Skin Conditions and Alcohol


A clear link exists between alcohol consumption and skin conditions. This is due to the fact alcohol increases inflammation, and that inflammation worsens skin conditions. Drinking alcohol increases inflammation as it is a toxin to the body. The body's natural response is to reduce the harm caused by the toxin, in this case, alcohol, by causing an inflammatory response that includes an increase in blood, fluids and proteins to the affected area to repair any damage caused and remove the toxin. However, too much of an inflammatory response is damaging and leads to diseases. The rest of this article will discuss skin conditions and how they are affected by alcohol. 

What are the most common skin conditions?

The most common skin conditions include eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.1 Eczema is a skin disease caused by inflammation, which produces symptoms such as itchy, dry skin, as well as rashes and blisters. The most common type of eczema is atopic eczema, which is the form of eczema that runs in families and can be associated with other diseases such as hay fever or asthma. However, the form of eczema which is associated with alcohol consumption is discoid eczema. This type of eczema leads to circular or oval patches of dry, red skin all over the body, except the face and scalp and it does not tend to run in families. 2 On darker skin, the dry, flaky patches can appear either dark brown in colour or paler than the colour of the skin. 

Psoriasis is another very common skin condition that can be worsened by alcohol consumption. The main symptoms include patches of skin that are flaky and/or scaly. The appearance of the symptoms is different depending on one's skin tone. On paler skin, the patches tend to be red or pink, whereas on darker skin they can also appear purple or dark brown.3 

The third skin condition I am going to discuss is rosacea. Although less common, its link to alcohol is very clear. It is also known as the alcohol flush, where the skin on the face appears to be red or as if it be blushing. Drinking alcohol is thought to increase a person's chance of being diagnosed with rosacea.4 It is also thought that a reduction in alcohol consumption directly reduces the number of rosacea flare-ups experienced by people with the disease.

Alcohol can make skin conditions worse

The intake of alcohol can worsen skin conditions, due to the way alcohol affects the body. The next section of this article will discuss how this occurs. 

Alcohol increases inflammation

As alcohol is a toxin to the human body, it triggers inflammation. Two types of inflammation can be triggered: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation arises due to the body’s first-line response to the alcohol toxins. This leads to hangover-like symptoms like nausea and headaches, as well as dehydration. The more serious problem is chronic inflammation. One way in which alcohol toxins can produce chronic inflammation is via a protein called C-reactive protein. A study found that alcohol increases the levels of C-reactive protein, which in turn increases inflammation. C-reactive protein can be called a marker for inflammation, which is increased by alcohol.5 Another way in which alcohol increases inflammation is via endotoxins. Alcohol consumption leads to an increase in endotoxins, which activate cells and proteins involved in inflammatory processes.6 

Increased risk of flare-ups

Alcohol consumption increases the risk of skin condition flare-ups. This is because skin conditions arise due to inflammation, and as alcohol produces an inflammatory response within the body, it increases the chances of flare-ups. This includes flare-ups of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, but also many other chronic skin conditions. 


Alcohol consumption leads to dehydration, as it is a diuretic. It is a diuretic as its intake leads to water loss via increased urination. Alcohol increases the rate of water loss by inhibiting vasopressin; a hormone that regulates water retention. Dehydration can cause a range of symptoms, from increased thirst and headaches to fainting and delirium. It can also lead to an aggravation of existing skin conditions, as dehydrated skin is itchy and can more easily form dry patches and look duller in general. 

Alcohol skin rash

Alcohol skin rash commonly appears when consuming a large volume of alcohol. Some people are more susceptible than others, and it can range in severity. The main symptom is a red, flushed face. This arises as the blood vessels in the face dilate due to the alcohol, which means there is an increased flow of blood to the face and therefore it appears red. The rash can be a dangerous indication that a person is not able to tolerate alcohol very well, and it could lead to other alcohol-related side effects such as vomiting or heart palpitations.7

Increased sun sensitivity

Drinking large volumes of alcohol has been linked to increasing one's sensitivity to the sun. A study found that this could be due to the fact that alcohol intake reduces levels of carotenoids. Carotenoids provide a degree of protection from the sun, and therefore the reduced levels due to alcohol mean the skin has a lesser degree of protection against the sun.8

If you’re worried about your or your loved one’s alcohol intake

The NHS’ advice is to see a GP if worried about oneself or a loved one's alcohol consumption. Another option is to contact organisations that help people that have a problem with alcohol consumption.9 A few organisations with their numbers are;

  • Alcoholics Anonymous on 0800 9177 650
  • Drinkaware helpline on 0300 124 1110 
  • Drinkline Scotland on 0900 7314 314 
  • We Are With You helpline on 0808 801 0750


If struggling with skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, reducing one's alcohol intake is a good place to start and may lead to an immediate reduction of symptoms. Drinking large amounts of alcohol regularly is very dangerous and can lead to serious health problems. It is something that has become very normalised in our society, despite its negative effects on our health. The helplines provided are a great place to start if worried about yourself or a loved one and could help save a life.


  1. Higgins EM, du Vivier AW. Cutaneous disease and alcohol misuse. Br Med Bull. 1994 Jan;50(1):85–98.  
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  1. Klenk E, MD. Alcohol inflammation causes explained & how to reduce [Internet]. Monument. 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from: 
  1. Cullins A. Alcohol & inflammation: the effect of drinking on chronic illness [Internet]. Ria Health. 2019 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from: 
  1. Recovery S to. Drinking alcohol in excess can cause skin problems [Internet]. Steps to Recovery. 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from: 
  1. Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Weir C, Salter‐Venzon D, Gellenbeck KW, Leverett J, et al. Role of ingestible carotenoids in skin protection: A review of clinical evidence. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed [Internet]. 2021 Nov [cited 2022 Oct 28];37(6):490–504. Available from: 
  1. Support lines | Drinkaware [Internet]. [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from: 

Paula Messa

BSc, Biomedical Sciences, University of Bristol, England

I am a recent graduate with a passion for healthcare. I am taking a year out to go travelling and get some experience in medical writing. I am hoping to do a Masters in Global Health next year, to allow me to work in humanitarian settings or in policy in the future. 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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