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Does alcohol make your skin red?

Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on October 24, 2023

Alcohol is bad for your health, affecting nearly every organ in your body—including the largest one: your skin. One too many a drink can trigger sudden irritation, redness, and flushing

Table of Contents

Alcohol flush reaction is no fun, but the good news is these effects don’t have to be permanent. The best cure: get off alcohol and watch your complexion improve. 

It may be easier said than done, but here at Ardu, we help you break the cycle of alcohol dependence. Our rehab center in Provo, Utah provides comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction, including medically monitored detox, psychotherapy, group support, and aftercare planning. 

I recently had the good fortune to receive treatment at Ardu, and am so grateful for everyone there. All of the employees from the administration to the counselors, nurses and techs were awesome. I received the very latest in medical treatment, along with in-depth counseling and behavioral therapy, that allowed me to begin my recovery in a loving and supportive environment… thanks to Ardu Recovery Center!

Susan H


What is alcohol flushing?

Alcohol flushing is a physical reaction to alcohol. For some, it’s three shots of whiskey. For others, one cold beer. The flushing is characterized by red, irritated skin warm to the touch, followed by other symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and rapid heartbeat. 

For the most part, alcohol flushing is a genetic condition. The gene responsible for the “Asian flush” is more common in Asian populations, but people across all races can show signs of sensitivity to booze. 

Alcohol flush isn’t just an embarrassing change to your complexion. It may also indicate that you’re drinking more than your body and skin can handle. Heavy drinking takes a serious toll on our skin, but it isn’t always easy to quit, especially after years of alcohol abuse. 

Our alcohol detox center offers a safe, supportive environment to help manage the challenging symptoms of alcohol addiction. Under compassionate medical supervision and care, you can detoxify your body and start down the path of reclaiming your health and zest for life.

What are the symptoms of alcohol flushing?

Facial flushing is the most visible reaction to alcohol for some people, but more signals appear to remind you that alcohol is not your friend. 

  • Increased heart rate. 
  • Dizziness
  • Warm, tingly sensation (similar to a sunburn)
  • Swelling
  • Itchiness
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Rosacea flares

Your skin is your built-in alert system, warning you when you’ve had too much. The largest organ in your body mirrors externally what’s happening below the surface. When you suffer from alcohol-related liver disease or kidney damage, your complexion will show. 

Why does alcohol make your skin red?

Your face can turn red primarily because of how your body processes alcohol. Your body breaks ethanol (the actual alcohol in alcoholic drinks) down into different compounds. One of those is acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct. To make acetaldehyde less harmful, an enzyme called ALDH2 steps in to quickly convert it before it causes any damage. 

However, for some people, this enzyme doesn’t work properly. Instead of detoxifying it, ALDH2 allows acetaldehyde to accumulate in the body. A 2020 case report on alcohol-induced facial flushing suggested that some people, especially those of East Asian descent, “may have a deficiency in ALDH2, which can lead to a buildup of acetaldehyde, resulting in flushing and erythema of the face after consumption of alcohol.”

Whether or not you have the gene and the enzyme, another crucial factor is at play here: alcohol’s negative effects on our cardiovascular system. When you drink, your blood vessels dilate (expand). This is called vasodilation and it promotes facial flushing in the following way:

  1. Dilated blood vessels allow more blood to flow near the surface of your skin. 
  2. As a direct response to the accumulation of acetaldehyde, your body sends more blood to the skin’s surface, aiming to speed up the removal of this irritating substance. 
  3. The increased blood flow turns the skin red and warm to the touch.

So facial flushing is the result of your body’s diligence to safeguard your well-being and get rid of alcohol’s toxic byproducts. Your body may take a while to recover from the negative effects of alcohol, so flushing may persist for some time even after your last drink. 

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. Alcohol detox marks a pivotal moment to build on. From there, you can start creating new, healthier routines and choices. 

Our detox center offers multiple forms of therapy and counseling that will help you gain the necessary skills you need to maintain sobriety. Learn more about our holistic detox and cognitive-behavioral therapy where you can uncover the roots of addiction and chart a new path forward.

How quickly does alcohol flushing appear after drinking?

Facial flushing can occur very quickly after drinking alcohol for some people. 

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Facial redness can appear within 5 to 10 minutes of consuming an alcoholic drink. 
  • Most people experience it around 30 minutes to an hour after they start drinking. Those particularly sensitive to alcohol experience almost immediate flushing.
  • Flushing usually peaks about 60 minutes after drinking.
  • The redness and warmth generally start to fade away one to two hours after you have your last drink. However, for some people, facial flushing persists for much longer. It isn’t uncommon for redness to linger for up to 6 hours.
  • Many factors can influence the onset of facial flushing:
    • Skin tone
    • Metabolism rates
    • Medications (people on antihistamines may experience delayed flushing)
    • The type of alcohol 
    • The amount of alcohol

Pay close attention to your own reaction patterns. Alcohol flushing is unpredictable, but once you understand your own timing and triggers, you can manage this rapid skin reaction.

How long does it take facial flushing to go away?

Alcohol-induced skin redness can often linger long after the party’s over. It typically remains for several hours at minimum from the moment you finish your last drink. Again, how quickly you react to it and how long it takes to go away depends on your metabolism, the drink of choice, the amount you consume, and some other factors. 

Here’s the breakdown of how long a flush reaction can linger:

  • Facial redness can linger for 3–6 hours after consumption. For some people, it’s even longer.
  • It normally takes about 12–16 hours before your skin’s redness disappears. 
  • Flushing episodes can randomly recur for up to 10–14 days after drinking.
  • In heavy drinkers, it may take up to 2 weeks of complete alcohol abstinence for flushing to go away.
  • Facial creams, hydration, rest, and antihistamines can help you minimize lingering alcohol flushing.

Skin redness may overstay its welcome, but patience and diligent skincare can minimize this unpleasant reaction to booze. The best medicine is, as always, complete alcohol abstinence. In the long run, the absence of alcohol is the best gift you can give your skin. 

What skin conditions are associated with redness and flushing?

Many common skin conditions involve chronic or recurring facial redness and flushing. They arise when processes such as inflammation, vasodilation, and increased sensitivity create excess blood flow and irritation on and below the skin’s surface. 

Facial redness and flushing can stem from:

  • Rosacea: this chronic inflammatory skin condition causes facial redness, swollen blood vessels, stinging, burning, and acne-like breakouts. 
  • Eczema: an autoimmune condition that leaves your skin dry, red, and itchy. 
  • Psoriasis: a skin condition caused by a faulty immune system. It makes your skin red and inflamed with scaly, thick silvery patches. 
  • Lupus: another autoimmune condition that can cause a butterfly facial rash, sensitivity, and red lesions. 
  • Sunburn: when stay long enough under the sun, an acute reaction to UV damage can cause red, warm, tender skin that may blister or peel. 
  • Blood vessel disorders: abnormal dilation of blood vessels can cause persistent facial redness. 
  • Allergic reactions to foods, medicines, or chemicals prompt flushing, itching, and swelling.

Despite the different causes, all these skin conditions share the symptoms of redness and inflammation that may be exacerbated by environmental factors and lifestyle choices. Since alcohol is known for its inflammatory effects, it goes without saying that excessive alcohol consumption often makes these skin issues much worse. 

Do you want to quit alcohol? Contact us and start your sobriety journey today.

How does heavy drinking make my skin conditions worse?

Alcohol is a known troublemaker for your skin. Here’s how. 

  1. Chronic inflammation can aggravate acne, rosacea, and dermatitis, causing skin redness, swelling, and discomfort. Alcohol doesn’t do any of those symptoms any favors. Alcohol-related inflammation further dries your skin and provokes severe itching and flare-ups in people struggling with eczema and psoriasis.
  2. Alcohol causes your skin to lose fluids, leaving your complexion dry and wrinkly. Dehydrated skin is also more prone to irritation and swelling—which is bad news for those with eczema and psoriasis. When you have a sunburn, alcohol’s dehydrating properties further steal fluids from your hurting, dry skin, worsening the pain, peeling, and blistering.
  3. As we mentioned, alcohol is a vasodilator. Combine its inflammatory properties with dilated blood vessels, and you get even more skin redness, stinging, and acne-like breakouts. 
  4. Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system. You need your immune system to be up to par in order to fight skin infections and acne. 
  5. Speaking of the immune system, excessive alcohol consumption raises histamine levels. Histamine is a part of your immune defenses and its job is to trigger responses that help your body fend off invaders such as allergens. Booze acts as a histamine booster, prompting your body to make more of it. It may sound like a good thing, but in this exaggerated reaction, your skin becomes flooded with trigger responses, intensifying symptoms such as hives, swelling, and skin irritation. 
  6. You need a whole lot of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals to keep your skin healthy and beautiful. Alcohol may easily rob you of those. Nutrient deficiencies are bad news for dermatitis and other skin conditions. A 2023 study case revealed that a young man with a history of heavy alcohol abuse developed a rash with red spots due to a lack of vitamin C. His vitamin C deficiency was rooted in alcohol abuse and poor diet. 

If your skin is sensitive and irritation-prone, don’t make it worse with alcohol. There are no benefits of excessive or even moderate drinking for your skin, skin conditions, and your overall health. 

We understand that, if you’re struggling with addiction, you can’t always control your urges. But with the right help, you can regain that control and make choices to improve your health. 

How to treat alcohol addiction

At Ardu Recovery Center, we provide personalized support and evidence-based treatment to help you overcome alcohol dependence. Our compassionate team can guide you towards sobriety one day at a time, reducing alcohol’s damaging effects, and empowering you to heal. 

The recovery process begins with alcohol detox, where we safely and comfortably help you rid your body of alcohol toxins. Our medical professionals at our detox center closely monitor your progress to ensure a smooth and safe detox experience

But detox is just the beginning. We believe in a comprehensive approach to recovery, addressing not only the physical aspects but also the psychological and emotional aspects of addiction. Through evidence-based group therapy and individual therapy, as well as holistic treatment methods we delve into the underlying factors contributing to your alcohol addiction. That’s a step in the right direction in developing effective coping mechanisms.

To enroll in an Ardu alcohol rehab program, contact Ardu Recovery Center online or via phone (801-810-1234). We will work with you to find a recovery path that works for you during the detox process and beyond. Read our admissions process page for additional information.

I loved every moment I spent at Ardu. I really got the therapy and support I have been needing so badly over the years. They are so kind and loving that I came back to work and I love it even more as an employee. The environment is so peaceful. It’s beautiful place for healing. 

Chandler Lindley


Alcohol and skin FAQ

Does skin redness from alcohol go away?

Skin redness from alcohol typically fades away as the effects of alcohol wear off. Once your body metabolizes the alcohol and acetaldehyde that cause the redness, your skin should return to its normal color. Alcohol flush is a temporary reaction that usually disappears within a few hours after you stop drinking. 

The frequency and intensity of alcohol-induced skin redness are different for each person. While the redness itself goes away, continuous excessive alcohol consumption can lead to long-term skin issues and other health problems.

Why do drinkers have red skin?

One reason why people who drink have red skin is alcohol’s ability to dilate blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow near the skin’s surface. This results in the appearance of redness and warmth. 

In people with a genetic predisposition, typically East Asians with the “Asian flush” gene, the body may struggle to break down acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol. As acetaldehyde accumulates, it triggers skin redness and other symptoms. 

The extent of redness can also be influenced by the type and amount of alcohol consumed. While the redness is typically temporary, it’s a sign that your body is responding to the alcohol and its byproducts.

Will my skin improve if I stop drinking?

When you limit or completely stop alcohol consumption, you can notice improvements in your skin’s appearance and overall health. The redness and inflammation associated with excessive alcohol intake should subside. Long-term skin issues caused by alcohol abuse, like skin dehydration and poor complexion, can also gradually improve. 

The extent of improvement depends on each person’s individual factors such as the duration and severity of alcohol abuse, genetics, and overall skin care. 

What are the first signs of liver damage from alcohol?

The initial signs of liver damage from alcohol misuse may include fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and a general feeling of being unwell. Some people experience mild abdominal discomfort, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), and dark urine. Skin issues like itching and redness may also occur. As liver damage progresses, more severe symptoms, such as abdominal pain, swollen abdomen, and mental confusion, can manifest. 

Try to recognize these early signs and seek medical attention to prevent further liver damage, as untreated alcohol-related liver issues can become irreversible. But once you stop drinking, your liver can recover.

Why am I allergic to alcohol all of a sudden?

You may develop an allergic reaction to a specific component in the alcoholic beverage, such as certain preservatives, grains, or sulfites. You could also develop a histamine intolerance. Alcohol triggers histamine release, leading to skin redness and other unpleasant symptoms. 

In rare cases, you can have an allergy to alcohol itself, specifically ethanol. If you experience unexpected allergic reactions to alcohol, consult an allergist or healthcare provider for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Is 2 beers a day bad for your liver?

Two beers a day may not pose an immediate threat to your liver, but they may have long-term effects. Chronic daily alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, can gradually strain your liver and increase the risk of liver-related issues. The liver has the capacity to metabolize alcohol, but continuous exposure can lead to liver damage over time. Individual factors, such as genetics, overall health, and the type of alcohol consumed, can also influence the impact of booze on your liver. 


Igelman, S., Na, C., & Simpson, E. L. (2020, February 1). Alcohol-induced facial flushing in a patient with atopic dermatitis treated with dupilumab. JAAD Case Reports; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdcr.2019.12.002

Haider, A., Gurjar, H., Ghazanfar, H., Singh, H., & Siddiqa, A. (2023, February 15). A Reversible Cause of Cutaneous Rash in a Patient With Alcohol Consumption. Cureus; Cureus, Inc. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.35011

Further reading

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Can alcohol mess with birth control?

How does heavy drinking impact the brain?

Why is alcohol neurotoxic?

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What are the health risks of alcohol for men?

How much alcohol is too much to drink?

What is a high-functioning alcoholic?

How can I help a loved one with their addiction?