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Does Alcohol Cause Acne? We Examine the Facts

men drinking

Many of us have had a late-night drinking session, only to wake up the next morning with pimples. Is alcohol to blame? From our own anecdotal evidence, it may seem so.

But because we’re big on facts here at Tiege Hanley, anecdotal evidence isn’t good enough. We did some digging to find out the truth about the relationship between acne and alcohol. Here are three fast facts:

  1. Alcohol does not cause acne. However, it can worsen acne and lead to additional breakouts.
  2. Factors such as stress, hormones, and sugar consumption from drinking alcohol play a role in your alcohol-related acne breakouts.
  3. The most effective way to reduce the impact of alcohol on acne is to follow a skin care regimen and stick to it, regardless of how tired you may be.

Acne and Alcohol: What the Research Says

We know that breakouts happen when our pores clog with dead skin cells. But there is a lot that we still don’t know about acne, which makes finding a direct connection between alcohol and acne difficult.

As a consequence, there is currently little research on the matter. However, there are plenty of studies which identify an undeniable link between alcohol and acne.

One of these links is the impact of alcohol on our hormones. Hormones such as testosterone can trigger sebum production at the base of hairs, resulting in excess oil and clogged pores. In other words, the ideal environment for bacteria-causing acne.


Alcohol and Hormones

We know that hormones have a significant impact on our skin. So, what’s the correlation between hormones and alcohol?

According to one study, men who drank a small amount of alcohol experienced an increase in testosterone. A spike in testosterone may seem harmless, but it can spell trouble for the acne-prone. In both men and women, testosterone spikes can trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. The excess sebum can build up and clog pores, resulting in acne and breakouts.

sick man

Alcohol and Bacteria

After drinking, some alcohol can be expelled through the skin by sweat. Some research has suggested that alcohol secreted through sweat can create a breeding ground for acne bacteria.

Similarly, there are some studies which show that drinking alcohol can suppress the immune system and reduce the body’s ability to fight off bacteria and infection. While not all acne bacteria causes pimples, a weakened immune system might make it more likely for you to break out.

Take the skin care quiz

Alcohol and Sugar

Alcoholic beverages are often loaded with sugar—and as many guys already know, sugar is terrible for our skin.

Before you have that margarita or Jack and Coke, you may want to check the sugar content. Sugary drinks can make your insulin levels spike, which triggers the body to produce androgen hormones to bring your insulin levels back down.

This increase in hormones subsequently triggers your sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, which clogs pores and lead to pimples.

man at bar

Additional Links Between Alcohol and Acne

It’s also important to consider additional reasons for the alcohol-acne connection. Here are a few other reasons why it might seem like alcohol is to blame for your acne:


It’s not uncommon for alcohol to be abused as a coping mechanism for stress. Although scientists aren’t exactly sure how stress impacts acne, we do know that it worsens acne. Stressful situations stimulate our stress hormones, which ramp up our oil production and can cause acne flare ups.

Forgetting Your Skin Care Regimen

Alcohol is a depressant which can impair memory. It can also relax us to the point where we just want to fall into our bed without washing our face. We probably don’t need to tell you how important it is to follow a simple skin care regimen. Going to bed without properly washing your face with a men’s face wash and moisturizing is one of the worst things you can do if you have acne.

After a night of drinking, the dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells and pollution from the day are sitting on your skin and clogging your pores. If you’re more likely to forget your skin care regimen after drinking, cut back on the drinks or force yourself to follow your routine, regardless of how tired you are.

The Verdict

After examining the facts, we have no evidence that alcohol directly causes acne. However, alcohol does impact the body in other ways, which can exacerbate acne.

If you don’t want to sacrifice your occasional beer or late-night cocktail, you can offset any negative effects by following an uncomplicated skin care routine that includes a men’s acne treatment system if you are prone to breakouts. Not only will taking better care of your skin help prevent acne, but it can also fight wrinkles and slow down the aging process. Cheers to that!


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