Do you find your cheeks get rosier (maybe even feel warmer than usual) about halfway through your glass of red wine? No, it’s not your new cream blush; for some people, drinking alcohol results in heated, blotchy skin.
While you may have thought you were “just sensitive to booze,” there is a medical reason some people go red in the face. According to Robin Berzin, M.D., people with flushed cheeks after drinking fall into two main camps.
For some people, it’s genetic.
The first reason, according to Berzin, is that some people lack a specific enzyme to metabolize alcohol. This enzyme, called ALDH2, helps break down a substance in alcohol—called acetaldehyde—into acetate.
But if you don’t have that ALDH2 enzyme, your body might not be able to break down the acetaldehyde, resulting in a reaction (i.e., a flushed face).
“In that sense, there’s not too much you can do about it,” she says on Episode 174 of the mindbodygreen podcast. In this case, people who lack the enzyme might just be predisposed to facial redness. If you do lack this ALDH2 enzyme, you may want to keep an eye on how much you drink or even cut yourself off if you feel like you’re getting too heated.Article continues below
But for others, it’s simply about body temperature.
But another reason you might leave a party with flushed cheeks, according to Berzin, is because alcohol, quite literally, warms you up.
“Alcohol interrupts your body’s ability to get to its ideal lower resting body temperature and lower heart rate that you need to reach deep sleep,” Berzin says.
That’s exactly why, she adds, having a cocktail can result in a poor night’s sleep. While you might think having a nightcap can help you feel sleepy (it’s called a nightcap, after all), Berzin notes the alcohol will keep your heart rate and body temperature up, making it more difficult to reach that deep, quality night’s sleep we desperately need.
“Your body can’t cool off, and it can’t get to that lower resting heart rate,” she says. “So for some people who are drinking, the alcohol can basically heat you up.”
So, if you have a lighter version of those flushed cheeks (perhaps less of a blotchy reaction and more of a post-yoga glow), that’s probably why.
So what can you do?
The next time you polish off a glass of wine and feel your cheeks heat up, remember that the alcohol could quite literally be warming you up.
That said, if you’re feeling especially warm, it may be best to cool your body temperature down with some water before refilling your wineglass (hydration is key). And if you’re returning home from a night out, you might want to give that alcohol time to metabolize in your body instead of crawling straight into bed.