Is My Red Nose From Alcohol Use? 4 Common Causes Of Redness

Alcohol affects the body in different ways. Drinking causes reactions in our brains, reducing cognitive abilities, reaction times, and decision-making skills. The more we drink, the stronger the effects. Over time, excess alcohol use impacts our blood pressure, hormones, organs, and much more.  Alcohol can also produce near-immediate physical reactions. For instance, you may suddenly develop a red nose from alcohol use. Or at least, you may think it’s from drinking. 

For years, the term ‘alcohol nose’ was used to refer to a flushed red nose and cheeks thought to be caused by chronic alcohol use. Some people even develop a swollen, bumpy nose that’s red or purple. Scientists have since debunked the relationship between alcohol use and ‘alcohol nose,’ ‘whiskey nose,’ ‘bulbous nose,’ and all its other variants.   


4 Common Causes Of Redness 


While alcohol use is not the cause of this red, swollen nose, it may be a trigger. Unfortunately, these symptoms still carry stigmas and shatter the confidence of those who suffer from it. Understanding what’s causing the redness can help you find the best solution possible. If you’ve been struggling with a red nose from alcohol use, one of these 4 conditions may be at work. 


1. Is it Rosacea? 

Rosacea (acne rosacea) is an inflammatory condition that impacts the central face. With rosacea, you will have mild to severe redness, flushing, bumps, and inflammation in these areas. The condition is more common in women with fairer skin but can impact men and people with darker skin tones. Close to 16 million Americans struggle with the condition, so it’s likely this is behind a red nose from alcohol use.  

Some forms of rosacea are limited to the cheeks, with severe redness and visible blood vessels. Others affect the eyes (ocular rosacea) or can form large bumps that look like acne. No one knows the real cause of rosacea, but there is a genetic component to the disease. However, several triggers cause the condition. These include stress, spicy foods, extreme temperatures, and, yes, even alcohol use. As there is no cure for rosacea, the constant redness and inflammation can lower self-confidence and reduce quality of life.  


2. You may have Rhinophyma 

If left unchecked, rosacea can develop into rhinophyma, a severe form of the condition. With rhinophyma, the skin on the nose begins to thicken. Bumps form on the nose and next to the nostrils, accompanied by severe redness, oily skin, and visible, broken blood vessels.  

This condition is more common in middle-aged men with lighter skin tones. Alcohol use and other triggers cause more inflammation. Over time, the condition can change one’s physical appearance and even cause difficulty breathing.  


3. Watch out for allergies 

Is it possible to be allergic to alcohol? Allergies commonly cause redness around the face and nose, which is an abnormal response to an external substance. We associate allergies with food, hives, hay fever, or pet hair. However, it’s possible to develop allergies from drinking too.  

For instance, scientists discovered that genetically, some Asians and others in Eastern cultures lack an enzyme to break down ethanol. As a result, alcohol use can result in unpleasant flushing and redness around the nose.  


4. An underlying illness 

Sometimes the redness can be short-lived. A viral infection can cause fever or redness around the central face. These infections go away with time but can return. It’s essential to find and treat the underlying cause of your infection.  

In rare cases, autoimmune conditions like lupus can cause redness around the cheeks and nose. Lupus attacks different body parts, like the skin, joints, and organs. It can create a rash from cheek to cheek, sometimes called a butterfly rash. Most people with lupus develop these rashes on sun-exposed skin, so look for redness elsewhere.  


Can I stop this red nose from alcohol use? 


The first thing you can do is stop believing that alcohol is behind your red, inflamed nose. It may be a trigger, but it’s not the cause of the reaction. There may be an underlying medical issue to address first. In almost all cases, rosacea or rhinophyma is behind your symptoms. Once you address the concern, you can take steps to reduce or eliminate the symptoms. 


Visit a dermatologist or skin specialist 

Don’t suffer in silence. See a dermatologist or skin specialist as soon as possible. Your doctor will physically examine your skin and ask about your symptoms and your family’s medical history. Blood tests can help rule out lupus or other autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, there is no cure for rhinophyma or rosacea, but your doctor can use a series of treatment options to help. If you do a test and you have an allergy, then the doctor will help you take steps to manage your allergies. 

Most doctors will suggest a course of antibiotics to reduce severe bumps and possible infections. Along with antibiotics, topical creams help soothe redness and inflammation. These creams often contain steroids or other potent medications. These treatments can take several weeks to see improvement. For severe cases of rhinophyma, laser therapy or surgery can help minimize or remove large bumps and reshape the nose.  


Avoid triggers if you can 

Cases like rosacea, rhinophyma, and allergies will have specific triggers. Take note of what happened around the time you had a flare-up. You’ll often discover you can reduce your symptoms if you:


  • Avoid excessive sun exposure. When you go out, wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. The winter weather can also cause rosacea, rhinophyma, or allergic reactions. Always wear protective clothing.  
  • Limit or avoid spicy foods. These foods contain capsaicin, which can impact pain receptors, causing you to become flushed.  
  • If certain medications are causing triggers, speak with a pharmacist or doctor for alternative treatment.  
  • Observe if your skincare or makeup products cause redness and discontinue immediately. Use only dermatologist-recommended products.  
  • Alcohol is a rosacea trigger. Which drinks cause you to become flushed? Can you avoid them? Limit alcohol use, practice mindful drinking, or abstain completely.


Develop healthier lifestyle choices 

While there are no guarantees, a healthy lifestyle will help minimize your red nose from alcohol use. A whole food, anti-inflammatory diet, for instance, ensures you have the right vitamins and minerals for skin health. Stick to fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean proteins. Where possible, avoid excess sugar, processed foods, and candy.

Stress is a significant trigger of redness and can also lead to alcohol use, creating a vicious cycle. Adopting new habits to release stress, like meditation, yoga, and connecting with nature, could be a game-changer. Also, poor stress coping skills often aggravates alcohol use, which can also create a cycle of more alcohol consumption and dependency to cope with stress. Instead, develop healthy stress coping skills that eliminate any need to fall back on alcohol use.


Consider an assessment for alcohol use disorder 

If you’ve done all you can but you’re still triggering the condition from alcohol use, there may be something deeper at play. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the inability to stop or control alcohol use, despite being aware of the negative health consequences. AUD ranges from mild to severe, with as little as two alcohol use disorder criteria on the 5th edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) sufficient to render a diagnosis of AUD. You may need treatment and support to limit or stop AUD, which will help your condition.


Visit your doctor and assess your alcohol use 

Some people go months or years thinking their red nose is from alcohol use. The term alcoholic nose continues to follow them, and they’ve even learned to accept it. However, there is often an underlying medical reason for a flushed, red nose and cheeks. 

Allergies, rosacea, and its more severe form, rhinophyma, may be at work. Alcohol simply triggers the condition.

Start by visiting a skin specialist while reducing alcohol use or limiting specific drinks that cause flares. To safely and more effectively manage alcohol, sign up for our medication-assisted treatment today.


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