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Top 10 Worst Types of Alcohol for Your Skin

Worst alcohol for your skin 

If you’re up on your skincare game, you might already know that alcohol is a major no-no for clear and glowing skin - especially in large quantities. Why? Alcohol can cause inflammation, congestion, dehydration, redness, and irritation over time.

Since these concerns are cumulative, you might not even realize that your skin is going to get irritated until you’re already dealing with the symptoms. 

That said, not all alcohols act the same, and certain drinks or alcohol varieties are much worse for your skin than others. Here’s our “dirty drink dozen” and what makes them bad for your skin.


How Alcohol Can Damage Your Skin

We hate to break it to you, but alcohol can be pretty brutal on the skin. It can cause:

  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Burst capillaries
  • Dehydration
  • Tightness
  • Dullness
  • Acne breakouts

In short, it can leave you red, dry, and broken out -- and that’s pretty much what your entire skincare routine is designed to avoid.


Is Alcohol Inflammatory?

According to a 2010 article in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, "Heavy alcohol consumption contributes to systemic inflammation by interfering with the body’s natural defenses against the influx of gut microbiota and its products." That's because some of the byproducts produced as the body breaks down alcohol contribute to chronic inflammation.

The long term effects of heavy alcohol use on your skin are clear. Researchers have found that "heavy alcohol use (eight or more drinks per week) was associated with increased severity of nearly all features analyzed" related to the aging process.

Even moderate alcohol use still has an effect on your skin. The same investigators found that "among moderate drinkers, only midface volume loss and under-eye puffiness were associated with drinking." So the fact is that alcohol is inflammatory and its regular use leads to accelerated signs of skin aging.


Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Acne?

Yes, according to researchers who published a 2023 article entitled 'Advances in Relationship Between Alcohol Consumption and Skin Diseases', drinking alcohol "appears to be a risk factor for acne." Why the ambiguity in that statement? Unfortunately, those same researchers admit that "despite the large body of research addressing acne, the pathogenesis of the disease [acne] remains poorly understood."


Does Drinking Alcohol Worsen Rosacea?

Drinking alcohol does not cause rosacea but it may worsen it in some cases. Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin disease related to "congenital and adaptive immune response dysfunction, vascular and nervous system dysregulation, and inflammatory responses," not alcohol consumption.

Some research has indicated that drinking alcohol could cause flare ups of rosacea and worsen the condition. It seems that this happens because of "alcohol-induced capillary dilation, an increase in inflammatory factors, and changes in the gut microbiome." If you're concerned about the way drinking alcohol worsens your rosacea, speak with your dermatologist.


Is Drinking Alcohol Bad for Eczema?

Alcohol use can be related to eczema in a few different contexts. Eczema is a chronic inflammatory disease - and since alcohol processing leads to an inflammatory response in the body, it's not surprising that the two are related.

Eczema is related to alcohol use during pregnancy for some folks. A cross-sectional study found that "alcohol consumption during pregnancy was significantly associated with atopic dermatitis among offspring." Some research has indicated a connection between drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day and severe eczema and atopic dermatitis, but the link is not entirely clear and more research is needed.

As with most conditions, each individual reacts differently. If you notice that drinking alcohol is bad for your eczema, you should talk to your dermatologist about your experience and consider making adjustments in order to avoid flare ups.


Which Type of Alcohol Is Worst for Your Skin?

It's clear that drinking alcohol can lead to skin issues, worsen some conditions, and cause you to display early signs of aging. But not all alcoholic drinks affect your skin in the same way. If you want to keep looking your best and avoid red, dull, wrinkled skin, here's what you need to know. We'll count them down from worse to better, starting with #10.


10. Mixed Drinks

Mojitos, margaritas, jack and cokes, vodka red bulls - they’re all as bad as it gets for your skin. First, they’re loaded with sugar, which can cause systemic inflammation, wrinkles, spiked inflammation levels, and acne.  

They also come with excessive carbohydrates - and drinks like margaritas are high in sodium. Translation? Weight gain, puffiness, and long-term aging effects. Deep trouble.


9. Red Wine

You might think that, with all its antioxidants and heart healthy benefits, red wine would be higher on the list. But it’s pretty bad news. Why? Red wine is: 

  • a vasodilator, meaning it opens blood vessels and leads to increased skin redness in the skin.
  • a trigger for histamine release - the stuff that causes allergic reactions, more redness, more inflammation and more acne. It’s particularly bad if you’re prone to eczema or rosacea. 
  • full of sulfites, which are known to cause skin irritation.  

Red wine may not be the worst for your overall health, but it’s certainly not doing your skin any favors.


Does Red Wine Cause Inflammation?

While some research has been done into whether red wine causes inflammation or not, the results are not clear and more study is needed. In one study where participants consumed red wine in modest quantities (150 mL), signs of inflammation were not observed. But in larger quantities and in more diverse populations, that may not hold true.


8. White Wine

While it’s not quite as bad as red wine, white wine still isn’t great for your skin. For one, it’s high in sugar, which translates to inflammation and broader cellular aging. It’s also packed with sulfites. They enhance its flavor but trigger redness and irritation. And it doesn’t have the resveratrol or antioxidants that you’d find in red wine - a.k.a: no redeeming qualities. 


7. Spritzers

Canned mixed drinks or vodka sodas are not the worst - if they’re not packed with sugar. The key is to look for a spritzer made with a clear liquor with as few additives or added sugars as possible.

If you make your own, you can control the ingredients. But if you're shopping for a canned drink, check the ingredients before you buy.


6. Dark Liquor

Straight liquor is better than mixed drinks for your skin because it doesn’t have many sugars or additives. But dark liquors - like rum, whiskey, bourbon, and gold tequila - are worse types of alcohol for you than their clear counterparts. Why?

Dark liquors contain congeners - compounds that are either naturally occurring or get added during the aging process. They can contribute to early signs of aging and make hangovers worse (which is why the no-hangover rule is to stick to clear liquors). If you're wondering which alcohol is worse for you - clear or dark - it's clear that darker is worse.


5. Jell-O Shots

Surprised to see these so high on the list? Well, think about it. Clear and distilled spirits are not too bad for your skin, and gelatin is packed with good-for-your skin minerals, protein, and collagen. So these little guys might actually do your skin some good - in moderation.


4. Beer

Perhaps unexpectedly, beer is not all that terrible for your skin (when enjoyed in moderation). Despite being carb-heavy, beer is high in antioxidants and other anti-aging compounds. What’s more, the yeast and hops in beer can actually soothe the skin and quell puffiness. Just try not to drink too many - because it’ll still leave you bloated.


Is Beer Inflammatory?

While processing alcohol of any kinds leads to the production of inflammatory compounds, some of the ingredients in beer are anti-inflammatory on their own. Hops, for example, have been shown to prevent inflammation. So beer may be inflammatory, but not all of its ingredients are.


Does Beer Cause Acne?

No, beer does not cause acne in and of itself. However, it can make your acne symptoms worse. That's because beer contains a congener, much like dark liquors do. As your body processes this ingredient, inflammation and dehydration occur. Both of those effects will make your acne look and feel worse - even though beer doesn't make the acne appear.


2 and 3. Gin and Vodka (It's a tie.)

Clear spirits like gin and vodka are free of those pesky congeners, meaning they’re far less likely to irritate your skin (or cause a hangover). Plus, they don’t have any of the other usual suspects like sugar or salt in them. In short, your body will likely metabolize them quickly - and you won’t see too many negative repercussions.

If you're looking for the healthiest hard liquor for your skin, vodka and gin are good choices. But remember, this changes when you start adding juice, soda, energy drinks, or other additives. 


Does Vodka Cause Inflammation?

All alcohols cause some inflammation during the process of being metabolized. However, because vodka does not contain congeners or additional sugars, it is one of the least inflammatory alcohol drinks you can enjoy.


1. Tequila

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila… better skin? 

Tequila has far less sugar than most other liquors, which means less acne, inflammation, and broader cell damage to your skin after a long night of drinks. Plus, it can claim some health benefits, including lowering blood sugar and decreasing bloating. Just be sure to skip the salt and sugar (and stick to the clear varieties).  


What Is the Healthiest Hard Liquor?

When it comes to your skin, the healthiest hard liquor is clear tequila. Vodka and gin are close seconds.

Bottoms up! 

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