Facial Flushing: Should You Worry If Your Face Turns Red When You Drink?
Do you feel embarrassed when you drink because your face turns red? There are for two reasons alcohol can do this — and both are tied to your ethnicity.
When you drink red wine, does your face mirror that ruby glow? Or do your cheeks redden only when you’re drinking cocktails?
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“Alcohol most frequently passes through these sites,” explains Dr. Vij. “Toxicity and DNA damage can build up in cells and, eventually, a cancer can form.”
But recent studies report that those who get an alcohol flush because of an enzyme deficiency are also at heightened risk of digestive, liver and respiratory cancers.
They are more vulnerable to alcohol’s toxicity as it is processed and later eliminated in:
“We don’t think of rosacea as a precancerous disease,” Dr. Vij says. “The biggest problems rosacea causes are a bulbous nose, like W.C. Fields had, and eye inflammation.”
(It was rosacea — not alcoholism — that made the storied comedian’s nose look large, red and bumpy, because of an overgrowth of the sebaceous glands, he adds.)
In addition, rosacea can make your eyes feel itchy, dry and chronically irritated. These eye symptoms can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication. “We typically prescribe oral antibiotics like doxycycline or minocycline, often at lower doses than are required to kill bacteria,” says Dr. Vij.
So if your face flushes, are specific kinds of alcohol to blame?
“It’s really patient-specific. Some people with rosacea flush more with red wine; others flush more with hard liquor,” says Dr. Vij.
If you have rosacea and keep track of what happens when you drink, you’ll find your triggers, he says.
If an alcohol flush makes you feel self-conscious when you drink, certain treatments can help, says Dr. Vij:
Because the medications and laser treatments are considered cosmetic, however, they are not covered by insurance.
“If flushing bothers you, and you know alcohol is a trigger, the easiest and most cost-effective solution is to avoid it,” says Dr. Vij.