Why do I get a skin rash when I drink alcohol?

Why do I get a skin rash when I drink alcohol?

Have you ever noticed that even a small amount of alcohol can lead to uncomfortable reactions like a skin rash or a flushed face? Well, you might be experiencing alcohol intolerance, a condition linked to how your body breaks down and processes alcohol¹.

Genetic factors at play

When you drink alcohol, your liver works to break it down. This process involves turning alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde, thanks to enzymes like alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). Genetic variations in genes like ADH1B and ALDH2 can impact how efficiently your body handles this conversion, leading to alcohol intolerance².

Common symptoms of alcohol intolerance

Alcohol intolerance can show up in various ways, including red, itchy skin bumps known as hives, facial flushing, nausea, vomiting, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches, a fast heartbeat, and low blood pressure¹.

Understanding genetic variations

  • ADH (ADH1B): Certain gene variations can speed up the breakdown of alcohol, causing a quick buildup of acetaldehyde.
  • ALDH (ALDH2): Changes in ALDH2 can slow down or deactivate the conversion of acetaldehyde, leading to its accumulation and triggering intolerance symptoms².
  • Why the Skin Rash?

If you've ever experienced a flushed face or a skin rash after drinking alcohol, it might be due to a buildup of acetaldehyde. When this substance isn't broken down fast enough, it can make your blood vessels expand, worsening flushing symptoms¹.

Can it get better?

For those with a genetic predisposition, alcohol intolerance may persist. The best way to manage it is by either avoiding or limiting alcohol. It's worth noting that even if you're not genetically prone, drinking too much alcohol too quickly can still lead to uncomfortable symptoms¹.

Home DNA testing for answers

Curious about your genetic makeup and how it relates to alcohol intolerance? Our at-home DNA test can provide insights. It checks specific genes related to alcohol metabolism, helping you understand your likelihood of experiencing adverse reactions.

Other culprits in alcoholic beverages

Apart from genetics, your body's reaction to alcohol may also depend on sensitivities to certain ingredients. For instance, red wine and beer with higher levels of sulphites and histamines might cause reactions in some individuals.

When to seek professional advice

Experiencing discomfort from alcohol may also be linked to underlying health issues. If you're concerned about your health, it's always a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional.


Knowing how your body responds to alcohol, especially if you have a genetic predisposition, is crucial for making informed choices. Our Intolerances and Sensitivity DNA test can offer valuable insights, helping you navigate your relationship with alcohol more confidently.


  1. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "Alcohol Intolerance."
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Alcohol Metabolism: An Update.”