In What Ways Does Drinking Beer Affect Your Skin
If you have recently started suffering from pimple breakouts you may be feeling devastated for several reasons. First of all, breakouts are physically unpleasant, as zits tend to itch, burn and cause general discomfort. Secondly, you may also be feeling a psychological strain, as now you have to ensure that you still feel confident in your appearance and demeanor despite the pimples. Thirdly, you might also be feeling another burden which is the idea that you must now avoid anything that is fun and pleasant in life, in order to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
You have probably heard that you need to cut off all sugar from your diet – saying bye to anything from smoothies to muffins and cake. Indeed, sugars can affect your skin, but do they necessarily incite pimples when ingested in small dozes? You have probably also heard that you must bid farewell to any deliciously wheat-y foods like pasta, pizza and burgers. While you don’t have to completely cut off these kinds of foods either, it is always a good idea to watch the amounts of wheat and carbs that are going into your body.
So, fret not! The world is not ending – you are simply suffering through a few zits. To be sure, it is certainly important to avoid indulging in excessive food and drink, particularly if these happen to be of the variety that inflame your skin. However, as long as you ingest things with measure, you should not necessarily be seeing a correlation between your diet and your acne.
What is more, a lot of the popular diet tips in relation to acne are simply exaggerated misunderstandings. For example, you can still have as much dark chocolate as you want, as it is not sweeter chocolate that causes breakouts, but its high sugar content. Moreover, you can still have plenty of red wine with your dinner, as it is filled with antioxidants1, unlike other kinds of alcohol.
Another example of a myth regarding acne is the idea that you need to cut out all beer from your diet. Luckily, we are here to tell you that this is simply incorrect. It is certainly true that having tons of beer can add to the problem, but, for the most part, you can freely indulge in your barhopping habits.
The Effect Of The Alcohol In Beer On Your Skin
Because booze tends to diminish the antioxidants in your system, it may generally be a bad idea to soak up as much alcohol as usual on a night out, whenever you are going through a breakout.
What is more, alcohol is taken in by the liver and detoxified using dehydrogenase – an enzyme residing in your liver. Most of the alcohol you drink goes through this process, with only a tiny amount of it being taken in directly by the walls of your stomach. The liver’s re-working of alcohol results in something called acetaldehyde. This is extremely toxic2 and it is the substance that is responsible for anything and everything that you experience during a hangover. So, next time you are feeling nauseous and have a headache after a Friday night, you know who to blame! Additionally, this substance is responsible for irritating your cells in general, when alcohol is consumed in excess. Indeed, this is a substance you don’t want in your system, at all. Fortunately, it also stays in your body for a limited amount of time – until your body reworks all of the drinks from the day before – which is when you stop feeling hungover.
How does this relate to your breakouts? As your system wants to get rid of all of the acetaldehyde as soon as possible, it does this by employing an antioxidant called glutathione. This is a generally significant antioxidant which helps rejuvenate your body with vitamins like C and E. This should give you an idea of why binge-drinking can lead to lackluster, dry skin, and even to pimples. Those who suffer from acne have about a fifth less of this antioxidant than those with ‘normal’ skin.
Do You Have To Stop Drinking Beer?
Absolutely not. Alcohol represents a very small percentage of the contents in a beer. Indeed, beer even sports less of the imbibing substance than wine, which is a pretty innocent drink, in itself. While wine has about 11-14 percent alcohol, most beers have about 4-5 percent of it. Additionally, let’s not forget about the alcohol-free options which you can enjoy without worrying about alcohol percentages.
Beside alcohol, there is not much in beer that can harm your skin. In fact, beer, itself, is full of helpful antioxidants. For instance, the antioxidants in beer are as many as those in certain kinds of wine. If we go into detail, we might even see that beer can surpass white wine, when we examine their health benefits. Indeed, while white wine sports a large amount of polyphenol antioxidants, beer has a larger overall content of the healthy components3, such as ferulic acid, epicatechin and procyanidins. In fact, the antioxidant value of fancy beers like Guinness reaches the antioxidant value of typically healthy foods like pineapple and melon. Although beer has the potential to diminish your beta-carotene and vitamin C, it does make up for it by providing you with generous amounts of antioxidants. More than that, it has no effect whatsoever on your lycopene, lutein, superoxide dismutase and vitamin E levels. Of course, it must be remembered that beer should be ingested in moderation – if you are basically living on the substance, after a while you might find that your system is no longer thriving.
Does this mean that as the alcohol in beer rids you of glutathione, you are actually gaining a wide variety of other antioxidants? Yes, it does. Cheers to that!
Naturally, as with most things, you have to make sure that what you are putting into your body is of some quality. Watered down, homemade beer may certainly not contain the same amounts of goodies as store-bought, patented ale. Make sure that you invest in some good beer, at least some of the time. Try to go for lager, ale or lager.
Surprisingly, non-alcoholic beer sports few, and weak, antioxidants, so don’t be afraid to go for the alcoholic kind. Moreover, light beers also provide you with less beneficial ingredients than normal ones. Why is that? The antioxidants are produced when barley is fermented4 – which is what brings about the alcohol.
Lastly, no matter how much beer you are having, you should make sure to ingest as many other vitamins as possible. Specifically, selenium and zinc are excellent aides in combating acne, since they build up the glutathione in your system – whether or not you are indulging in excessive beer drinking or not.
Beer And Carbohydrates
One of the most dreaded ingredients of beer – for those prone to acne, as well as for those prone to gaining weight – is its carbohydrate content. Because of the process of fermentation that beer’s fibrous grains undergo, the average ale has a much higher carb content than grape-based simple-sugar wine. Beers usually contain about 13-15 carbs, with lighter beers sporting at least 6, and dark beers – as many as 25. The low carb component of light beers is the reason why they get you less drunk, while heavy beers can make even a heavy drinker feel tipsy after a short while. Granted, these aren’t such large amounts of carbohydrates, but seeing as most drinkers have a few beers per occasion, their intake would still end up being larger.
Why are carbohydrates disastrous for your skin? They boost your sebum, leaving you with a higher level of insulin; this results in oiliness, plugged pores and, you guessed it, pimple breakouts. Now you know why your hangovers might sometimes be accompanied by a shiny complexion.
Again, this doesn’t mean you need to cut beer out of your nights out. All you have to do is adjust your diet so that you decrease your overall carb intake, so as to leave more space available for beer carbohydrates. Certainly, it may seem wiser to stick to healthier carbohydrate-filled foods such as sweet potatoes. Having a good time can sometimes come at a cost – in this case, at the cost of carb-rich foods. What can also help you in this process is ensuring that you don’t completely dismiss nutritious carb-y products, that you don’t snack on excessively carb-y foods which are usually sold in bars, and that you exercise enough. On second thought, walking from pub to pub means that you will be burning calories as you go, so that doesn’t sound like a terribly bad idea.
The Gluten In Beer And Your Skin
Gluten can be quite harmful to your skin, leading to heavy breakouts – especially for those of us that suffer from highly sensitive skin. This is the reason why acne-prone folks often religiously avoid bready products like pizza, spaghetti, etc. Additionally, gluten can contribute to issues with digestion, but can it affect your complexion when it’s in the form of beer?
Regardless of whether you are opting for beer with a small or large carbohydrate content, it will certainly contain some gluten, too. There is no way around that, as the drink, itself, is made from malt barley. Barley, rye and wheat are the ingredients which bring you the most gluten per meal. Luckily, however, although all beer contains the glutenous grain, these amounts are so small that they are not likely to actually affect your skin.
How does it work? While the beer-making process starts off with a certain, higher gluten content, this is exponentially decreased over time. Brewing takes away a lot of gluten, as does the actual fermentation process. Some of the intermediate stages contribute to the decrease in gluten, as well, such as when barley is mashed into an actual drink. Gluten is a complex protein, part of hordein, and when the grains are mashed to make liquid, it stays behind in the mash.
One thing to be wary of is having too much beer that is made of wheat. Wheat’s protein complex is respectively called gliadin and it dissolves in liquid a lot easier. This simply means that more, but not too much, of its gluten (about 25mg on average) ends up in your body.
A Czech experiment found that beers contain absolutely miniscule amounts of gluten, which are nothing to worry about. For instance, the scholars concluded that lagers contained an average of 3mg of gluten per 500ml of beer and alcohol-free beer contained a bit more than 1mg of it. Stouts had the most content, at an average of 5.5mg per 500ml, but this is nothing in comparison to foods like toast, which come with more than 3000mg of the feared substance. A second team of scientists discovered that while toast comes with more than 70,000 parts per million of the ingredient, most beers carry between 1 and a couple hundred parts per million. It must be noted that manufacturers can claim their goods to be rid of gluten if they contain less than 20 parts per million of it5.
To be sure, even those with gluten intolerance appear to not really react to barley beer, although they do often react to wheat (still, this reaction can possibly be attributed to the agglutinin levels in wheat). In the end, remember that as much as people nowadays like to dismiss gluten as a harmful substance, the amount it contributes to beer is not likely to have an effect on you or your skin.
Beer And Its Natural Toxins
So far, we have largely been dismissing any effect that commonly known beer ingredients can have on your body. As long as you pay attention to your diet and lifestyle, neither beer’s carbs nor its gluten is likely to have much effect on your complexion. On the other hand, mycotoxins are natural toxins which are produced during moulding processes with the goal of fighting off mould-targeting bacteria. Foods like nuts, grapes, certain kinds of beans and beer-making ingredients may often experience mycotoxins during the growing process. These toxins certainly don’t sound like something a human should be ingesting and this is indeed true, as they can lead to all kinds of unpleasant reactions. They may not sound as harmful as arsenic or mercury, which are produced by humans but they have even been known to cause death in extreme cases.
Moving away from these far-fetched scenarios, it is unfortunately still possible for mycotoxins like ochratoxins, aflatoxins and HT-2 to somewhat contribute to the worsening of your skin condition6. What these toxins do is they reduce your antioxidant levels, as well as making your system more prone to all kinds of irritation.
Mould in maize, oats, wheat, rye and barley can be affected by this kind of toxins. This type of mould is scientifically known as Fusarium graminearum and it can totally overturn the nutritious components of these crops. Even if the mould on the crops is removed, the toxins can remain and continue to contaminate the produce. Unfortunately, the crop that is most often affected is barley, and the kind of toxin that most often affects it is Deoxynivalenol (Vomitoxin) – an extremely resistant contaminant that is able to enter barley’s liquid form, as well. It is therefore very common to encounter this kind of toxin in most beers.
Luckily, although most beers do contain some variety of a toxin, the amounts of it are generally low enough to not have an effect on the human body, and its skin. Studies exploring the percentages of toxins in beers have found that although more than half of the brands of beer they tasted contained some level of one toxin or other, the amounts were not remarkable. This means that these toxins would affect your skin only if you were to drink liters and liters of beer per day.
One experiment tested several kinds of mycotoxins and it turned out that although all drinks sported the toxin zearalenone, three-fourths of the beers sported the toxin deoxynivalenol and almost all of them had ergot alkaloids, the amounts of these ingredients were microscopic. Another experiment found that a sixth of tested beers had tiny levels of the cancerous mycotoxin ochratoxin A7. Despite the seemingly scary tone of these findings, none of these amounts was enough to even remotely suggest a possibility of acne being provoked by beer.
Tips And Tricks
Still feeling uncertain about the content of your drinks? In terms of carbohydrates, remember that all you have to do is to regulate how many carb-y foods you ingest per day. In terms of gluten, make sure to monitor the glutathione manufactured by your system by watching your amino acid and mineral intake. If you just do feel like it is your drinking habits that are causing your acne, there is no harm in decreasing the amounts of beer you drink per day. A can per day and a party night every now and then should do the trick.
If you do simply love beer and cannot see yourself diminishing your number of daily drinks, then there are a few things you can still do to neutralize beer’s effects on your skin. Particularly, if you feel like gluten is your main problem, there are various products you can ingest to counter the gluten levels in beer. First of all, taking the amino acid called n-acetyl-cysteine can really help you regulate the glutathione amounts8 in your body. The cysteine in this supplement can really do miracles for both your skin, as well as your hangovers. Magnesium is another component which can help control your glutathione. Even if you aren’t worried, you might want to opt for magnesium in pill or spray form, as there is an 80 percent chance that your system doesn’t have enough of it.
Furthermore, glycine and zinc can also help you on your way to minimizing the gluten you gain from your favorite beer. Glycine is an amino acid which you can get as supplement or from simple gelatin. Zinc, on the other hand, is a mineral which can both aid in monitoring your gluten, and can just generally improve your skin’s condition.
If you aren’t really into supplements and pills, you can also go for certain foods, such as broccoli or Brazil nuts. Broccoli’s sulphur can positively affect your glutathione levels, as can onion and garlic (however, beware of their hard-to-digest FODMAP content ), as well as Brussel sprouts. Additionally, the selenium in Brazil nuts excellently monitors your glutathione levels, too. You can eat the actual nuts or simply go for a selenium supplement.
Regarding mycotoxins, ginger can be a great aide in ridding you off this danger, especially when it comes to acetaldehyde. The antioxidant properties of ginger, and its shogaols and gingerols can also provide your skin with an incredible boost against irritation and inflammation9. If ginger happens to repulse you, opt for increasing your intake of dark chocolate, pomegranates and sweet potatoes.
If you draw one conclusion from this article, it should be that, essentially, beer does not really present any danger to your skin. Even if you drink a lot of beer, chances are that your acne is caused by another factor, such as your lifestyle or diet choices, or even by the pollution in your city.
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- Tanner G.J., Colgrave M.L., Blundell M.J., Goswami H.P., Howitt C.A. Measuring Hordein (Gluten) in Beer—A Comparison of ELISA and Mass Spectrometry. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56452.
- Doi K., Uetsuka K. Mechanisms of Mycotoxin-induced Dermal Toxicity and Tumorigenesis Through Oxidative Stress-related Pathways. Journal of Toxicologic Pathology. 2014;27(1):1–10.
- Peters J., van Dam R., van Doorn R., Katerere D., Berthiller F., Haasnoot W., Nielen M.W.F. Mycotoxin profiling of 1000 beer samples with a special focus on craft beer. PLoS One. 2017;12(10):e0185887.
- Mokhtari V., Afsharian P., Shahhoseini M., Kalantar S.M., Moini A. A Review on Various Uses of N-Acetyl Cysteine. Cell Journal. 2017;19(1):11–17.
- Bode A.M., Dong Z. “The Amazing and Mighty Ginger,” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. 2011.
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