How can I keep myself from turning red when drinking?
April 4, 2007 11:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep myself from turning red when drinking?

I get red very easily when I drink, even though I'm not even close to being drunk. I look drunk after just one drink and it's a little embarassing sometimes when I'm out having dinner and I have a drink with it and I end up looking like I'm wasted. Anyways, I'm having a dinner tomorrow night with some clients which will require some drinking but I don't want to look like a drunken fool with my face all red even from light drinking. Anyone know how to get rid of the redness? I heard it helps to take allergy pills before drinking but I'm a bit weary about taking any pills with alcohol.
posted by herbiehancock00 to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Leo Tsang, are you by any chance asian?
posted by hindmost at 11:40 PM on April 4, 2007

It's a genetic thing, around 50% of Asians (higher than that in my unofficial observation of friends) can't metabolize alcohol properly (actually the acetaldehyde that is a byproduct; many more details in the wikipedia article on this). I just stay away from the stuff when I need to be in top form, especially since I don't just turn red, I can also end up throwing up after just one drink (fun times!). I found I have an easier time with wine and beer than hard liquor, so pick your drinks appropriately if you are the same. Otherwise, I haven't heard of a sure cure and will be interested to hear what others have to say here. The wikipedia articles talks about famotidine (in Pepcid AC) as a possibility.

(I did think about creating a magic pill that would help us metabolize acetaldehyde, and since it would be sort of like how Bean-O neutralizes gas, I would call it ... wait for it... WINE-O.)
posted by girlhacker at 11:50 PM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I get the Asian flush after just one drink, myself. But I haven't tried any of the suggestions listed in hindmost's link, so I can't vouch for their usefulness.

I do try to avoid eating spicy foods when I drink, though, because that seems to make it so much worse for me.
posted by vespertine at 11:53 PM on April 4, 2007

I was diagnosed with rosacea & as I get older I've found I have similar triggers for flushed skin. It seems to help if I drink more water & only ingest alcohol in moderation. I also try to avoid spicy foods but drink on a relatively full stomach. Not sure if that helps you...
posted by miss lynnster at 12:03 AM on April 5, 2007

You can also slow the rate at which it gets into your blood stream by eating beforehand. Or, since you're going out to dinner, by not drinking much alcohol until after you've eaten.

If it is the Asian Flush thing, then the amount of alcohol is relevant. Consume drinks with less alcohol (small glass of white wine instead of a double scotch and coke).
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:04 AM on April 5, 2007

Or, you know, exactly what miss lynnster said.
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:05 AM on April 5, 2007

That flush is a symptom of the fact that you are being poisoned. This is Not A Good Thing.

I don't think the solution here is for you to try to figure out how to drink. I think the solution here is for you to accept that you cannot. If you explain to your clients that you have a genetic problem such that any drinking at all makes you seriously ill, surely they'd understand if you stick to soda water?

This is a common problem and a lot of people already know about it. I suspect you'll find that they won't hold it against you.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:40 AM on April 5, 2007

Hey! I'm part Asian, and the exact same thing happens to me - bright pink cheeks and nose after imbibing insignificant quantities of alcohol. And yet, I love the hooch so. Here are my hard-won tips on minimizing the shame...

- different types of alcohol trigger more or less of a flush. For example, wine makes me Rudolph the red nosed reindeer after one glass. Beer has much less obvious effects, especially if consumed slowly. Experiment with different types of alcohol, and you may find one that doesn't produce as much of a flareup.

- the more alcohol tolerance you have, the less you flush (at least in my case). Drink more! At home! To practice! Or not.

- cushion the alcohol with food, consume the alcohol slowly. Anything to avoid the sudden surge.

- adjust alcohol consumption to lighting conditions. Candle lit dinner? Toss them back. Office party illuminated by harsh fluorescents? Well, it depends on whether or not you want to be thought of as "that lush from engineering."

- stay active, and, if at all possible, cool. Something about sitting still and drinking in warm places really brings out the blush.

- I always pack eye drops on my drinking expeditions. If you're going to have a red face, at least make sure your eyes aren't bloodshot. I also powder my nose in the bathroom, but this may or may not be an option for you...
posted by Wavelet at 12:41 AM on April 5, 2007

Hey, if you need to drink socially - professionally - then you need some strategies for drinking less than other people. Tell your clients that you have an athletic event the next day, or that you need to abstain for a medical test. Order a bloody mary loudly and quietly arrange a tomato juice.

Alternatively, consider that it can be very strategic to appear tipsy when you're not. A lot of people believe that in vino veritas.

If you're absolutely stuck, wear a dark top so you will look pale by comparison. Stick to low alcohol drinks. Have a little something to eat before you head out so you are not drinking on an empty stomach.

Or - be bold. Tell the clients straight up "It's so funny. One drink and I look like a tomato!" Then there'll be a big ha ha. And then everyone will forget about it. At worst, someone will say "Hey, that guy - he DOES look like a tomato!" And then you ask for the sale/tell them your rate is up $10 per unit/add them to your list of people next up against the wall.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:05 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can vouch for taking allergy meds prior to drinking to alleviate the baboon's ass face - the antihistamine I took was diphenhydramine (Benadryl). I'm not recommending you do this, necessarily. I found this out by accident and ended up having a career drinking night, although I felt kind of dried out and drowsy the whole time. I don't believe alcohol and the diphenhydramine is a toxic brew, but please make sure you don't take anything with acetaminophen in it before, during, or after drinking alcohol. This will make you die. I haven't figured out if other antihistamines, like loratadine, have the same effect.

Several asian girl friends vouch for Pepcid AC prior to drinking so that their makeup still matches after a couple of drinks. I've never tried it myself, but a few of them swear by it.

And that "Chaser" pill they sell to prevent hangovers - that stuff seems to delay the effects of alcohol overall. I'm not sure about its effect on the flushface, but you might try taking these prior to your business meeting. It won't hurt, since at least you will be able to maintain your groove while everyone else gets shitfaced. That's always good for (your) business.

Oh, and I'm 100% asian. And I drink a lot. Hope this helps.
posted by krippledkonscious at 1:26 AM on April 5, 2007

SCDB is giving sound advice that I agree with, though he is not providing an answer to your question.

Pepcid AC is, from what I've heard, your best bet. However, do your homework. The Wikipedia article on this topic is quite helpful in helping you understand the underlying cause.

You can and should surf around the web as there are a lot of people with the same problem. You'll find lots of different ideas and I can't tell you a particular one that will be guaranteed to work. There is one that you should avoid, however. This Google Answers article mentions taking large doses of Niacin to prevent the flush. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT DO THIS. This is such bad advice that it borders on perversity. The side effects of a large dose of Niacin are...wait for it...flushed, red skin and itching. Not fun, and remarkably similar to the problem you're already experiencing. So stay the hell away from the Niacin.
posted by mullingitover at 3:43 AM on April 5, 2007

Alcohol and antihistamines can have a varied effect. If I'm out being social and standing up, I'm fine. Sitting at home at my desk, I'm asleep in my chair after 2 beers. It's the same with Benadryl or Clarityn.

don't take anything with acetaminophen in it before, during, or after drinking alcohol. This will make you die.

That's a bit of an exaggeration. It probably won't kill you unless you have a weak liver already or are drinking loads. But it will do a number on your liver and could kill you if you keep abusing it (drinking heavily day after day and taking your daily maximum of acetaminophen).

I vote for doing what you can (eating, pacing yourself, choosing your drink) but diffuse it with a lighthearted, self-deprecating remark before you start --"OK, guys, feel free to laugh--I get flushed after one beer."
posted by Martin E. at 3:58 AM on April 5, 2007

Perhaps non-drowsy antihistamines are okay to take with alcohol? Diphenhydramine is also marketed as a sleep aid.

I'm also asian and will easily flush before the end of my first drink. Eating beforehand sounds helpful, considering my stomach has always been empty when I drink.

Another vote for being frank about your redness. Personally, it's so common in my circles that I've never met anyone who isn't familiar with "asian glow." They'll probably understand.
posted by scission at 6:21 AM on April 5, 2007

Diphenhydramine + Alcohol may not kill you, but you just might fall asleep where you stand. They will both make you sleepy and apparently they each increase the other's effects. If you're having dinner with clients, this would presumably be a bad thing. So if you do go the antihistamine route, I'd advise a different antihistamine.
posted by goingonit at 7:04 AM on April 5, 2007

Just accept it, and be proud that your ancestors were smart enough to figure out that boiling water makes it safe to consume instead of mine whose best idea was to be constantly sort of drunk.

(I am not an Asian, but I have spent a substantial chunk of time in China, and from my experience as an observer I really think the only thing you can do is either grin and bear it or find an alcohol that doesn't affect your so much personally. My ex roommate over there was normally pretty good, but I got him a bottle of whiskey for his birthday and he had some and actually broke out into a rash, haha.)
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:10 AM on April 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've heard that taking a zantac with your first drink will help alleviate your symptoms
posted by sid at 7:35 AM on April 5, 2007

Ahh, I am part Asian and I get the dreaded flush too. Except it's more than a matter of embarrassment - I get the discomfort of pounding blood in my chest and head. By taking Pepcid AC about one hour beforehand, I've mostly been able to ward off the symptoms. I haven't tried this with anything beyond a couple of drinks with dinner.

Also, I've found the problem is worst with wine and beer. I usually do OK with vodka drinks, and sometimes even rum.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 7:39 AM on April 5, 2007

Visit the restaurant ahead of time. Explain the truth of your situation to the maitre d'. Strike a deal in which you will order gin and tonics during your dinner, but will actually be served only tonic and lime by your knowing waiter. Explain that in gratitude for this mild deception, you will tip accordingly.

Trust me, restaurant folk have seen it all, and ought to be sympathetic and helpful.
posted by hermitosis at 8:20 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

My faces gets red after one glass of wine. I'm not Asian - mostly of Irish descent - but I feel you, it is embarrassing. My skin is very pale and it's very noticable. I blush easily, too. I always feel like such a sweaty hog when my face goes all pink from drinking, so I usually go to the bathroom and splash some water on my face to cool down, if I can.

Does it matter what type of alcohol you're drinking? I find that if I have beer I don't get flushed and it's about 50/50 with a mixed drink. With wine, it's almost guaranteed.

I also sometimes use a little bit of powder or makeup to lessen the red just a little bit, if that is an option for you.

I've pretty much gotten used to it, though; it's just the way my skin works. If I know that pictures are going to be taken (like it's a wedding or something) then I don't have the wine.
posted by sutel at 8:27 AM on April 5, 2007

I've noticed that if I drink more frequently (like a glass of red wine at night, three or four times a week), I stop turning red. It's when I drink less frequently (like not drinking for a couple of weeks and then having a drink), that I turn red.
posted by gt2 at 8:30 AM on April 5, 2007

I get flushed with that first drink, too (not Asian). I recommend the advice of taking it slowly. I also recommend the advice not to drink. Ask for a mineral water with lime. Most people will forget that you're not drinking because you've got something that looks like "a drink."

I do NOT recommend the advice of combining antihistamines with alcohol. I once took an all-day, non-dowsy dramamine (boating) and had alcohol with dinner that night. Within an hour of having just half my drink I was slurry and could barely stay awake. I slept solidly for about eighteen hours after that. If you feel you must experiment with this, do it among friends, not your boss or co-workers.
posted by amanda at 9:11 AM on April 5, 2007

MUST you drink at this event/dinner?

I'd say the best way to avoid the red-face symptoms that occur during drinking, no matter what the cause, would be to not drink.

Surely no one would question your decision to not partake of alcohol, would they? If they are so crass, simply tell them you've chosen not to drink tonight.

Making up stories about upcoming athletic events, etc. makes no sense to me. And I second not making this the time to start experimenting with cures. That could be disasterous on several levels!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:11 AM on April 5, 2007

Nth-ing "don't drink."

Steven C. DenBeste made a good point above, that if you get the flush, it means you're being poisoned. Acetylaldehyde is what's building up in your system. Your question is essentially asking, "how do I mask the physical symptoms of acetylaldehyde toxicity, so that I can keep putting it into my system? All the other kids are doing it." Let me speak for moms everywhere and say: Don't.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2007

I am asian. I get the flush, and pounding blood. I can tell you first hand that Pepcid AC (Actually, the generic famotidine) works for me. It about triples my alcohol capacity (which isn't necessarily a good thing).
posted by jefftang at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2007

Another vote for Pepcid AC. Am chinese, works for me, works for my friends. Best if ingested about 1/2 hour from drinking in conjunction with food.

Granted I only use it if i have to meet someone important who doesn't know about the flush. Everyone else can put up with my red self.
posted by captaincrouton at 12:10 PM on April 5, 2007

I thought this was just me! I get flushed on my chest, shoulders, face, and neck -- but worse, I get ITCHY.

For me, it's most beers and ALWAYS wine. Alcohols like vodka tend to do it less, or not at all.

I'll have to try that Pepcid AC thing.
posted by PandemicSoul at 8:53 PM on April 5, 2007

I've been using Pepcid AC for the last few years with good results. I know its nothing to brag about considering that it would be MUCH better for me to not drink at social events, but unfortunately the realities of my professional and social life don't make saying NO to alcohol all together a realistic choice.

Anyways, This forum is completely dedicated to what you're talking about.
posted by MaverickX at 1:07 PM on April 6, 2007

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