Alcoholic nose is a slang term used to describe the red, swollen nose that is thought by some to accompany chronic alcohol use. While this stereotype has some element of truth to it, there is some debate on how much alcohol actually affects the appearance of your nose.

What Is Alcoholic Nose? 

“Alcoholic nose” is a term given to the medical condition rhinophyma when it’s thought to be caused by alcohol use. Rhinophyma is derived from Greek and literally means “nose growth.” While rhinophyma has traditionally been believed to be due to alcohol use, multiple studies show that this connection is very weak, and some researchers doubt there’s even a connection in the first place.

Other Names for Alcoholic Nose

Alcoholic nose is also known by many other names, including: 

  • Whisky nose
  • Rum nose
  • Potato nose
  • Gin blossom
  • Drinker’s nose
  • Cauliflower nose
  • Bulbous nose
  • Gin nose

What Does an Alcoholic Nose Look Like?

Rhinophyma, often called an alcoholic nose, has a red, swollen, lumpy appearance. The nose may also have a purple-colored appearance and could be mistaken for warts or other skin blemishes resembling protruding lumps.

What Causes Alcoholic Nose?

While the idea that alcohol causes rhinophyma has been popularized in movies and illustrations, studies do not support this stigma. However, alcohol may still play a very small role in increasing the risk of developing this condition.


The underlying condition that causes rhinophyma is rosacea. Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that affects the blood vessels in the face, leading to a flushed appearance of the facial skin. Rosacea also causes an increased number of pimples and poorer skin quality.

Drinking can increase the effects of existing rosacea and may increase the risk of this condition developing. However, many people who use alcohol heavily do not develop rosacea, which often occurs in people who do not drink alcohol or only use it in moderation.

Signs of Rosacea

Signs of rosacea can include:

  • Blushing or flushing in the face
  • Burning feeling in the facial skin
  • Small, visible veins in the face
  • Swollen bumps or pimples
  • Eye problems


Rhinophyma is essentially severe rosacea in the nose area. Rosacea affects the nose more in men and the cheeks more in women, which makes men much more likely to get rhinophyma than women. However, rhinophyma has not been shown to be connected to alcohol use, and calling rhinophyma an “alcoholic nose” is not medically correct.

Signs of Rhinophyma

Signs of rhinophyma can include:

  • Gradual change in appearance
  • Swollen, bulbous-shaped nose
  • Thickening of the skin on the nose
  • Visible oil glands on the nose
  • Red or sometimes purple coloration of the nose

Who Is at Risk for Alcoholic Nose?

Because an alcoholic nose is not really a medical condition, no one has a risk of developing it. However, people can be at risk of developing rhinophyma, which is sometimes referred to as an alcoholic nose. Some of the risk factors for developing rhinophyma include:

  • Male gender
  • Fair complexion
  • Age between 50–70 years old
  • Family history of skin conditions
  • Celtic heritage
  • Rosacea

Alcoholic Nose Treatment

While “alcoholic nose” is not a medical condition requiring treatment, rhinophyma can be treated. The main treatment option for rhinophyma is surgery; however, some medications may provide a small degree of help.


Once rhinophyma is present, medications are unlikely to make it go away. Medications used to treat rhinophyma include topical medications that can be applied to the skin. These primarily are antibiotics that can treat infections that may be making rhinophyma worse or anti-inflammatory medications that help reduce continued inflammation. 


Surgery is the main method used to treat rhinophyma. Many different surgical options use plastic surgery techniques. During a rhinophyma surgery, the physician will remove the extra skin that builds up on the nose and reduce the skin growths to help the nose return to its normal shape, size and appearance.

Alternative Therapies

While surgery is the most commonly used method of treating rhinophyma, alternative therapies can also be used to try treating rosacea, the underlying cause of rhinophyma. These are not used in the medical community, but they may be useful for some people. Alternative therapies can include:

  • Topical vitamin B3 (nicotinamide)
  • Topical Indian chrysanthemum extract
  • Topical Quassia amara extract

While these alternative therapies could provide some benefits, you should always speak with a doctor before attempting to use alternative therapies.

Alcohol Addiction and Abuse

While misusing alcohol over a prolonged period may not be likely to cause an alcoholic nose, there are many other ways alcohol can affect your body. Alcohol can cause liver disease and kidney problems and increase your risk of cancer, heart attack and stroke. Using alcohol heavily, especially over a long period, can have a devastating effect on your health.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help. Located on a 15-acre campus in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, our state-of-the-art facility can provide you with the ongoing support needed for lifelong addiction recovery. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can help you begin the journey to a healthier, alcohol-free future. 

More Common Questions About Alcoholic Nose

Is alcoholic nose the same as rhinophyma?

No, alcoholic nose and rhinophyma are not the same. Alcoholic nose is a slang term for a red, swollen nose that is thought to be caused by chronic alcohol abuse. Rhinophyma is a serious condition marked by an enlarged, overgrown nose. Rhinophyma is a type of rosacea, a chronic skin condition that causes inflammation of the face. While the two terms are not synonymous, what people call an alcoholic nose is often actually rhinophyma.

Why do alcoholics have purple noses?

Alcohol is a vasodilator that can relax the muscles in the walls of blood vessels, allowing them to widen. This dilation and the common facial redness that alcohol commonly causes can cause the appearance of a reddish or purplish nose. If a person consistently drinks in excess, then the coloration will be prone to showing often. 

Can you get a red nose from drinking alcohol?

Yes, alcohol can cause redness in the nose. Alcohol can cause redness in the face in general. Alcohol can also cause the blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased blood flow to the nose and pronounced redness.

Will my red nose go away if I stop drinking?

If the coloration in your nose is caused by the typical flushing and blood-vessel dilation of alcohol, then, yes, your red nose should fade as your body metabolizes the alcohol and excretes it from your system. If there are other underlying issues or complications, the redness may not go away if you stop drinking, and you may wish to see a doctor.

How can I get rid of a purple nose from drinking?

If the purplish color in your nose just appeared after drinking alcohol, the best thing you can do is wait for the excess alcohol to flush from your system. Staying hydrated and resting will help. If it seems that the coloration in your nose is more of a chronic problem that does not come and go with alcohol intake, then you should talk to a doctor as soon as you can.

You Might Be Interested In

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline

Because alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous – and even kill you – make sure you have medical advice from your doctor or a rehab facility when you decide to stop drinking.

10 Signs Of A High-Functioning Alcoholic

There are many misconceptions about alcoholism that make it sound like an alcoholic is an easy person to spot, however, many alcoholics function effectively and lead relatively normal lives.

Alcohol Treatment & Rehab in Colorado

An alcohol abuse problem can include binge drinking, having negative consequences such as hangovers with your drinking but continuing anyway, and drinking despite the desire to stop.

Self-Medicating Anxiety with Alcohol Is Risky

In a recent study by The Recovery Village, 44% of respondents reported abusing alcohol in an attempt to ease uncomfortable feelings that stem from underlying anxiety.

How Does Alcohol Affect Blood Pressure?

Drinking more than three drinks in a single sitting will temporarily cause your blood pressure to rise, but extended binge drinking or regular alcohol consumption can cause a permanent increase in blood pressure.

Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
Benjamin Caleb Williams Headshot
Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

Dick, Mary K.; Patel, Bhupendra C. “Rhinophyma.” StatPearls, November 2, 2021. Accessed March 5, 2022.

Curnier, Alain; Choudhary, Sunil. “Rhinophyma: Dispelling the Myths.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, August 2004. Accessed March 5, 2022.

Laun, Jake; Gopman, Jared; et al. “Rhinophyma.” Eplasty, May 1, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2022.

National Rosacea Society. “All About Rosacea.” Accessed March 5, 2022.

American Academy of Dermatology. “Does Drinking Cause Rosacea?” Accessed March 5, 2022.

National Rosacea Society. “What is Rosasea?” Accessed March 5, 2022.

Szymańska-Skrzypek, Anna; Burduk, Paweł K.; Betlejewski, Stanisław. “[Rhinophyma–diagnosis and treatment].” Polish Journal of Otolaryngology, 2004. Accessed March 5, 2022.

Healthline. “Rhinophyma.” August 28, 2018. Accessed March 5, 2022.

Jung, H. “Rhinophyma: plastic surgery, rehabilitat[…]nd long-term results.” JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, 1998. Accessed March 5, 2022.

Lio, Peter. “Alternative therapies hold promise for rosacea.” Dermatology Times, June 21, 2016. Accessed March 5, 2022.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Use and Your Health.” December 29, 2021. Accessed March 5, 2022.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.