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Drinking Habits

Drinker’s Nose: What Is It and Why Does It Happen?

June 21, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 21, 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.
June 21, 2023
9 min read
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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.
June 21, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 21, 2023
9 min read

If you’ve heard of or seen "drinker's nose," you might be wondering what causes it — and whether alcohol is truly the culprit.

In this article, we'll navigate the scientific waters underlying this condition and chart a course towards healthier habits.

What Is a “Drinker’s Nose”?

The terms "drinker's nose" and “alcoholic nose,” though misleading, refer to a skin condition known as rosacea — a disorder causing redness and making the blood vessels in our face visible, especially in our nose.

This condition is actually called “rhinophyma” — Greek for “nose overgrowth” — and causes both a reddening and thickening of the nose. It earned its nickname due to a misconception that heavy drinkers are the only ones affected, their nose’s red hue a telltale sign of overindulgence.

A person experiencing nose related issues

However, research tells us it’s a bit more complicated. A landmark 2017 study reported a positive association between alcohol intake and rosacea in women. The research highlighted the increased risk of rosacea with increasing alcohol consumption. These findings lay the groundwork for our understanding of how alcohol amplifies rosacea symptoms.

In other words, while alcohol doesn’t cause rosacea, it can certainly exacerbate its symptoms.

The Science Behind the Redness

Our noses, like the rest of our skin, are crisscrossed with tiny blood vessels. Alcohol is a vasodilator: it prompts blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow to the skin's surface, especially the face. It makes us flushed.

If we consistently consume alcohol, these blood vessels may remain enlarged, giving the nose a perpetually reddened, bulbous look.

The link between alcohol and rosacea goes deeper. Drinking dehydrates us, leading to inflammation — and a worsening of rosacea symptoms. Dehydration triggers inflammation in our bodies, and since rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition, alcohol-induced dehydration can worsen its symptoms.

Drinker’s Nose

What’s more, alcohol can trigger the overgrowth of a mite called Demodex folliculorum, naturally occurring on our skin. Those of us with rosacea can have up to four times more the Demodex mites on our face than people who don’t have rosacea.

It’s a vicious cycle: these mites can proliferate in higher numbers with rosacea present, worsening symptoms. While the relationship between these mites and rosacea isn’t fully understood, they're another piece of the puzzle connecting alcohol and rosacea.

Spotting Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms of rosacea:

  • Persistent redness
  • Swollen red bumps
  • Eye problems (like dryness and irritation)
  • Enlarged nose due to thickened skin (rhinophyma).

While rosacea can affect anyone, it's more common among middle-aged women and people with fair skin. Alcohol can trigger flare-ups, so recognizing these signs early will help us to take action.

Avoiding “Red Nose”

We've understood the problem and its causes; now let’s focus on the solution. The good news is that rosacea is manageable, and some lifestyle changes can significantly help.

  1. Moderate alcohol intake. Cutting back on alcohol is the most direct step we can take. This doesn't necessarily mean total abstinence, but moderation is key — as is learning to be assertive about your choices.
  2. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Remember that a night out doesn’t have to set back your goals to cut back — plenty of bars supply delicious mocktails these days.
  3. Avoid triggers: Besides alcohol, other factors such as spicy food, stress, and extreme temperatures can exacerbate rosacea. Identifying and avoiding our triggers can reduce flare-ups.
  4. Refresh your skin care routine: Maintaining a gentle skincare routine, using products suitable for sensitive skin, can help manage symptoms.
  5. Assess your diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can aid in managing rosacea.
  6. Get moving: Regular exercise improves overall health and reduces inflammation.
  7. Seek medical attention: If symptoms persist, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional or a dermatologist. There are various treatments available that can help manage this condition effectively.

Alcoholic Nose Treatment

How do you get rid of a red nose? Effective treatment for alcoholic red nose, rosacea, or rhinophyma often involves a multifaceted approach. Dermatologists recommend avoiding alcohol and spicy foods, which can exacerbate symptoms. Redness from rosacea can be managed; a dermatologist may prescribe topical antibiotics, retinoids, or azelaic acid. These topical creams containing antibiotics or anti-inflammatory agents can help reduce redness and inflammation. Laser therapy can target blood vessels and minimize visible redness. In severe cases of rhinophyma, surgical procedures may be necessary to reshape the nose.

It's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific condition. Early intervention and lifestyle changes can significantly improve the appearance and health of your skin. Once it progresses to full rhinophyma, treatment primarily consists of surgery — so it’s best to avoid it in the first place!

Charting a New Course

A reddening nose can be a signal of underlying issues that we need to address. By taking concrete steps towards healthier habits, we can avoid drinker’s nose and minimize symptoms of rosacea and rhinophyma. Remember, the first step towards change is understanding — but you don’t have to do it all alone. Find your people at Reframe!

Take Control and Thrive With Reframe

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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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