BY T.E. HOLT, M.D., JANUARY
Ever wonder why your skin gets red and blotchy when you drink alcohol? Blame
your gut's reaction to a good time.
Moments after booze hits your belly, your stomach releases an enzyme called
alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) that tries to convert the alcohol into something
less toxic to your nervous system. The byproducts of that process are energy and
While ethylaldehyde is less toxic than alcohol, it's still not entirely benign.
It stimulates the release of adrenaline, quickening your pulse; that's why
overimbibing can lead to "holiday heart syndrome," a temporary but potentially
dangerous irregular heartbeat.
Ethylaldehyde also has the cosmetic consequence of dilating capillaries in your
face—hence the rosy coloration of your cheeks.
Why doesn't it show in everyone? Some people tend to secrete more ADH than
others, which produces more ethylalehyde and, as a result, a more noticeable
"I've had a few" flushed face.