With the Christmas festivities looming upon us, I thought it was about time I wrote a post for all of you with burning questions about alcohol and acne. What’s the real truth? Does alcohol cause acne? In this post I’m going share the key reasons why alcohol can upset your skin and next week I’ll be sharing the best alcoholic drinks for acne.
Alcohol and acne: does alcohol cause acne?
The good news is that if you’re healthy, a small amount of alcohol has actually been shown to reduce inflammation! No more than 4 alcoholic drinks per week can be beneficial to your health, especially if it helps reduce your stress levels. However, any more than 4 alcoholic drinks per week can start having the opposite effect and cause problems for your hormones and skin.
When consumed in excess, alcohol can be inflammatory as it has a negative effect on your liver’s ability to detox, it damages intestinal bacteria and can seriously deplete your body of essential skin clearing antioxidants, particularly glutathione.
Unfortunately, that’s not all, not only is too much alcohol inflammatory in its own right, it’s very often teamed with the #1 inflammatory food – sugar!
Read more about why sugar is the worst ever food for your acne here.
Whether your poison is a G&T, Rum & Coke, or a Cosmopolitan, they all contain mixers that are crazy high in sugar and can spell big trouble for you skin, even a Cranberry & Vodka can contain up to 7.5 teaspoons of sugar!
Switching to ‘diet’ or ‘light’ mixers that contain artificial sweeteners instead of sugar isn’t much better. Synthetic sweeteners can upset your intestinal bacteria and will add unnecessary burden on your poor liver.
So I’ve talked about detoxification, nutrient depletion and gut health, but how does a heavy night out with friends cause breakouts and why does alcohol cause acne and other skin troubles?
There’s no actual scientific proof that alcohol causes acne directly, but as I touched upon earlier, there are some very strong connections between alcohol consumption and skin health.
So we’ve already spoken about how much sugar can be hidden in your favourite spirit/mixer combo, but how does sugar affect our acne?
If you’re struggling with acne, it’s vital that you keep your blood sugars as stable as possible to prevent spikes. Too much sugar over a long period of time can cause a condition called insulin resistance, which means our bodies become de-sensitised to the effects of sugar. The more resistance to sugar we become, the more insulin and the insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) our pancreas has to produce to help maintain the delicate balance of blood glucose.
All this excess insulin and IGF-1 circulating around the body triggers a release of androgen hormones – a leading cause of acne! An excess of androgens means that our skin will produce too much sebum, which will then oxidise and lead to clogged pores, blackheads and whiteheads which can then lead to further acne inflammation.
Sebum Oxidisation ⇰ Hyperkeratinisation ⇰ Bacteria Overgrowth ⇰ Skin Inflammation
As well as cutting out the crap from your diet and keeping your sugar intake to a minimum, Berberine is a great supplement to take to help tackle acne by balancing blood sugar, reducing bacterial overgrowth in your small intestines and helping to repair the gut.
It’s not an unknown fact that excessive alcohol contributes to liver damage, but even moderate amounts of alcohol can affect how well our liver performs. Despite research showing that small amount of alcohol can be beneficial to health, let’s not beat around the bush here, alcohol will always be a toxin. Your liver is essential for regulating hormones and removing toxins from your body so when too much alcohol is present in your system, your liver focusses on the removal of alcohol instead of putting its energy into its day-to-day detoxing. This means that the everyday toxins, including excess oestrogen, can end up recirculating through our bloodstream.
One of the main things I preach here at Skyn Therapy is the importance of a healthy gut. It really is the key to clearing your skin for GOOD. Many people with chronic acne can also struggle with gut issues including SIBO, or Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth and Leaky Gut Syndrome (intestinal hyper-permeability) which is where the barrier between the inside of the gut and the rest of the body lets toxins, undigested food particles and bacteria leak into the bloodstream, triggering an immune response and causing chronic inflammation and multiple food sensitivities.
Studies into alcohol and gut function have always been centred around excessive drinking and hadn’t really focused much on moderate drinking, i.e 1-2 glasses. Excessive drinking has been shown to contribute to Leaky Gut Syndrome and can alter the balance of good bacteria in your gut, but unfortunately, a more recent research has unearthed that even a single alcoholic drink can have a negative impact on your digestive function and studies have shown that just one drink can increase intestinal permeability.
If your gut function isn’t performing at its best, you’re struggling with a huge list of food sensitivities and you think there’s a chance you may be struggling with SIBO or Leaky Gut Syndrome then you’ll benefit from going totally tee-total for 3 months along with a healthy diet and proper supplementation. Biting the bullet and temporarily quitting alcohol will dramatically speed up your gut’s healing time. Once your tum is in a better state you’ll be able to enjoy the odd drink here and there without any major issues to your gut or your skin.
Not only is alcohol void of minerals and vitamins, but it also inhibits the absorption and usage of vital hormone balancing and acne clearing nutrients such as vitamin A, Bs, C, D, E, zinc, iron, magnesium, selenium and glutathione! As I mentioned earlier, glutathione is an essential acne clearing antioxidant, also know as ‘The Master Antioxidant’, and is needed by every single cell in the entire body to mop up free radicals, eliminate toxins and reduce inflammation. It is the body’s most effective detoxifier and even helps boost the efficiency of other antioxidants such as C and E.
How can I increase glutathione for acne healing?
Studies have shown that taking a glutathione supplements is pretty ineffective so the best way to boost your levels of glutathione is through food sources and supplementation.
Foods that can increase glutathione naturally include; Brazil nuts, walnuts, strawberries, broccoli and asparagus. Supplements that can super-boost glutathione are NAC, Milk Thistle, MSM, Turmeric, Selenium, Magnesium, Zinc and B vitamins. I find that simply taking 3 Brazil nuts a day is a fantastic (and cheap!) way to increase your body’s stores of both selenium and glutathione to help you start clearing your acne today!
Read why selenium is a great antioxidant for acne and PMS here.
Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll be sharing the best alcoholic drinks for acne sufferers. In the meantime, check out this blog post for preventing alcohol related acne breakouts.
Does your acne flare up after you drink alcohol? Let me know in the comments below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin