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Why Does My Face Get Red When I Drink?

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Did you ever wonder why your face turns red when drinking alcohol?
When you drink alcohol, your blood vessels get bigger. This allows more blood to flow through the vessels, which can make your face turn red. Also, alcohol can cause the release of histamine in the body, which can also make your face turn red. Some people are more sensitive to these effects, so they are more likely to get a red face when they drink alcohol. This reaction is often referred to as alcohol flush reaction or Asian flush, and it can be more common in individuals of East Asian descent due to genetic factors affecting the way their body breaks down alcohol.

If you or a loved one suffer from alcohol abuse, reach out to us at Avenues Recovery so we can guide you on your path to recovery. 

What Are Some of the Symptoms of Red Face Alcohol?

A red face when drinking alcohol can be a sign of alcohol flush reaction, also known as Asian flush or alcohol flush syndrome. It's caused by an inherited deficiency in an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2). This enzyme is responsible for breaking down acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol that is toxic to the body. When ALDH2 is deficient or inactive, acetaldehyde accumulates in the body, leading to the characteristic symptoms of alcohol flush reaction, which include:

  • Facial flushing: The most noticeable symptom is a red or flushed face, which can spread to the neck and chest. 
  • Increased heart rate: Some people may experience a rapid heartbeat or palpitations. 
  • Headache: Alcohol flush reaction can also cause headaches or migraines. 
  • Nausea and vomiting: Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea or vomiting. 
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: Alcohol flush reaction can lead to feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness. 
  • Low blood pressure: In severe cases, alcohol flush reaction can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to fainting or shock.

Is a Red Face from Drinking Alcohol Dangerous? 

A red face from drinking alcohol is not inherently dangerous, but it can be a sign of underlying health issues or increased sensitivity to alcohol. The red face, known as alcohol flush reaction, is often a symptom of an inherited deficiency of the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), which is responsible for breaking down acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol.

While the red face itself is not harmful, individuals with alcohol flush reaction may be at a higher risk of certain health problems, like esophageal cancer, due to the accumulation of acetaldehyde in their bodies. Additionally, people who experience alcohol flush reaction may be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and may experience more severe hangovers or other negative side effects.

If you often have a red face when drinking alcohol, it may be a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider. They can help determine if you have an alcohol flush reaction, and provide guidance on managing it and reducing your risk of associated health problems.

Does the Redness Go Away?

Yes, the redness typically goes away on its own once the body has had time to metabolize the alcohol and the blood vessels in the face have returned to their normal size.

How long your face stays red depends on the following factors:

  • How much alcohol you drank
  • How much water you drank before you drank alcohol
  • How quickly your body breaks down alcohol

How to Treat Red Face From Alcohol 

There is no specific treatment for the red face caused by alcohol flush reaction, but there are some steps you can take to reduce the redness and discomfort: 

  • Drink water and other fluids: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after drinking alcohol to help flush out toxins and reduce the intensity of the reaction. 
  • Drink less alcohol: Moderating your alcohol intake can help reduce the severity of the reaction. Consider drinking smaller amounts or choosing beverages with lower alcohol content. 
  • Avoid triggers: Certain foods, medications, and environmental factors can trigger or worsen the reaction. Try to identify and avoid these triggers. 
  • Use antihistamines: Over-the-counter antihistamines can help reduce the redness and itching associated with alcohol flush reaction. However, they may not be effective for everyone and can cause drowsiness.
  • Apply cold compresses: Placing a cold, damp cloth on your face can help constrict blood vessels and reduce redness and inflammation.
  • Use topical creams: Some people find relief from redness and irritation by using topical creams or lotions containing ingredients like aloe vera or chamomile.
  • Consult a healthcare provider: If you experience severe or persistent redness, it's a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider. They can help determine if there are any underlying issues and provide guidance on managing the reaction.

Why Do Alcoholics Have Red Faces and a Red Face When Drinking?

The redness or flushing of the face in alcoholics is often due to the direct effects of alcohol on blood vessels, leading to a widening of blood vessels and increased blood flow to the skin. This can happen to people with alcohol use disorder who drink a lot of alcohol. Alcoholics may not always have red faces. The redness of the face is often more noticeable when they are actively drinking.

However, chronic and excessive alcohol consumption can have long-term effects on the skin, including a persistent redness or ruddiness, even when not actively drinking. This can be due to ongoing damage to the blood vessels and skin, as well as the overall inflammatory effects of alcohol on the body. Drinking alcohol can also worsen existing skin conditions like rosacea and eczema, which can contribute to redness and inflammation.

Why Do My Cheeks Get Red When I Drink?

When you drink alcohol, especially in larger quantities, it can make the blood vessels in your body get bigger. This causes increased blood flow to the skin, which can result in a red face from drinking. The exact reason why alcohol makes the blood vessels get bigger is not fully understood. As mentioned earlier, some people may have a genetic predisposition to this flushing reaction, known as alcohol flush reaction or Asian flush. This reaction is more common in individuals of East Asian descent and is due to a genetic deficiency in an enzyme called ALDH2, which is involved in the breakdown of alcohol. When ALDH2 is deficient or inactive, acetaldehyde accumulates in the body, leading to flushing, rapid heartbeat, and other symptoms.

Why Do I Have a Red Face After Drinking?

Having a red face after drinking alcohol can be due to several reasons:

  • Alcohol flush reaction
  • Histamine release
  • Increased blood flow
  • Dehydration
  • Rosacea

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Treatment for alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), can vary depending on the individual's needs and the severity of the addiction. Here are some common approaches to treating alcohol addiction:

The first step in treating alcohol addiction is often detoxification, which involves clearing alcohol from the body. This can be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting, and medical supervision is often necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Several medications can help people with alcohol addiction reduce their cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. These include naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram.

Counseling and therapy can help people understand their motivations for drinking and develop coping strategies to avoid alcohol. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are common approaches.

Joining support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery can provide ongoing support and encouragement from others who are also recovering from alcohol addiction.

In some cases, residential treatment programs (rehab) may be needed, especially for those with severe addiction or co-occurring mental health issues.

Once the initial treatment is done, ongoing support is critical for maintaining sobriety. This may include continued therapy, participation in support groups, and lifestyle changes to avoid relapse triggers.


If you or a loved one struggle with alcohol addiction, reach out to our experts at Avenues Recovery Center. We are on call to guide you on your road to recovery. You don’t deserve to live a life controlled by addiction. Our experienced staff have helped thousands of people overcome their addictions, and they can help you too! We use a wide range of therapies and personalized treatment plans to ensure optimal success. Our highly [professional and caring staff will support and guide you every step of the way to recovery. Contact us today so that we can begin the journey towards the sober future you deserve.

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