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Alcohol and Health

Can Alcohol Use Cause Skin Rashes?

August 7, 2023
9 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 7, 2023
9 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 7, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 7, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
August 7, 2023
9 min read

Ever noticed how some peoples’ cheeks start to turn rosy after drinking alcohol? Some of us are more prone to this than others based on how efficiently our body metabolizes alcohol. For instance, some people have a genetic mutation that reduces the activity of an important enzyme for breaking down alcohol’s toxic compounds. With limited ability to effectively process alcohol, our body experiences a buildup of toxins that can cause those rosy, flushed cheeks.

While this is perhaps the most widely known effect of alcohol on our skin, it’s certainly not the only one. Drinking alcohol can cause us to develop skin rashes, worsen pre-existing skin conditions, and leave us vulnerable to skin problems. How? Let’s find out!

Alcohol, Rashes, and Skin Conditions

Alcohol can cause skin reactions such as rashes, redness, itching, and other symptoms. While these rashes aren’t usually dangerous, they can range from mildly uncomfortable to severe, depending on the person.

Research indicates that those who misuse alcohol may be more likely to develop an alcohol-related skin rash or condition. Some of these skin reactions can occur almost immediately when we drink alcohol, while others might not develop for months or years, depending on various factors.

Here are some of the more common skin conditions associated with alcohol misuse:

  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes a rash with itchy, scaly patches. It can develop at any point in a person’s life and affect different body parts, including arms, torso, scalp, face, genitals, and fingers. Research suggests that excessive alcohol consumption can cause the development of psoriasis or worsen an existing condition.
  • Eczema: Eczema is a common skin condition that includes symptoms such as itchy, red, dry, and inflamed patches of skin. Alcohol consumption can cause an existing eczema condition to flare up. This is partly because alcohol causes dehydration and can suppress the immune system for a prolonged period of time.
  • Rosacea: Rosacea is a common skin condition that usually begins in the nose and cheeks of those who tend to blush or flush easily. While alcohol doesn’t necessarily cause rosacea, it can trigger a flare up or rosacea symptoms. One study found that the risk of rosacea increased as alcohol intake increased.

Other skin conditions that can be caused or worsened by heavy alcohol use include pimples and acne, hives, dermatitis, severe itchiness (pruritus), stinging, tingling or burning sensations, red spots, hyperpigmentation, and cellulitis.

It’s worth noting that chronic alcohol use prevents the absorption of essential vitamins, including B and C — both of which are vital for healthy skin and immune function. Not getting enough of these vitamins could worsen any existing skin condition or contribute to the development of a new one.

Furthermore, excessive, prolonged use of alcohol can cause liver damage. Signs of liver damage often include skin-related symptoms, such as red or purple rash dots or splotches, severe itching in a particular spot or all over the body, spider veins, small, yellow bumps in the skin or eyelids, brown patches (hyperpigmentation), or patches of dehydrated skin.

Alcohol-Related Skin Reactions

Several conditions can cause a skin reaction after alcohol has been consumed:

  • Allergic reactions. While relatively rare, there have been some reported cases of a genuine allergic reaction, including itchiness, after consuming alcohol. However, when people have alcohol-related skin reactions to alcoholic drinks, it’s usually due to other components in the drink. For instance, someone who is allergic to wheat might have skin reactions after consuming beer or other alcohol made with wheat. Others might be more sensitive to the sulfites sometimes found in wine.
  • Alcohol intolerance. In general, skin reactions related to alcohol are due more to an intolerance rather than an actual allergy. This intolerance results from the genetic condition mentioned above, which prevents the body from metabolizing alcohol effectively. A person with an alcohol intolerance tends to develop facial redness immediately when they consume it, even small amounts.
  • Drug interactions. Alcohol can negatively interact with certain medications, including antibiotics, which can result in facial flushing or a body rash. This is more common in older adults, who are more likely to take medications and who metabolize alcohol more slowly. For example, metronidazole is a common antibiotic medication that can cause adverse effects with alcohol, including facial flushing, skin rashes, increased heart rate, and vomiting.

While these are some of the ways alcohol-related skin reactions occur, It’s important to note that some occur for unknown reasons.

Treatment for Alcohol Rashes & Skin-Related Problems

Although alcohol-related skin reactions and conditions can be irritating and uncomfortable, the vast majority are not life-threatening. As our body processes the alcohol out of our system, symptoms typically go away. However, the best way to prevent a reaction from occuring is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether or to minimize the amount consumed.

Keep in mind that we might experience skin-related problems that point to liver damage if we’ve been consuming alcohol heavily for a long time. It’s important to contact a medical professional right away if we notice any signs of liver damage. Our liver has a remarkable ability to heal itself when we stop consuming alcohol.

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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