Alcoholic Nose or Rhinophyma

Alcoholic Nose or Rhinophyma

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

What is Alcoholic Nose?

Alcoholic Nose or Rhinophyma

For a long period of time, a certain skin condition called Rhinophyma was thought to be caused by an over-consumption or abuse of alcohol. It has been called “Alcoholic Nose” or “Drinker’s Nose” because of alcohol’s link to the condition. Alcohol nose is often characterized by a red, bumpy texture on the nose. It occasionally occurs on and near the cheeks as well and often appears to be extremely swollen1

Rosacea and Alcoholic Nose

Alcoholic nose is a specific type of another, larger skin condition. This condition is rosacea and is characterized by a long-lasting, consistent inflammation and swelling of the skin. This swelling and inflammation is caused by the breakage of blood vessels and pustules forming around and on the nose.

The Appearance of Alcoholic Nose

So, what does Alcoholic nose look like? The nose of someone with Rhinophyma will often lose its natural shape and swell to look larger than normal. The nose will appear bumpy in texture and pink to red in color. Those broken blood vessels and swollen pustules are what give the Alcoholic nose or Rhinophyma its swollen, red, and bumpy appearance.

Outside of nose redness and bumps, regular symptoms of alcoholic nose can include:

  • Sensitive skin
  • Facial flushing
  • Enlarged pores
  • Thickened skin on the area
  • Scarring
  • Lumps on the nose

Previously, this appearance of the nose and form of rosacea was thought to be caused by an over-consumption of alcohol. This thought created a stigma around the appearance and those who developed the condition were thought to be alcoholics or heavy drinkers.

Alcoholic Nose Not Caused by Alcohol (apparently…)

Studies have recently proven that this is not the case. Rhinophyma or Drinker’s nose is not caused by alcohol or heavy drinking. Those that participated in the studies were diagnosed with Rhinophyma but were not regular or heavy drinkers.

The thought that alcohol caused an alcoholic nose held on for many years because alcohol abuse can give the appearance of inflamed skin or redness in the face and neck. That thought has been proven to be incorrect. However, alcohol can aggravate symptoms of Rosacea and Rhinophyma.

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So, What Causes Alcoholic Nose Then?


Those that have a history of Rosacea, for starters. If you already have the condition, heavy alcohol drinking can aggravate the condition and make it worse than it usually is. Outside of that, scientists have guessed that genetics have a lot to do with who develops Rhinophyma. Studies suggest that those who descend from certain western, northern, or eastern European countries may be more likely to develop the skin condition. More males than females develop Rosacea and Rhinophyma and those with extremely fair skin are more likely to develop the skin condition as well.

If you already have a history of Rosacea or Rhinophyma, it is best to avoid certain alcohols and heavy amounts of alcohol most of the time.


It is suggested that those with Alcoholic Nose Rhinophyma flare-ups:

  • Stop drinking alcohol (This may only be necessary if you have an extreme version of the skin condition)
  • Watch what you drink and how much (Avoiding red wine has been said to help and watching the amount that you drink will help avoid flare-ups of your Rhinophyma or Rosacea.
  • Drink plenty of water in between your alcoholic drinks.


If you have a moderate amount of Rosacea and Rhinophyma, there are other factors outside of alcohol you can avoid to help alleviate and prevent flare-ups:

  • spicy foods
  • caffeine
  • extreme temperatures
  • overexposure to sunlight
  • tobacco


How to Treat Alcoholic Nose

These methods can help alleviate any flare-ups of alcoholic nose, but will not cure or treat your skin condition. If you have Rosacea and occasionally develop Rhinophyma when you regularly drink there are options for treatment of the condition.

Treatments for Alcoholic Nose


  • Doctors will often prescribe retinoids or antibiotics for general types of rosacea. This may or may not work for your Rhinophyma.
  • If your Rhinophyma is not severe, oral isotretinoin is usually what doctors will prescribe and suggest first.
  • Doctors may prescribe an antibiotic to help reduce redness or inflammation.
  • For severe and consistent Rhinophyma, surgery is often the best option. The tissues and blood vessels have grown out of their usual pattern and will need surgery to resume regular growth. Surgery is best to be performed as early as possible to avoid permanent damage and disfigurement to the nose.


No Longer Alcoholic Nose — Rhinophyma


Alcoholic nose is not the first bodily condition to be redefined and it will not be the last. For a long time, this skin condition brought many people shame because of its reputation. That does not have to be the case anymore. While this condition can be made worse by alcohol, it is not caused by it. It is a genetic skin condition, just like rosacea, that is developed with or without the presence of alcohol or heavy alcohol use.

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References & Citations: Alcoholic Nose

  1. Madan V, Ferguson JE, August PJ. Carbon dioxide laser treatment of rhinophyma: a review of 124 patients. Br J Dermatol. 2009;161(4):814–818. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2009.09317.x []
  2. Khoo CTK, Saad MN. Rhinophyma in a negro: case report. Br J Plast Surg. 1980;33(2):161–163. doi:10.1016/0007-1226(80)90005-3 []
  3. Wilkin J, Dahl M, Detmar M, et al. Standard grading system for rosacea: report of the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee on the classification and staging of rosacea. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004;50(6):907–912. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2004.01.048 []
  4. Acker DW, Helwig EB. Rhinophyma with carcinoma. Arch Dermatol. 1967;95(3):250–254. doi:10.1001/archderm.1967.0160033000800 []
  5. Duzgun S, Pekdemir I, Yilanci S, Bali YY, Singin S, Tapan M. A cutaneous angiosarcoma arising from the rhinophyma aka alcoholic nose. Kulak Burun Bogaz Ihtis Derg. 2013;23(6):344–347. doi:10.5606/kbbihtisas.2013.35556[]
  6. Aloi F, Tomasini C, Soro E, Pippione M. The clinicopathologic spectrum of rhinophyma and alcoholic nose. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000;42(3):468–472. doi:10.1016/S0190-9622(00)90220-2 []
  7. Beran SJ, Rohrich RJ, Clark PJ. The potential role of the erbium: YAG laser in skin rejuvenation. Aesthetic Surgery J. 1998;18(2):147–149. doi:10.1016/S1090-820X(98)80015-0 []
  8. Cravo M, Miguel Canelas M, Carlos Cardoso J, Vieira R, Figueiredo A. Combined carbon dioxide laser and bipolar electrocoagulation: another option to treat rhinophyma. J Dermatolog Treat. 2009;20(3):146–148. doi:10.1080/09546630802512653 []
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