Wine, spirits, liquor, cider, beer, or ale: does alcohol really affect eczema?
When I first began my research into how to clear my 12-year eczema naturally, alcohol was something that I REALLY wanted to know about.
On a research level, there were many questions that needed answers, like:
– Is alcohol something you should avoid like the plague when you have skin issues?
– Does the occasional glass of wine really matter?
– Do I breakout when I drink?
– Can people with eczema EVER drink alcohol?”
Today we’re going to get to the bottom of all these questions (and more!), to see what’s true and what’s not.
As always, my goal with anything I publish on this site, is to help you make a well-researched, well-informed decision for your skin! Personally, I spent years listening to the wrong advice, and I’d like to help you avoid making the same mistakes.
At the end of this article you’re going to have a complete understanding of how alcohol affects eczema, and if it specifically affects you.
If you’ve got a question about alcohol and eczema, this article is for you!
Does alcohol cause eczema?
While I don’t drink like I did in my college years (ahem) — I wouldn’t say that I don’t EVER drink.
As some of you probably experienced yourself, alcohol is almost always present in our daily lives, and is very difficult to avoid:
- A social event, at the office or a birthday: let’s go out for drinks!
- Summer: Just gonna crack open a few beers…
- Winter: Hot cocoa with rum or cider?
- Long day at work: I need that night-cap.
- At brunch: mojito’s or sangria?
- At meals: red or white?
- Your anniversary: pop that champagne!
— You see what I mean.
Alcohol has been around since the beginning of time, almost all the time.
Pick up any history book and you’ll see that many great societies had alcohol in their diet. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the early pilgrims and settlers: they may have all been from different cultures, but they do have one thing in common: alcohol.
In fact, did you know that in the 18th century, CIDER was used to pay a workers wages?
But still the puzzling question remains: is alcohol really bad for you? And more specifically: can drinking alcohol cause eczema breakouts?
The SIMPLE answer to this is yes…and no. Okay, so it’s not really that simple. Alcohol is a very complex chemical, and the way it affects your body, mostly depends……well, on your body!
Let me break it down for you in a better way…
How alcohol causes eczema: the facts
Your skin is the largest elimination organ of your body, and as such we can often see that it’s the first thing to react whenever you ingest or consume any beverage, drink, or product.
This is why the majority of eczema breakouts are largely related to what you come into contact with and eat.
There are few key ways that alcohol could cause an eczema breakout:
Alcohol is a diuretic
This means that alcohol pulls away liquids from your body, leading to dehydration. When you have eczema, psoriasis, or any other skin disease, your body needs to stay properly hydrated in order to properly flush out toxins and to avoid inflammation.
Drinking an excess amount of alcohol without properly hydrating can have a really negative effect on your skin.
Alcohol depletes important skin-repairing vitamins.
This is probably one of the biggest problems with drinking alcohol, as a person can go on drinking for a long time with this issue undetected.
Alcohol has been shown to deplete supplies of B-complex vitamins, an important vitamin needed for skin growth and basic body processes. Vitamin B deficiencies can affect the heart and liver, causing inflammation and damage in your body.
This can cause you to develop skin rashes, and worsen already existing eczema and psoriasis conditions.
Alcohol also blocks the body’s natural absorption of vitamin C, another important vitamin needed for skin and immune system health.
Alcohol’s vitamin interference is clearly seen in heavy alcoholics, through broken blood vessels on the face, arms, hands, neck and abdomen.
Alcohol can contain eczema triggers.
As I talked about in my Training Video Series: How to Clear your Skin for Good, there are eczema triggers that cause an abnormal amount of inflammation in your body.
Gluten, dairy and sugar are the main inflammatory substances, and have been shown to worsen eczema conditions in a lot of people.
Alcoholic beverages such as beer, ales, and cider are often made from wheat or barley, containing gluten. Also, cocktails, sangria’s, and mixed drinks usually are made with high amounts of syrup, dairy, and sugar added into them.
If you’re allergic or intolerant to main eczema triggers, you will find yourself negatively reacting to them in your drinks.
Alcohol impairs judgement.
I know this sounds like your grandmother’s saying, but it’s worth noting as I’m sure we can all (unfortunately) remember a couple of bad decisions that were made under the influence.
When you drink you become intoxicated and if you over-drink you can lose consciousness of your present condition. This is also called being “alcohol-impaired”, which is why as a rule you are not allowed to drive under the influence.
In the case of eczema, being alcohol-impaired can make you forget all the proper nutrition and lead you to consume eczema triggers. All of a sudden pizza at 2am doesn’t sound like a bad idea, and hey, neither does a pint of ice cream! “Let’s go to the Mcdonalds drive-through while we’re at it!”
Unfortunately this type of impaired judgement can cause your skin (as well as your head) to suffer.
Alcohol will have a worse impact if your immune system is already unhealthy.
When your immune system is already unhealthy and inflamed, it makes it more difficult for your liver to process the alcohol.
This means drinking alcohol with an already unhealthy immune system, can irritate the liver further and lead to an eczema breakout.
Alcohol creates abnormal skin glycation
Right up there with smoking and a high sugar consumption, alcohol is another well-known factor in accelerated skin aging or abnormal glycation.
When the body experiences abnormal glycation (as a result of abnormal cross-linking), the skin becomes harder, less elastic and has the tendency to tear or crack.
With glycation the skin is more reddened, dry, easier to tear, and wrinkled.
More on glycation here.
How technically, alcohol doesn’t cause eczema.
As you can see from above, alcohol in ITSELF, doesn’t actually CAUSE eczema.
The real factors here are: whether or not your immune system and liver is healthy enough to process the alcohol, your behavior while drinking alcohol, how often you drink, and the types of alcohol.
So on one hand: if you have a healthy gut, strong immune system and liver, are getting the proper amount of nutrients and vitamins that you need, aren’t overdoing on alcohol consumption, and have the ability to control your actions under the influence— then technically no, having some alcohol at a party won’t cause you to have eczema.
However on the other hand: if your body is already suffering from an overdose of toxins and inflammation because you’ve been consuming eczema triggers on a regular basis, and you regularly do tequila shots at your local dive bar—then as a consequence yes, alcohol could cause you to have an eczema breakout.
But as you can see from the research above, this is not SOLEY the alcohol’s fault.
Drinking some alcohol technically shouldn’t cause you to break out in eczema if your body is healthy enough to process it, and you’re not reacting to anything inside the alcohol itself.
How to drink alcohol with eczema
If you have eczema and still want to drink alcohol, here are some useful tips to help you avoid an eczema breakout while drinking:
• Quality and types of alcohol. Alcohol is extracted/produced in different ways, and depending on what kind you buy, you can either be drinking the heart-burning stuff, or the delicious quality liquor. Low quality alcohol can often contain harmful toxins, so make sure you’re getting the good quality stuff. Your body is worth the extra $3!
• Don’t overdo. The problem most people have when they re-introduce alcohol is that they think “everything is fine and dandy” and end up consuming way too much. I know you might want to celebrate, but you can’t drink that liter of Jack Daniels then complain when you break out the next day. Even if you’re “used to drinking”, your body still has to process whatever you give it, so pace yourself and start slow!
• Stay away from alcohol with eczema triggers. Beers, ales, cider or pre made drinks and cocktails (like baileys, pina coladas, rum-coke, sangria), are the ones to watch out for. These types of drinks either contain wheat, milk, or high amounts of sugar that can inflame your body and cause your skin to break out.
A better choice is either wines or drinks made with sugar-free sparkling water.
• Maintain healthy eating. If you want to drink alcohol and avoid an eczema breakout, then help your body process it better by continuing to eat healthy while drinking.
Plan in advance and bring food and snacks you know are good for you to munch on, or if you’re at a restaurant, order dishes that don’t have eczema triggers in them.
• Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Alcohol dehydrates the body, which can leave your skin feeling itchy and dry. Always drink an adequate amount of water while drinking alcohol.
The best system I found for this is a ratio of 1:1. For example: 1 glass of wine = 1 glass of water. Your skin and your head will thank you later!
• Eat properly the following day. Because alcohol depletes your body of vitamins and nutrients, you need to make up for it by eating a large amount of vegetables and nutritious foods.
It doesn’t have to be boring! How about some fresh eggs and smoky bacon with a lettuce, tomato, and avocado salad? Or a roasted lemon chicken with some buttered vegetables? Eat lots but eat healthy!
• Increase Vitamin-C Alcohol blocks the body’s natural absorption of Vitamin-C, needed for immune system health.
Consider taking a Vitamin-C supplement after drinking or increasing the amount of Vitamin-C foods the next day. Personally, I found taking 1,000mg of Vitamin-C after drinking really helps to feel refreshed!
Should you drink alcohol if you have eczema?
If you’ve gotten this far, this is most likely a question you’ve asked yourself many times!
While alcohol doesn’t cause eczema in people, it can irritate existing eczema conditions in some through the effects listed above.
If your eczema is REALLY bad, I don’t recommend drinking alcohol until you’ve taken the necessary steps to improve your skin and immune system’s health.
It makes sense that we need to take care of our immune system’s health first, before adding other elements that might create more stress on it, right?
When I first started to clear my eczema naturally, I removed alcohol as to not put any additional stress on my body. Nowadays however, I’m able to drink on occasion without experiencing any negative side effects on my skin. This is also something I’ve seen my clients able to do on my program.
• Keep in mind that each person processes alcohol differently.
If you’ve followed all these tips but still have an eczema breakout after drinking alcohol, then take a step back and try it again at a later date.
It most likely means that your body needs some more time to repair before being able to process the alcohol.
Take a break, allow your body to heal, then come back and try again.
Alcohol: an eczema trigger to consider!
Well I hope this answered your questions, on whether alcohol causes eczema or not!
If you’re focusing on strengthening your immune system, and are starting to see progress on your skin, then there shouldn’t be a problem with introducing alcohol again. Just follow the drinking tips above to avoid the dreaded eczema breakout!
On the other hand, if your eczema has gotten progressively worse every time you drink alcohol — then consider stopping for a few weeks.
There is definitely enough research that alcohol can affect your skin, and increased reddened skin or rashes could be a sign that your body needs a break!
What do you think about drinking alcohol with eczema? Leave me your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you! Also, don’t forget to share this article with a friend or someone who needs it!
Enjoy, and drink responsibly!
PS: Don't know where to start? Sign up to my free series The Clear Skin Plan !
This was an excellent article. I’ve stopped drinking red wine for 10 days today and I can’t believe the difference with my skin. I’m staying on this for a while and see what happens.
Thanks Kevin, that’s so great to hear! If you want to drink alcohol again without a breakout, focus on your immune system’s health. A healthy immune system will help you process inflammatory substances better.
Corey Starke says
Thank you for such an informative article on this topic. It answered all the concerns my wife and I have had in terms of her eczema /beer drinking relationship.
I am an alcoholic that has abstained for many years with odd times falling off the wagon, it is my experience that I found alcohol to stop my insane scratching within minutes and believe it conditioned me to become alcohol dependent. I am now covered in eczema even though Ive not touched alcohol in well over a year, so abstinence for me does not improve my skin.
I’m struggling with eczema on my face at the moment (it comes and goes) and I think it could be related to red wine (I love the stuff)… I was wondering whether staying away from red wine continued to help you?
I’m convinced my eczema is linked to alcohol. The crazy thing is that it’s only started this year, and prior to this I never had to deal with this skin condition. I’m 39 years of age and have been drinking socially since my 20s, so I am just wondering if my body is beginning to tell me that I need to slow down a bit. The condition is only on my face and head.
I quit drinking last October for about 5 months and slowly went back to drinking on weekends. I think I just started getting bored, but needless to say I felt great when I wasn’t drinking, but dealing with cravings was a real pain at times. It sort of felt like a bit of a sentence at times.
Anyways, very good article and one I should seriously consider
Very good article! I have been suffering with eczema for the last 8 months. I’ve found relief with acupuncture, blood letting and avoiding alcohol, spicy foods, dairy, tomatoes, fried foods. This is a great guide to living a healthy/balanced lifestyle while still being able to enjoy a drink now and again. Thank you for the tips on the B complex and C vitamins. Makes total sense for me. Thanks for sharing!
Tina short says
Was prompted to google this subject as, since doing Dry January my eyelid eczema has improved drastically- almost to the point of disappearing.
Exactly the same thing happened last year, then once I started drinking again back to square one!
I definitely think your theories are accurate
Hi Tina, glad to hear your eyelid eczema is doing better and that you were able to link the breakouts to alcohol. Finding your eczema triggers is so important!
I was wondering if vodka is bad for you. My body has been healing from eczema and I am not as red anymore. I stopped drinking for 4 months now and I am kind of scared to take a sip of alcohol
Hi Drew, if you want to start testing alcohol, follow the guidelines I outlined in the post. Hope it helps, and let us know how it goes!
Hi i drink red to excess wine every night and i am covered in eczema. I dont drink a lot of water either. I find it hard not to have a wine at night but i will stop starting tomorrow, and see how it goes.
Hi Ross, sounds like a good start! Let me know how it goes for you.
Dear Christina thanks for your article very informative. I’m a newvy with eczema and it’s been a challenge to see what triggers it. Mine is so random, it shows anywhere from my abdomen all the way to my face and it’s sooooo itchy. I’ll give a try eliminating alcohol since I have a good immune system and I do eat healthy and exercise regularly. I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂
Thanks Susana! It sounds like you’re on the right track, and would love to know how things go!
I find if I drink whisky, brandy, red wine, I suffer with itching skin on all different parts of my body , I have put it down to persevere in the alcohol???
A really considered and responsibly written article.
Thank – you
Rob Smith says
Gotta try giving up alcohol for at least a month as my condition is getting worse.
Good article I just stumbled upon here. I’m been drinking 12-14 beers 3 times a week for the past 25 years. Just developed eczema about two years ago and use steroid creams for the rashes which I usually get after a few beers. I can feel it get itchy soon after in different spots. The next night a have to wear a sauna suit to make sure the cream gets absorb. I buy veggie drinks at Whole Foods 3x a week to get extra veggies in. Your thoughts on a patch test? Thank you…
How do you know if your immune system is weak or not? I don’t take vitamin B or C. Just multivitamin and fish oil.
In my research a patch test does not usually reveal any triggers with alcohol. The triggers usually occur due to the breakdown of alcohol into its chemical parts. These parts (like acetaldehyde, a carcinogen linked to histamine production – aka allergies) keep the body from absorbing vitamins, from fighting infection, from healing, and more. Alcohol also dries the skin from the inside, and puts more strain on it (the skin is the bodies largest organ and is just as important at flushing toxins as the kidneys and liver). I have been drinking heavily (3-6 drinks a day) daily for nearly 7 years and developed eczema and dermatitis over 3 years ago. I just started linking my problems to my alcohol use (which was not the cause but doesn’t seem to be helping and is also aging me horribly) since I eat a very healthy diet and am incredibly careful and aware of other chemicals and toxins in my environment. I can pretty much guarantee your immune system isn’t at peak capacity while drinking that much. I also feel like using creams might just be addressing the itch without addressing the cause. I wish you luck and strength as you move forward and figure out how to become healthier. 🙂
Thanks for ur article. Actually everytime i drink my skin is itchy, and it turns red, my body, back, thighs, calves, all body. The itchyness remain for around a week not just one day! It makes me cant sleep. Have u ever take antihistamine before drinking? Will it work? Which brand will work best? Pls let me know
Hi! From what you described, it sounds like alcohol is one of your eczema triggers. An anti-histamine can mask the symptoms, but that will only work for a while. If you really want to stop itching, I suggest avoiding alcohol altogether.
Started with exema when my partner was sick and then passed away. I have been stressed and drink beer and wine too much. I think the two issuses stress and alcohol are making this worse. Any thoughts?
I decided to quit drinking alcohol ‘cold turkey’ about 3 weeks ago, and about 1 week ago I started to break out all over my body. I’ve never had this bad of a breakout before. I’ve been trying to control it with eczema creams and showers/baths, and it seems to help a little.
Could the sudden removal of alcohol from my diet have been the cause of my eczema breakout as well?
I’m going to go to a dermatologist next week.
Your body may be flushing toxins it was storing. Part of the issue with alcohol is that – due to it’s toxicity – the body stops metabolizing everything else in order to get the alcohol out of the system. This is why fat storage and beer bellies occur – the body literally begins to store all of the calories from any food and meals as fat because it is too busy burning alcohol calories to process foods or beverages. Many toxins are also stored in fats. When you take that immense work load off of the body by quitting drinking, all of a sudden the body has the time and energy to begin to burn fat, cleans the liver, and so on. Everything that has been stored is released and must be processed – often through the skin, our biggest organ. I would be interested in what your dermatologist told you, since I am not sure what you could do about it to alleviate the syptoms. One of the things that provides me with some relief is swabbing alcohol free witch hazel (online there is a great one with aloe) to help with healing and inflammation and itch. Not sure about any other ideas.
Edward Carter says
ice on the itch numbs it !
Mohamed Kamara says
Hi dear I have a question ..I drink and am I try to stop it but every time I tried I isolated wat can I do plz help me…
I found your article interesting. I have been a moderate to heavy drinker for 40 years, and never had any skin issues. Recently a drug called Oxcarbazepine was prescribe by a psychiatrist for my anxiety and depression issues. Over the course of a few months I have developed skin eruptions that look like eczema. I tried reducing the dosage of the drug, but it really didn’t help. I am going to try to stop drinking. Say a little prayer for me.
Thanks for the advice above: I suspected alchol was a trigger…I did drink wine and water once: how do we get a HEALTHY GUT to start with Please!!
Thanks for your article on alcohol relative to our bodies and, in particular, alcohol. I want to share a few triggers I discovered over time. I get dramatic hand eczema and urticaria on my neck and face when I ingest any dairy products (down to a cookie that has milk in it), any beers and wines with sulfates. When I validated these triggers through testing, I once ate a quarter ounce of cheese (doesn’t matter goat, cow…) and next day I had a minor hand break out, the second day worse and now on my face and neck. I was reading your article because recently I am breaking out and have not ingested any of the above so I’m thinking perhaps my one drink (2 on weekend nights) might be the culprit. Going alcohol free to see if that is what’s doing it.
Thanks for publishing this page. I have broken out with eczema in various places and cheilitis on the lips from what I am guessing is from beer. Its really bad. I have been searching for answers online. I am a pretty heavy drinker for the last 15 years. Ive been to a dermatologist and have a cpl topical prescriptions. some of the eczema is on one eyelid so in order to avoid glaucoma I have been prescribed something that costs 700$ a tube. The lip cheilitis is very painful and looks like I have super dry lips with cracking that leads to bleeding every time I eat. The area is exactly where the can hits the lips… It goes away with the meds (a mixture of a steroid and a topical solution) but by Sunday after a weekend of drinking its back. Its real fun. It would be nice to find a beer with ingredients that do not cause this. any idea of any? I usually drink Coors Light. Also when I eat say fast food. My face gets hot and itchy… I usually eat ALOT of ketchup with my fries. if that helps
Great article Christina. Can eczema prone folks do detox baths? Do u suggest colon cleansing?
Thanks Christina for the article. I have been looking for answers online. I drink every weekend. I have dermatitis since june last year. I went to a GP and he gave me prednisone and allecet. I took the medication for 7 day and the symptoms dissappeared came back a few days after..I am now gonna try your method. Want to ask what can i use for the dark spots aftr the dermatitis i gone? Can i drink whiskey after taking a break from drinking?
Dear Christina, i found your article so interesting. About ten days i started feeling some scratches on one side of my butocks then to my back now on my hands.Now I have just decided not to take alcohol again until my skins are free from eczema then i will know wether to continue or not. But do you have any prescriptions for me to clear the eczema? Thanks for your educative information.
Cam Wil says
I have had eczema my whole life, but I started drinking when I was say 20. I drink a glass of wine every night now (I’m 26). If I have had eczema my whole life, how could alcohol be a culprit if I haven’t been drinking my whole life? Perhaps the alcohol plus something else is the reason. I’ve done prednisone and everything else. I have always just blamed the weather, bc it seems to get better in the summer. I have eczema on my arms and neck and it is getting worse. I plan on stopping alcohol for a month and see what happens. But I wonder if I should stop dairy at the same time? Science experiment!!
You should eliminate anything that could trigger your eczema. Dairy, eggs, gluten and nuts. I’m about to do the same now that my eczema is out of control
Thanks so much for your article. Now I must believe in what I refused to believe. It’s good to know that I won’t have to quit alcohol forever, but can come back to the good life later depending on how my system responds.
Yes, you can do it! I actually have a bit of alcohol now that my immune system is better, and thankfully no breakouts. Good luck!
I have stopped diary, alcohol and tomatoes and beef. Emphasizing fruits and veg and boiled food. After a week a big improvement in eczema and stopped skin creams. What comes next Christina?
Jacoba Wood says
Thanks for info, everyone. I think my excema stems from allergies reaction w Zyrtex D and Chardonnay. I’ll stop drinking the wine. Or it could be the whole milk I started drinking because I was craving cereal . Will quit latter if wine abstinence works. Ice is great for relief.
Thanks for such a detailed explanation of the causes of this condition, all of the things you describe point to my symptoms, I’m going alcohol free for a while to see how things go. Thanks again.
Stevey Reid says
I have seborrehric dermatitis and it’s so frustrating. I’ve learned that alcohol is a trigger as much as I love a good cocktail, I’m slowly breaking myself out of that behavior which is not serving me.
Ron Roads says
Christina- You are amazing! Thanks for the notes on alcohol- explains current major breakout that I was puzzled about. I’ll keep up with the gut, histamine, immune system suggestions, i.e., biome. Ron Roads:)
Christina – this was a super helpful article. You say that you can drink a fair amount of alcohol now…can I ask how often you let yourself indulge?
I recently found out that alcohol is an eczema trigger and I plan on staying clean for a few weeks. Once my body has flushed out everything, how do you plan for nights where you do have a few drinks? How often do you drink now? How can you prep before a night out?
I have what I believe to be Dyshidrotic Eczema. It only happens whenever I drink alcohol. I’ve gone to several doctors who have just given me lotions. Essentially what happens is the morning after I drink my hands feel extremely swollen, then in a few days the swelling will go down but I’ll notice tiny blisters all over my palms and fingers then those who’ll go away within a week or so and my hand will start peeling- it’s v disgusting. The same thing happens to my feet as well but not as bad- mainly just the swelling and peeling. I’ve looked all over the web to see if anyone else shares this problem and I’ve only found a Reddit article with others dealing with the same issue. I’ve found that taking an antihistamine before drinking helps. My skin feels great whenever I don’t drink so as much as doctors online say that alcohol isn’t an eczema trigger- it is