Can Alcohol Cause Rashes?

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Those who misuse alcohol or are alcohol-dependent may be more likely to develop an alcohol-related skin rash or condition for several reasons. Skin rashes caused by alcohol are not usually dangerous, but sometimes they suggest significant health issues are at play. Moreover, alcohol use causes inflammation that can contribute to skin problems, but a more severe condition or disease may also be causing them.

If you are suffering from a skin reaction while actively drinking or you believe it is alcohol-related, you are advised to call your doctor. If you’ve tried to curb your drinking due to rashes or other skin reactions and have failed to do so, you might have an alcohol use disorder. To find out more, contact Guardian Recovery to speak to an addiction treatment advisor who can provide you with a free, no-obligation assessment and health benefits check

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Alcohol & Rashes

Excessive alcohol use can affect the health and appearance of the skin in many ways. Some skin reactions can occur almost immediately when a person drinks alcohol. In contrast, others do not develop for months or years, depending on other factors.

Skin Conditions Caused or Worsened by Heavy Alcohol Use Include:

  • Psoriasis.
  • Eczema.
  • Rosacea and flushing.
  • Pimples and acne.
  • Hives (urticaria).
  • Dermatitis.
  • Severe itchiness (pruritis).
  • Rashes of unknown etiology.
  • Bacterial and fungal skin infections.
  • Red spots.
  • Spider veins.
  • Premature aging.
  • Hyperpigmentation.
  • Cellulitis.

Chronic alcohol use also prevents the absorption of essential vitamins, including B and C. These are vital for skin health and immunity. Not getting enough vitamin C and B vitamins could worsen any existing skin condition and contribute to developing a new one. Three of the most common conditions associated with alcohol misuse are psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.

Alcohol & Psoriasis

Psoriasis 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 and that people with psoriasis tend to drink more than others. (1) 

Alcohol & Eczema

Eczema is a common skin condition that includes symptoms such as itchy, red, dry, and inflamed patches of skin. Alcohol consumption may cause an existing eczemic condition to flare up because it’s dehydrating and can suppress the immune system for a prolonged period. 

Immunosuppressant drugs, such as methotrexate, typically prescribed for severe eczema, can increase the likelihood of liver damage. When these medications are taken with alcohol, the risk of incurring liver disease such as cirrhosis is increased significantly. (2)

Alcohol & Rosacea

Rosacea is a common skin condition that usually begins in the nose and cheeks of those who tend to blush or flush easily. This causes redness that can eventually spread to the forehead, chin, ears, and other areas. Other symptoms include visible blood vessels, acne-like breakouts, thickened and bumpy skin, and red, irritated eyes and eyelids.

Research reveals that the risk of developing rosacea increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Not all people with rosacea drink alcohol, but it can be a significant risk factor. (3)

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Causes of Alcohol-Related Skin Reactions

The following are several conditions that can cause a skin reaction after alcohol has been consumed.

Allergic Reactions

Allergies to alcohol itself are relatively uncommon. More often, when people have allergic reactions to alcoholic drinks, it is due to other components, such as grains or sulfites. In either case, symptoms of these allergies are typically similar to those of food allergies, including rash, breathing difficulties, and stomach pain. (4) Life-threatening anaphylactic shock is unlikely but can occur in extreme cases.

Alcohol Intolerance

Alcohol intolerance results from a genetic condition occurring most often in people of Asian descent that prevents the body from metabolizing alcohol effectively. A person with an alcohol intolerance will react immediately when they consume it, even in small amounts. Symptoms include a red facial rash, runny or stuffy nose, nausea and vomiting, and asthma-like effects. (5)

Drug Interactions

Alcohol can negatively interact with medications a person is taking and could result in facial flushing or a body rash. This is more common in older adults, who are more likely to take these medications and whose bodies have difficulty breaking down alcohol. 

For example, topical tacrolimus, a drug given to people with recent organ transplants, can trigger a reaction that causes the skin or face to flush and feel hots when used with alcohol. (6) Another medication that can cause adverse effects with alcohol use is the antibiotic metronidazole. These include facial flushing, skin rashes, increased heart rate, vomiting, and diarrhea. (7)

Disulfiram is a medication used to support abstinence from alcohol. In this case, its adverse reactions to alcohol serve a purpose as they are intended to deter people from drinking. In addition to sweating, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, rashes can result after intaking a small amount of alcohol. (8)

Potential Long-Term Effects

Alcohol dehydrates the entire body, including the skin. It also causes a reduction in collagen, a fiber-like connective protein and a major skin component. As a result, long-term drinking can lead to premature “volume-related” aging and wrinkles and lines becoming more prominent. (9)

Critically, a skin rash can indicate liver damage, which can be sustained through excessive, prolonged drinking due to repeated exposure to alcohol toxins. (10) If you drink or suspect liver disease and have the following symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Skin Conditions That Can Signify Liver Damage Include:

  • 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.
  • Patches of dehydrated skin.

These symptoms may also accompany yellowish skin and eyes and stomach pain and swelling. Do not ignore signs of liver damage. Seek medical help and professional addiction treatment help if you think your liver may be compromised due to drinking.

Treatment for Alcohol Rashes & Allergies

If you need medical treatment for a skin condition, consult your doctor. They may refer you to a dermatologist or specialist who can help you address your issues. For example, a doctor might advise you to use an oral or topical antihistamine or anti-itch cream for allergic reactions.

In many cases, rashes and other skin problems are not that serious. Still, if you repeatedly develop rashes, especially during drinking episodes, they need to be addressed by a medical professional. Ultimately, the best way to treat an alcohol-induced skin reaction is to avoid using alcohol altogether. If you are finding it difficult to do so, you are encouraged to seek professional help. 

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Contact Guardian Recovery today if you struggle with alcohol misuse and related skin conditions. Our evidence-based, comprehensive treatment programs are tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs and goals. We offer a holistic approach to addiction that includes various levels of care and therapeutic components, such as behavioral therapy, group support, life-skills training, and more.

We know it can be challenging to admit you have a drinking problem and need professional help. However, beginning with our streamlined admission process, we will strive to ensure you feel safe, supported, and prepared to start your recovery journey.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40257-022-00713-z (2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548219 (3)https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/rosacea/insider/drinking (4)https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/other-allergy/alcohol-allergy (5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6875758/ (6)https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/files/pil.9757.pdf (7)https://www.goodrx.com/metronidazole/drinking-alcohol-metronidazole-safety (8)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459340/ (9)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715121/ (10)https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/liver-and-gallbladder-disorders/fibrosis-and-cirrhosis-of-the-liver/cirrhosis-of-the-liver

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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