Red Nose, Rosacea and Wine

Many people equated the movie star W.C. Field's bulbous, red nose with heavy drinking. Indeed, many feel that a red nose is caused by too many drinks. Many Christmas jokes involve a big red nose and Rudolph. Why is a red nose related to drinking? How is rosacea involved?

What Is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a skin ailment that primarily shows up in the forehead and cheeks, and which begins to become seen when a person reaches their mid-30s. About 5% of all adults have rosacea. After a while, if untreated, the condition turns into "rhinophyma" - Rhino meaning NOSE. The nose becomes quite swollen looking. W.C. Fields suffered from rhinophyma. Rosacea is thought to be genetic, and is primarily associated with women with fair skin. The main culprit seems to be that the skin of Rosacea sufferers promotes the growth of a certain type of bacteria that causes the skin to become inflamed.

Images of Rosacea Sufferers' Faces

Rosacea and Drinking

When you drink alcohol, it opens up your blood vessels. For those who suffer from rosacea, this means that the blood vessels of the face are now larger than usual, which exacerbates the redness problem. One study found that over 3/4 of Rosacea patients had their redness increase after drinking red wine, while over 1/2 were troubled by drinking white wine. This reaction was often caused after only one drink. However, it is not just drinking that causes rosacea to flare up. Since this is a disease involving blood vessels, anything that causes blood vessels to enlarge will then cause the face to redden. This includes stress, exercise, spicy food, any weather extreme or wind, and even hot drinks or baths.

The short answer is that rosacea is not a 1:1 relationship with drinking. Many things can cause rosacea to flare up. Yes, drinking is one of them. However, drinking brings many health benefits with it, so it is a trade-off for a rosacea sufferer to balance.

Cures for Rosacea

Since doctors aren't even sure yet what causes rosacea, they are not quite prepared with a cure. It really seems to simply be a tendency for small blood vessels to stretch easily. There are antibiotics that can be prescribed to help minimize the skin's reaction to triggers. Other than that, you can try to avoid every trigger situation, but that is hard for most human beings :) I doubt any of us live a life without stress!

It's important to note that rosacea is NOT caused by poor face washing! This is not a matter of your face getting "dirty". It is in essence a matter of your face having an allergic reaction / having the blood vessels expand due to a trigger situation. Your choices are to avoid the triggers while taking medication to reduce the reactions you have to them.


A great deal of research and work went into my wine / health pages. If you use this information, please credit me properly. Thanks!

Wine and Health

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.