This Is Why You Turn Red When You Drink

Does your face turn pink when you drink alcohol and, pretty soon, it’s as red as the wine in your glass? If you’re a woman, you look like you’re wearing blush. If you’re a man, your cheeks resemble Santa’s. A cursory search on the internet gives you all kinds of answers, from high blood pressure to alcoholism, but the truth is, it can happen to anyone.

Is someone who drinks red wine versus white more likely to get a red face? Yes, research says, but that doesn’t mean red wine is the only culprit—good old alcohol can cause facial flushing, too.

According to doctors, the primary cause is from the way one’s body metabolizes alcohol. Blood pressure goes up when drinking alcohol and, when the liquor’s in your body, it breaks down into a compound, acetaldehyde. Blood vessels increase and blood pressure decreases—but after the alcohol exits your body, your blood pressure goes back up to get to the blood pressure level you had before alcohol came into play, so it can be higher than usual. When your body cannot metabolize the compound, the blood capillaries in your face (and neck and shoulders) dilate and turn your face red.

This Men’s Health article agrees, citing that men whose cheeks brighten up from drinking (four or more drinks per week) have a higher risk of having high blood pressure down the line. And, high blood pressure can lead to many things—strokes, heart disease, and various health ailments from hypertension. People whose faces turn red from alcohol also have an increased risk of esophageal cancer (which is one of the worst cancers out there).

There is no cure for the alcohol-induced flushed faces and the associated future health risks that drinking can cause—except from abstaining from alcohol altogether. So, before you assume your red-faced friend is a lush, think again (and look in the mirror to see if your cheeks are pink, too).