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For some people, a glass of wine, a beer, or a cocktail can lead to an eczema flare. There currently isn’t much research to explain why alcohol can bring on redness or discoloration and itching, but that doesn’t make the symptoms any less real for people who have them.

This article explores the connection between alcohol and eczema. It also touches briefly on the science behind drinking and flare-ups in other inflammatory skin conditions — and what you can do to calm your irritated skin.

The simplest answer to that question is — maybe. Researchers who study eczema have not consistently found that alcohol triggers flares.

A 2018 research review of alcohol use in people with eczema drew two conclusions based on the studies. First, there is “no consistent association” between drinking alcohol and eczema flares in adults and teens.

Second, the researchers reported that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can raise the risk that the baby will later develop eczema.

On the other hand: The inflammation, itch, and infection connection

In a 2017 study, experts found that alcohol triggers inflammation in people who have psoriasis, another inflammatory skin condition. It’s reasonable to think alcohol could also lead to inflammation in people with eczema, researchers say.

When your body breaks down alcohol, histamines are released as part of an immune reaction. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology describes histamines as powerful chemicals that can cause redness or discoloration and itching.

Alcohol use can also affect your skin barrier. Your skin barrier is a protective layer that holds in water and keeps out germs and irritants. For people with eczema, the skin barrier may already be vulnerable. Alcohol can change the makeup of your skin barrier, which may lead to the loss of moisture, a 2019 research review shared.

Eczema and alcohol use disorder

Here’s another research result worth noting. There’s some evidence that alcohol use disorder is more common among people with eczema. Scientists don’t know whether that’s because living with the condition makes people feel the need to drink, or because their bodies break down alcohol differently, or some other reason.

It’s also important to understand that when people have an alcohol use disorder, their skin can be more prone to injury and infection, according to a 2015 research review. Wounds may take longer to heal.

Your own symptoms are what matters

Despite the lack of clear evidence from scientific studies, some people do report that their eczema symptoms get worse if they drink. If you find that your symptoms worsen when you have an alcoholic beverage or two, it’s important to pay attention to your own body’s signals.

Many people report that what they eat and drink affects their eczema symptoms. Some of the foods most likely to cause health concerns are soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, rice, fish, and milk.

Still, another 2018 research review showed that food-triggered eczema symptoms are more common with children than they are with adults. If you want to find out if something you’re eating or drinking could be triggering eczema flares, it’s a good idea to work with an allergy specialist to take a structured approach.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition. It may be calm and manageable for long periods. Then stress, allergens, and other triggers could lead to a flare-up where you experience more redness or discoloration, burning, itchiness, and oozing.

For now, there isn’t a cure, but there are many effective ways to deal with symptoms.

For a deep dive on eczema, its causes, and treatments, read this article.

If you notice that your eczema symptoms are getting worse, you may want to keep a journal to track your body’s response to what you’re eating and drinking. Note the type of alcohol you’ve had and whether certain amounts or types change the intensity of your symptoms.

You can also try eliminating alcohol from your diet to see if symptoms improve. If you’re drinking because you’re feeling stressed, it could be the stress rather than the alcohol that’s causing a health concern.

Your healthcare professional can diagnose eczema by examining your skin and asking you questions about the nature of your symptoms. To be sure your symptoms aren’t being caused by another allergy, skin tests might be necessary.

If you’re in the middle of an intense eczema flare, you may want to talk with a healthcare professional to see if your current treatment strategy needs a change. Some treatment options include:

  • emollient moisturizers to help lock in moisture and repair your skin barrier
  • quick, daily baths to ease discomfort and itching
  • wet wraps to soothe irritated or itchy areas
  • over-the-counter cortisone creams or oral antihistamine medications to help manage itching
  • prescription corticosteroids and calcineurin inhibitors to reduce inflammation
  • biologics, which are antibody treatments to calm an overactive immune response
  • antibiotics if you have a skin infection
  • phototherapy (ultraviolet light therapy) to heal inflamed skin

Eczema is considered a chronic (long-term) health condition. That means you may have symptoms off and on for many years.

The good news is that eczema symptoms can often be managed with daily care and medications to prevent and treat flares.

Even with treatment, you may notice some long-lasting changes to areas of your skin that have been affected by eczema. The color of your skin could be darker in patches, and you may notice some thickening in places where you’ve scratched or rubbed a lot.

Keeping up with your treatments is important because people with eczema are more likely to develop viral and bacterial infections. Some infections can be serious or even life threatening.

There’s no clear scientific evidence that drinking alcohol will cause an eczema flare. Still, many people say that when they drink, their symptoms get worse.

That may be because alcohol can stimulate inflammation throughout your system. It could also be because your body releases itch-causing histamines when it breaks down alcohol. Or it could be that alcohol temporarily dries out your skin, making your symptoms feel worse.

If your eczema symptoms suddenly worsen, talk with your healthcare professional to pinpoint the triggers and find ways to prevent and treat your symptoms. The flares may come and go, but knowing your triggers can help you prolong the calm periods in between.