Why do alcoholics have red faces? Alcohol and Rosacea


More than 415 million people worldwide have rosacea, a chronic skin disease that causes facial flushing, among other symptoms. It usually affects the face, especially the nose and cheeks. As it turns out, alcohol is a top trigger.

A survey conducted on 700 rosacea patients reported that about 70% of sufferers had flare-ups after drinking alcohol. Both white and red wine, as well as beer and spirits, worsened their symptoms. 

Surprisingly, most patients noticed that their symptoms worsen after just one drink. This brings up the question: what’s the relationship between alcohol and rosacea? Is it possible to develop a chronic skin condition because of your drinking habits? Is rosacea a sign of needing alcohol rehab?

Read on to find out!

What Is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a lifelong skin condition that causes redness of the face. Although it’s not contagious, it can affect your confidence and self-image.

Its symptoms vary from one person to another and depend on the type of rosacea. This disease can take four different forms, including:

  • Subtype I, which causes facial flushing, redness, dry skin, and swelling
  • Subtype II, a form of rosacea characterized by oily skin, acne-like breakouts, plaques, and spider veins
  • Subtype III, which causes spider veins, enlarged pores, and thickening of the skin on the nose or cheeks
  • Subtype IV (ocular rosacea), a condition that affects the eyes

The American Academy of Dermatology Association reports that more than 40% of people with rosacea tend to avoid social contact because of their condition. A whopping 70% say that this disease affects their interactions in the workplace.

Its Exact Cause Is Unknown

Researchers don’t know the exact cause of rosacea. The general belief is that this disease may result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Stress, anxiety, extreme temperatures, and certain medications may worsen your symptoms.

Many sufferers experience flare-ups after consuming spicy foods or hot drinks. Other potential triggers include:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Cold wind
  • Heat from sunlight
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and green tea
  • Acne treatments
  • Topical steroids
  • Anti-aging creams and serums
  • Chemical peels
  • Exposure to Demodex mites
  • Gut flora imbalances
  • Intense exercise

Women, especially those with light skin, are more likely to develop this condition. Smokers are at higher risk, too. The same goes for those with a family history of rosacea.

Alcohol and Rosacea: What’s the Link?

Current research indicates a positive association between alcohol and rosacea. Drinking may increase the risk of developing this skin disease and trigger flare-ups in those who already have it.

For example, a 2017 cohort study suggests that drinkers are more likely to develop rosacea than those who don’t consume alcohol at all. The risk is highest among women who drink liquor and white wine.

The same study has identified a dose-dependent relationship between alcohol intake and rosacea. Simply put, the more you drink, the higher your risk of getting this disease.

A possible explanation is that alcohol dilates the blood vessels and increases body temperature. This process increases the release of catecholamines, a class of hormones that regulate the stress response.

Alcoholic beverages also stimulate the production of inflammatory cytokines, causing the skin to swell. These factors combined may trigger facial flushing and other rosacea symptoms.

Some experts say that alcohol doesn’t cause rosacea, but it may worsen its symptoms. Even so, it’s obvious that wine, spirits, and other alcoholic beverages are not an ideal choice for those prone to this disease.

If you have rosacea, the best thing you can do is to cut out alcohol and other drinks or foods that can trigger flare-ups.

Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Your Skin

Alcohol tolerance varies from one person to another. Therefore, a glass of wine may or may not trigger rosacea flare-ups, depending on how your body reacts. But one thing is for sure: some beverages are worse for your skin than others.

If you tend to get a red face from alcohol, cut back on beer and wine. As discussed earlier, both beverages have the potential to cause flare-ups. Liquor isn’t better either.

Ideally, cut out alcohol and find healthier substitutes. If that’s not an option right now, make sure you avoid these drinks:

  • Margarita
  • Mojito
  • Vodka tonic
  • Gin and tonic
  • Vodka
  • Scotch
  • Rum
  • Bourbon
  • Champagne
  • Most cocktails

Margarita, for example, is high in sugar and sodium.

Both ingredients promote inflammation and may lead to a puffy face, redness, and skin irritation. The same goes for most cocktails, including mojito, as they’re loaded with sugar.

What Else Can You Do to Prevent Flare-ups?

If you still want to have a drink, opt for cold beverages. Chilled wine and spirits are less likely to dilate the blood vessels than warm drinks.

Another trick you can use is to drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol consumed. This may help prevent dehydration and make it easier to cut back on alcohol. Plus, water keeps your body in an alkaline state and may reduce the severity of hangovers

Take small sips instead of drinking everything at once. This way, you’ll likely end up consuming less alcohol, which in turn, may prevent flare-ups.

Avoid other triggers, such as chilies and hot sauce, when you drink. Snack on anti-inflammatory foods, such as raw or roasted walnuts, almonds, salmon, berries, and leafy greens.

Beat Alcohol Addiction and Get Your Life Back on Track

Now that you know more about the relationship between alcohol and rosacea, take the steps needed to get your life back on track. Kicking your drinking habit can minimize or prevent rosacea flare-ups and improve skin health.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. At New Leaf Detox and Treatment, we use a holistic approach to treat alcohol addiction. Our team specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy, evidence-based practices, and other treatments that work with your body, not against it.

Contact us today to discuss your needs and see how we can help!