Inflammation, clogged pores, and bacteria can contribute to the development of acne. Some people may wonder whether dietary factors, such as alcohol, also play a role.

While there is no direct link between drinking alcohol and having acne, alcohol affects the body in ways that may indirectly cause or worsen this skin issue.

Below, we explore how drinking alcohol may influence acne.

a young man drinking alcohol in a pub which could cause skin problems that lead to acneShare on Pinterest
Consuming alcohol may harm skin health.

Research has not established a direct link between alcohol consumption and the development of acne. However, alcohol affects many parts of the body and may influence skin health.

Some of alcohol’s effects that may indirectly cause or worsen acne include:


Dehydration can cause a range of problems and may lead to acne breakouts. In addition, dehydration can make the skin look sunken or saggy.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it increases the production of urine, flushing out more salt and water than usual. As a result, consuming alcohol can lead to dehydration.

Research suggests that dehydration may cause the sebaceous glands in the skin to produce excess oil. Having oily skin may lead to breakouts or make existing acne more severe.

Drinking plenty of water is the best way to stay hydrated. If a person is drinking alcohol, they should consider having a glass of water between alcoholic drinks.

Reduced immune function

Experts believe that alcohol may lessen the function of the immune system — that even moderate amounts of alcohol may alter a person’s immune response.

Alcoholism, now known as alcohol use disorder, can interfere with the long-term functioning of the immune system, making a person more susceptible to infections.

A reduced immune response may, therefore, make a person more open to infection with Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria, which can contribute to acne breakouts or cause breakouts to become more inflamed.


Evidence increasingly indicates that inflammation occurs at all stages of acne.

P. acnes are bacteria that colonize the skin, and when they enter clogged pores, they can cause or worsen inflamed acne lesions, such as pustules.

Many things can cause inflammation, including chronic disease, hormone imbalances, and dietary factors. Alcohol, especially combined with sugary mixers, may contribute to inflammation and make acne worse.

Hormone imbalances

Acne can be caused by hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during menopause.

Alcohol, meanwhile, can cause changes in hormone levels. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that for every alcoholic drink a healthy female consumed, her levels of estradiol, testosterone, and luteinizing hormone increased.

Some evidence suggests that alcohol may increase levels of androgen hormones, such as testosterone.

Buildup of toxins

Consuming alcohol can lead to alcoholic liver disease.

The liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the body, and frequent alcohol use can make it more difficult for the liver to remove all the toxins.

In addition, alcohol and its metabolites can cause inflammation of liver cells and eliminate antioxidants, leading to oxidative stress.

If the liver cannot effectively remove toxins, they may build up or leave the body through other pathways, such as the skin, reducing skin health.

Alcohol is a common ingredient in topical products such as facial cleansers, toners, and astringents.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) note that alcohols are a diverse family of chemicals with a variety of effects on the skin. Some alcohols commonly found in skin care products include:

  • ethyl alcohol
  • cetyl alcohol
  • stearyl alcohol
  • cetearyl alcohol
  • lanolin alcohol
  • isopropyl alcohol

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it may be advisable to avoid cleansers that contain alcohol.

Alcohol in these products could make acne worse by irritating and overly drying the skin. The AAD recommend gentle cleansers for both dry and oily skin.

While there is no direct link between alcohol and acne, various harmful health effects of alcohol may indirectly cause acne or make it worse.

Alcohol’s effects on the immune system, liver function, inflammation, and hormones may reduce skin health and contribute to acne.

Also, the AAD recommend avoiding skin care products that contain alcohol, which could irritate or dry out the skin.