Psoriasis and Alcohol

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes the skin, in some places, to become dry, scaly, and flaky.1 An autoimmune condition is when the body’s immune system attacks its cells because it does not recognise them as its own. In some cases, psoriasis can make the affected areas of the skin itchy and painful.

It is thought to be caused by the body producing and replacing skin cells too quickly.1 Usually,  the skin cells are replaced every month or so, but in people with psoriasis, they are replaced weekly (or more frequently if the psoriasis is more severe). This is because the body attacks the skin cells, causing them to die. This signals the body to produce more skin cells.

Psoriasis may be genetic, so if a parent has it, there is a chance the child could inherit it, but this is not backed up well by research and no genes that link to psoriasis have been found yet.

Symptoms of psoriasis

There are many symptoms of psoriasis. The main symptom of psoriasis is dry, scaly patches of skin, however, the appearance of it will vary depending on the type of psoriasis that a person has 2:

Plaque psoriasis: this is the most common type of psoriasis, which has the following appearance:

  • Thick hick, raised patches of skin
  • White scaly plaques
  • Mainly affects the knees and elbows

Guttate psoriasis: this type of psoriasis causes small red sores to appear on the affected area

Inverse psoriasis: this occurs in the creases of your skin:

  • red, raw-looking patches of skin
  • silvery appearance

Pustular r psoriasis: this is when pus-filled bumps appear on the skin

  • Red skin with pus-filled bumps
  • Sore and painful skin
  • Occurs on the hands and feet

There are other, much rarer forms of psoriasis which will not be discussed here.

Alcohol and psoriasis

Because psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, the triggers can vary from person to person. There has been no direct link established between alcohol and psoriasis, however, there are many reports that suggest that alcohol can increase the risk of triggering an episode of psoriasis.

Alcohol may increase the risk of triggering an episode of psoriasis for the following reasons:3

Alcohol can increase the production of inflammatory cytokines

  • Cytokines are chemicals in the body that cause inflammation – this means that they can get white blood cells to flood into that area, which can cause increase activity there

Alcohol increases the risk of infection

  • Because psoriasis can cause the skin to break, and an infection will make any episode of psoriasis much worse

Alcohol can increase the production of keratinocytes

  • Keratinocytes are the most common cell type in the skin – alcohol can increase their production, which is bad news for psoriasis sufferers as this means their skin cells are being replaced faster, which can trigger a flare-up or worsen the severity of the symptoms

Alcohol causes dehydration

  • Because alcohol has a diuretic effect (meaning it makes a person urinate more), it means that a person will become dehydrated  – this can make psoriasis symptoms worse as it dries out the skin

Other psoriasis triggers

Psoriasis can have a range of triggers, and as mentioned above, this can vary from person to person as psoriasis can affect every sufferer differently.

Other triggers of psoriasis may include:4

  • Stress is a potential trigger that many suffers report
  • Skin  injury, such as sunburn, a cut, scrape, burn, or a bug bite – some people get a psoriasis flare up close to or in close proximity to a skin injury
    • This is because skin injuries cause white blood cells to flood into the affected area, which, as mentioned above, is a trigger for psoriasis flare ups
  • Frequent drinking – especially if this is done in excess
  • Smoking  – even being around a smoker can cause the skin to become irritated and trigger a flare up of psoriasis
  • Dry  and cold weather – this can cause the skin to dry out (like when a person’s lips become chapped and cracked in the winter)
  • Some medications – if you think that a medication is the trigger, talk to a dermatologist and the doctor who prescribed the medicine to see if it is a known trigger and if an alternative can be given
  • Shaving  – razor burn and nicking the skin can cause a flare up
  • Tattoos  – these damage your skin which can make it more susceptible to a psoriasis flare up

If you are worried about a loved one

If you are worried about a loved one’s alcohol intake, it is important to have a discussion with them to try and understand what is triggering their excess alcohol intake – they may be finding something difficult to cope with, or may be experiencing a different stressor.

It is always an idea to encourage loved ones who struggle with drinking to reach out to their doctor so that the doctor can give them medical advice on how to cut down and may be able to refer them for counseling to work through the underlying issue.

Alcoholism can be difficult to deal with, and it is important to look after yourself too. If a loved one is treating you poorly as a result of alcoholism, it is not selfish to prioritise your safety and well-being. It is also important that you seek support from a doctor or other loved ones.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes dry, scaly, and flaky skin in some areas, and it can be itchy and painful. It is thought to be caused by the body producing and replacing skin cells too quickly. There are different types of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, and pustular psoriasis. Although there is no direct link between alcohol and psoriasis, alcohol can increase the risk of triggering an episode of psoriasis. Alcohol can increase the production of inflammatory cytokines, increase the risk of infection, increase the production of keratinocytes, and cause dehydration, which can make psoriasis symptoms worse. Other triggers of psoriasis may include stress, skin injury, frequent drinking, smoking, dry and cold weather, some medications, shaving, and tattoos. If you are worried about a loved one's alcohol intake, it is important to have a discussion with them and encourage them to seek medical advice and counseling.

Reference List:

  1. Psoriasis - Causes [Internet]. 2018. Available from:
  2. Psoriasis: Signs and symptoms [Internet]. Available from:
  3. Svanström C, Lonne-Rahm S-B, Nordlind K. Psoriasis and alcohol. Psoriasis: Targets and Therapy. 2019 Aug;Volume 9:75–9.
  4. Are triggers causing your psoriasis flare-ups? [Internet]. Available from:

Aisha Hayat

Bachelor of Science - BS, Biomedical Sciences, General, University of Bristol

Aisha is a Biomedical Sciences graduate with an understanding about research techniques, the pharmacology of drugs and the pathophysiology of illnesses. She is currently working as a healthcare assistant and has experience of research being used in a clinical setting, as well as the process of diagnosing and treating illnesses. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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