can tone your skin and clean out your pores.

Need more help? Ask our team!

I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their acne naturally. If you cannot easily find an answer to your question on the website, please reach out to me by email ([email protected]) or send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. I will reply within 24 hours.

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook!

I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health.

I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on.

This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it.

As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”.

After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts.

In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy.

Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself.

After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅

While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently.

To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision.

Read more of Sam's articles.

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