What is Alcoholic Nose?

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

If you have been abusing alcohol for a long time, you may have noticed that you have developed a bulbous nose - or ‘alcoholic nose’, as it’s known colloquially.
But what exactly is ‘alcoholic nose’ - and is it caused directly by alcohol? That’s what we’re going to explore on this page. Read on to learn more about ‘drinker’s nose’ and rosacea, as well as other ways that alcohol can impact your physical appearance. On this page, we’ll also be exploring the effects of alcohol abuse, both physical and psychological. If you have the desire to stop drinking alcohol but are struggling to do so, we can help. Read on for more.

How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Appearance?

Alcohol can affect your appearance in many ways. First of all, alcohol dehydrates your body and your skin, which means your skin loses fluid and nutrients that are essential for healthy-looking skin. This means that drinking too much alcohol can leave your skin looking dull, puffy, bloated, colourless, and even wrinkled. Alcohol has also been associated with weight gain - when you drink alcohol, you are consuming ‘empty calories’ - calories that have no nutritional value. When you consume alcohol, you may increase the risk of developing rosacea and rhinophyma - a skin condition/ skin disorder associated with alcoholism. Read on to learn more about the two, including the symptoms.

Rhinophyma/ Drinker’s Nose

The medical term for ‘whiskey nose’, ‘alcohol nose’, ‘drinkers nose’ or ‘alcoholic nose’ is rhinophyma - a complex skin disorder characterised by a bumpy nose/ bulbous nose. If left untreated, the swollen appearance could worsen, and become more disfigured. Eventually, it could block the airways to the nose - and if not treated, pus-filled bumps may develop. Rhinophyma is an advanced stage of rosacea - the end stage, where the damage is unfortunately irreversible without surgery. This means to effectively treat rhinophyma, you will need cosmetic surgery. However, it can be managed with oral antibiotics such as metronidazole. When it has reached the end stage, the burst blood cells have permanently reddened the skin - and the nose has become bumpy and rounded at the tip. Some symptoms of ‘alcoholic nose’ include:
  • Visible oil glands
  • Waxy skin
  • Yellow hue on the skin
  • Thick, rough skin on the nose
  • Bulbous and enlarged nose


Your body transports oxygen around your body through the blood. The larger veins and arteries, however, are unable to reach the surface of your skin - instead, small blood vessels carry the oxygen here as well as other difficult-to-reach areas. These are known as blood capillaries. Having rosacea means that you have visible blood vessels - the capillaries on your nose, cheeks and other areas may become swollen. They may also burst - and broken blood vessels can cause red patches and bumpy skin. Rosacea is a long-term skin condition - however, it can be treated to lessen its effects. Some early symptoms of rosacea include:
  • Stinging, burning, or flushed skin when you apply face cream or moisturiser
  • Rash, as well as itching and swelling
  • Discomfort washing your face
Some intermediate rosacea symptoms include:
  • Patches of dry skin/ rough skin
  • Thickening of skin
  • Swollen cheeks, nose, and under eyes
  • Permanent red patches on the face
Over time, you may develop severe rosacea. Some symptoms of advanced rosacea include:
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Permanent red patches on the face and neck
  • Rhinophyma - also known as ‘alcoholic’s nose’
Although rhinophyma occurs as a result of advanced rosacea, the two are classed as two separate conditions. You can avoid developing rhinophyma if you successfully monitor and manage rosacea.

Other Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Drinking too much alcohol can have a range of negative effects in both the short term and the long term. Binge drinking is a form of alcohol abuse - and is considered a problem in the UK. Near the end of 2021, 18.1% of adults were drinking at an increased risk - meaning over eight million people were drinking too much alcohol. One of the biggest short-term risks of excessive alcohol consumption is alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning occurs when your blood alcohol levels are too high - when you drink too much alcohol in a short space of time. It impacts certain areas of your brain that control life-supporting functions such as your temperature, heart rate, and breathing. Alcohol poisoning is considered a medical emergency - if you think you are having an alcohol overdose, seek medical attention immediately. Knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning can save your life. Some signs of alcohol poisoning include confusion, vomiting, pale skin, slowed-down breathing, and loss of consciousness. Alcohol abuse is a mild form of alcohol use disorder - which, over time, can develop into severe alcohol dependence, the more severe form of alcohol use disorder. Ultimately, alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing an addiction. Alcoholism can impact all areas of your life - for example, it can cause relationship problems, financial issues, mental health problems, legal issues such as violent crime or drink-driving, and many more. Likewise, excessive alcohol consumption is a causal factor in many health issues - over 60, to be more accurate. Alcohol consumption can affect your organs in various ways, and can also increase the risk of developing several types of cancer. In the long term, alcohol can impact your brain functioning and can increase the risk of developing ARBD - alcohol-related brain damage, as well as alcohol-related dementia.

So, Does Alcohol Cause ‘Alcoholic Nose’ or Rosacea?

In short, no - alcohol does not always cause rosacea and rhinophyma (alcoholic nose or drinker’s nose) and isn’t considered a primary cause. However, alcohol consumption can certainly aggravate the condition. There is often confusion between the appearance of rhinophyma and the face of somebody with a history of alcohol abuse - this is because one of the early symptoms of alcohol abuse and addiction is a red face due to enlarged blood vessels. When you drink too much over time, your face may appear red due to the regulation of your body’s vascular system/ blood vessels - it is adversely affected by the level of alcohol in your blood. Likewise, when a person drinks alcohol, it can cause the same facial flushing as rosacea - when alcohol is broken down by your liver, your body releases acetaldehyde, stimulating the release of histamine which can cause both facial flushing and rapid heart rate. The skin condition rosacea appears to be more common in women with fair skin. As well as drinking alcohol, particularly red wine, many things can worsen rosacea. For example, eating spicy foods, smoking tobacco, drinking tea and coffee, too much sunlight exposure, and more.

Finding Help For Alcohol Addiction

If you have noticed that your drinking habits are getting out of hand, or you wish to stop drinking but are struggling to do so alone, we can help. At Help4Addiction, we have been helping people overcome alcohol addiction for years - and can help you too. Finding the right local rehab clinic can be tough, especially as there are so many options to choose from including NHS rehab, luxury rehab, private rehab, inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab and many more. This is why we will listen to your story, preferences and requirements to find the best treatment plan for you. Rehab begins with detoxification - which has the aim of cleansing your body of the substance. You may experience withdrawal symptoms during this stage. If you have a severe form of an alcohol use disorder, we always recommend a medical detox with medical professionals and sometimes, detox medication. If you have a mild addiction, you may benefit from detoxing at home. You’ll then have the option to attend therapy sessions, whether it be CBT, DBT, counselling, group therapy, or more. This addresses the social and psychological aspects of addiction. Upon leaving rehab, you may continue to receive support in the form of secondary treatment - which aims at relapse prevention. Contact us today to begin your recovery journey. We’ll discuss the cost of rehab, and the options available to you, and will work to find the right place for you to recover from your addiction.

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