White Wine May Raise a Woman's Rosacea Risk

Thanks to W.C. Fields and his red, bulbous nose, many of us associate the skin condition rosacea with excess alcohol intake. Although drinking alcohol can trigger flare-ups, it has never been established that alcohol actually causes rosacea, a chronic inflammatory skin disorder.

Findings from the large Nurses Health Study II may bring scientists a step closer to an association between white wine and the risk of rosacea in women.

It seems that women who enjoy an occasional glass of white wine or liquor are more prone to rosacea than lifelong teetotalers. Depending on the disease’s severity, characteristics of rosacea can include facial flushing, redness, enlarged blood vessels under the skin (telangiectasias), acne or small bumps, and a bulb-shaped nose.

What the researchers found

One to three drinks a month of white wine was associated with a 14 percent risk of developing rosacea in women. That figure rose to 49 percent among women who drank white wine five or more times a week. One to three glasses of liquor a month led to an 8 percent increased risk, and five or more glasses a week increased the risk to 28 percent.

The results were published in the June 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The reason, say the researchers, may be that alcohol can weaken the immune system and expand blood vessels, contributing to rosacea’s development.

In this study, contrary to previous beliefs, red wine wasn’t associated with rosacea risk. Although red wine is a known flare-up trigger for people who already have rosacea, the authors hypothesize that the anti-inflammatory properties of the flavonoids and other substances in red wine may help quell rosacea development.

Barbara Van Tine
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Barbara Van Tine

Barbara Van Tine is the editor of the University of California, Berkeley, Health After 50 newsletter.