How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Psoriasis?

By Claire Gillespie
February 02, 2021

Whenever Sarah-Jane (42), from Traverse City, Michigan, has too much to drink, she gets more than a typical hangover. Along with the headache and dehydration comes a flare-up of her psoriasis. “I definitely notice a difference in my skin the day after I’ve been drinking,” she says. “It’s just redder and itchier overall.”

Sarah-Jane’s experience of alcohol triggering flare-ups is backed by some research. Eighteen of 23 studies included in a systematic review published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found a link between alcohol consumption and psoriasis. But scientists still don’t know for sure what the exact connection is. Here’s what we know so far about how drinking can affect psoriasis, and what you can do if you suspect alcohol might be a factor in your symptoms.

Exploring the Link

One theory is that alcohol consumption leads to inflammation in the body, which is the start of the body’s natural healing process. However, in people with psoriasis, the inflammation doesn’t stop. When the body’s T cells (a type of white blood cells) get involved, they release inflammatory proteins called cytokines. This extra inflammation may cause the skin cells in someone with psoriatic disease to regenerate excessively, says the National Psoriasis Foundation.