With everything bad that comes with drinking too much alcohol, people are now asking does alcohol cause acne among other things. Considering that alcohol has thus far been associated with the development of various conditions ranging from premature aging to heart disease, and even sudden death by stroke, it really is no wonder if people wonder if it would also create any dermatological issues.
This question could best be answered by delving into the facts of what acne is, what its possible causes are, and how alcohol intake plays a part in any of it, if at all. In itself, acne might not really seem like a serious condition, but it could be indicative of a deeper, more unsettling change in a person’s general health that should probably be looked at closer.
It is worth noting that alcohol is directly associated with a host of physical issues in those who take it regularly, and even more so for people who ginge on it. It is also worth noting that alcohol is also known to indirectly influence other issues by way of complication, or by affecting some organs or systems that inevitably caused the condition that is not generally associated with alcohol.
What Causes Acne?
The clinical definition of acne is that it is a skin condition that happens when the hair follicles on the skin become clogged with either oil, dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells, or a combination thereof. This clogging leads to the development of whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples.
The skin is made up of a multitude of skin cells, and just like every other cell in the body, these cells need nutrients and certain conditions to remain healthy and fulfill their role. Skin cells have a natural lifespan before they wither, die, and slough off. Underneath the skin is glands called the sebaceous glands which regularly excrete an oily and waxy substance called sebum. Sebum is known to lubricate the hair and skin of mammals, and in humans, it helps keep the skin cells moisturized so that the cells do not dry up prematurely.
These glands, however, have a tendency to get clogged, which leads to the formation of pimples. When a large number of these glands get clogged, the result is an acne breakout.
Acne is known to be the most prevalent skin condition in the world, with at least 9.4% of the global population having it. The American Academy of Dermatology says acne is the most common skin condition amongst the American people.
Acne, while nowhere near life-threatening, is still quite painful. A person could suffer an acne breakout and have massive portions of their face and some sections of the body covered in pus-filled pustules, another term for pimples, of varying sizes. These pimples could appear as red bumps with white centers or as white bumps that feel like there is something rigid inside of it and are tender to the touch.
What makes acne particularly stressful, apart from the pain, is the fact that it is immensely persistent. Those who suffer from it lament that whenever their latest breakout appears to be healing and they expect their acne to clear up, they suddenly break out again. On top of this persistence, there are people whose bodies apparently react to certain irritants through an acne breakout. These certain irritants include food items they could have an allergy to, certain beverages such as alcohol, and certain chemicals or medications.
What Effect Does Drinking Alcohol Have on the Skin?
It is known that chronic alcohol intake causes a number of conditions in those who regularly and heavily imbibe it, not the least of which are the consequences that manifest on the skin. People mostly assume that the effects of alcohol are limited to the body and head, and as an extended consequence, the heart. In reality, chronic alcohol intake spreads the effect all throughout the body, with some effects manifesting sooner than the others, such as inebriation.
The morning after inebriation is the time when regret sets in, as the pain and sickly feeling brought on by excessive alcohol intake makes itself known. This general feeling of being ill after a night of binge drinking is largely due to dehydration caused by the alcohol. This same dehydration is also largely responsible for what happens to the skin after some time.
As the body tries to purge itself of the alcohol, every available way of flushing out the toxic substance is used, which is why there is a tendency to go to the toilet a lot. This is largely to blame for the dehydration effect, and as the body is deprived of precious water, every system begins to suffer from it. The skin also needs a good measure of moisture to prevent the premature death of the skin cells, and this premature aging of the skin is primarily why people who drink more look much older than they really are.
The skin, deprived of sufficient moisture, begins to lose its natural elasticity and resilience, making it look dry, leathery, and dull. The premature aging of the skin also makes it quite susceptible to injury, infection, and inflammation, with the last two conditions largely associated with acne and its symptoms.
There are also a number of skin conditions that people develop either directly or indirectly from their alcohol intake, including:
This skin condition manifests as red patches of skin that look severely irritated or inflamed. While not directly the cause, alcohol is largely held to cause a flare-up of rosacea in those who already have the condition. The American Academy of Dermatology also revealed that they have compelling studies that indicate chronic or excessive alcohol intake may actually increase the likelihood of developing rosacea.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the inner layers of the skin primarily concentrated in the lower legs but could also appear on the face. It specifically targets the dermis and subcutaneous fat, where the infection manifests as small areas of redness that rapidly increase in size in just a few days. The infected area becomes swollen, painful, and warm to the touch.
A typical point of entry for the bacterial infection is through a break in the skin, making this condition a great risk for people who are particularly prone to wounds, lesions, and cuts. This correlates with the fact that alcohol intake degrades the elasticity and resilience of the skin through dehydration, making the skin dry, weak, and prone to abrasions.
Psoriasis is a noncontagious autoimmune disease characterized by dry, itchy, scaly, and discolored patches of skin. As with most autoimmune conditions, there is no single known cause for this condition, although there are two most likely causes that medical professionals are looking into such as genetics and alcohol intake.
People who suffer from psoriasis should also stay away from alcohol for another reason: alcohol interferes with psoriasis treatments. Those who have it and still drink alcohol have been known to suffer from flare-ups and longer treatment periods.
Alcohol is a known aggravating factor in people who have cancer. Alcohol is known to interfere with the body’s immune system, and as such, it is believed diseased cells are better able to proliferate in the body in this condition. This also applies in cases of skin cancer, which is why oncologists stress that people who have any form of cancer should stop drinking alcohol immediately.
Tender and Sensitive Skin
People might not really pay attention to it much, but the dehydration-induced degradation of the skin caused by alcohol intake actually has a serious implication on the body. The skin is the only defense that people have against bacteria and infections that are not airborne. Should the skin be compromised to the point that it could easily be cut, punctured, or scratched off, the open wound becomes a gateway for anything to get into the body.
Dehydrated skin does not even need to be cut or punctured to give bacteria an opening into the body. Dehydrated skin will quickly blister under the sun, and it won’t take much to cause these blisters to pop, creating a breach in the skin layer.
Can Skin Damage from Acne and Alcohol be Reversed?
Given time, nurturing, and abstinence from anything else that might weaken it, the skin could recover from dehydration and regain its elasticity and resilience, effectively functioning once more as a protective barrier. In the case of people who have acne, there is no cure, although there are treatments for it and ways to prevent a flare-up and minimize the damage.
Dermatological Acne Treatments
Depending on the severity of acne that a person might have, dermatologists have acne treatment programs that help minimize the scarring caused by the popped pimples and pustules. These programs also come with skincare routines that should be implemented daily so as to ensure that flare-ups do not occur, and so that infection and inflammation are kept to a minimum.
Stress Management Routines
Acne breakouts are also triggered by unmanaged stress in many people. This is mostly why students tend to have flare-ups whenever exams are closed. The same also applies to adults, as many who previously had clear complexions suddenly experience breakouts when they are stressed out. Stress management routines could help in this case by either easing out whatever stress is already being experienced or by helping the person avoid the stress triggers that initiate the adverse reactions.
Proper Nutrition and a Healthy Lifestyle
An unhealthy diet, made worse by unhealthy habits such as not getting enough sleep, not drinking enough water, and smoking all greatly contribute to not only acne flare-ups, but to a host of other skin conditions as well. Getting enough sleep, drinking ample amounts of water, and maintaining a balanced diet is essential in not only ensuring acne and other skin issues don’t worsen but also in staving off premature aging and susceptibility to disease.
Vitamin E Supplements
Vitamin E is a known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This vitamin helps keep the skin healthy by removing free radicals that cause premature aging of the skin, promote heart disease, and increase the chances of developing various forms of cancer. Skin inflammations also cause the skin cells around the inflamed area to die off, leaving it dry and tender. Sufficient Vitamin E helps in dealing with the various complications brought on by free radicals and also in regulating and treating inflammations.
Abstain from Alcoholic Beverages
One sure way to avoid skin dehydration is to abstain from alcohol intake, regardless of whether the beverage is beer, wine, or mixers. To make it simpler for the people asking “can beer cause acne” or “does red wine cause acne”, the answer is alcoholic beverages cause dehydration, and one of the complications of dehydration is acne.
To a certain extent, people with a particular susceptibility to dehydration for any reason at all should also consult with a doctor to see if they should also avoid common diuretics such as coffee and tea for the same reason.
Westwind Can Help You with Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
Alcohol use disorder needs to be treated as soon as possible, because the longer it is not dealt with, the greater the damage is to the body. It is, of course, not easy, particularly for those who have been drinking for most of their lives. To make the most of their lives, however, they really do need to stop drinking, before drinking stops them from enjoying the rest of their lives.
We here at Westwind can help you with this, as we have done with so many others who had the same problem. Let us help as well.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.