Why Do My Cheeks Get Red When I Drink?

Robin Berzin, MD

Getting rosy cheeks when you drink alcohol is actually more common than you think, and there are a few different reasons you might go red in the face after a drink.

Alcohol raises your blood pressure, which for some, may be enough to cause a slight redness in your cheeks.

Less common is a genetic variant that affects the ALDH2 gene. If you have this mutation, you may have a deficiency in alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks alcohol down into acetaldehyde. A poor acetaldehyde metabolism can lead the capillaries in your face to dilate.

The phenomenon, called alcohol flush reaction , is actually a sign that your body is not metabolizing alcohol. Some people may also notice a rapid heart beat, headache, dizziness, or nausea. Avoiding alcohol is the only way to completely eliminate any adverse reactions.

Those who get alcohol flush reaction may be at an increased risk for some cancers if they drink frequently.

Whether you have the ALDH2 variant or not, you can prevent or minimize red cheeks by limiting your alcohol consumption, hydrating well before drinking, and eating before and while you’re drinking. Bonus: these are also great ways to prevent a hangover.

Robin Berzin, MD

Dr. Robin Berzin is the founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin completed medical school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

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