Learning how to prevent Asian glow is something most of us with Asian descent will need to undertake at some point in our lives.
In 2014, Popular Science magazine asked the question "why is there no pill for Asian glow?" At the time, it was a very good question; There was simply no commercial and well researched Asian flush pills, drinks or products available in 2014.
Of course, now there's Sunset alcohol flush support - the most popular and proven Asian flush pill available today. But before that was an option, people experimented with their own DIY Asian flush cures.
"My body produces an inefficient version of the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which is the second of the two enzymes that people need to break down the ethanol in alcoholic drinks"
This is the Popular Science magazine writer explaining why Asian flush reaction even exists, for a super in-depth explanation check out our Ultimate Guide To Asian Flush. The science behind why we flush after drinking alcohol has been uncovered and researched in-depth, the next question then becomes "how do we stop the symptoms or reverse the flushing process?"
While we obviously believe that Sunset is the easiest and fastest approach to asian flush prevention, we can understand that sometimes you just want a quick solution to stop you going red after a single glass of alcohol, a few hours before heading out on that date, night out with your friends or other social event.
Below, we have highlighted 3 of the best DIY alcohol flush solutions that we know of; none are 100% effective but most can act as a budget 'stopgap' until your order of Sunset arrives and you never have to worry about alcohol flush again!
But before we teach you how to get rid of Asian glow, we want to briefly cover what causes it, for those who are new to this condition
What Causes Asian Flush In The First Place?
To put it simply, Asian flush is caused due to one’s inability to properly metabolize ethanol (a different name for alcohol), and it’s all because of an enzyme called ALDH2.
When alcohol is consumed, it’s metabolized and converted into acetaldehyde, a toxic and often dangerous substance, which undergoes transformation into acetic acid, only to be broken down into the completely harmless CO2 and water.
Since the previously mentioned enzyme basically doesn’t do its job properly, the toxic substance does not get to be broken down further so it accumulates causing the familiar facial redness and flushing.
So far, a cure for this reaction doesn’t really exist/hasn’t been found yet. Nevertheless, there are some pretty effective prevention treatments available, usually in the form of pills. We’ll mention the (number) most effective ones, the best choice being the Sunset pills, so we’ll start with that.
Now, let’s explain how to get rid of asian glow quickly, safely, and most importantly, effectively!
Please note: none of this is medical advice, and we (Sunset) can’t take responsibility for any effects caused by following the information below. Please do your own research and consult with a medical expert before following any of this up.
The Science Behind How To Get Rid Of Asian Glow
When it comes to how to avoid Asian glow, it is all about breaking down acetaldehyde. So your question should shift from how to stop Asian glow, to how to help your body better break down acetaldehyde!
Most people rely on the liver’s ALDH2 enzymes to do all the work. But if you suffer from an alcohol flush reaction, your ALDH2 is deficient. This deficiency is why additional support is required.
Luckily, the human body naturally produces a substance that supports the ALDH2 enzyme called glutathione, one of the most potent antioxidants known to man. Unfortunately, it turns out that it is tough to supplement your body with glutathione directly.
As concluded in a study examining the effectiveness of taking glutathione orally:
“Because of hydrolysis of glutathione by intestinal and hepatic gamma-glutamyltransferase, dietary glutathione is not a major determinant of circulating glutathione, and it is not possible to increase circulating glutathione to a clinically beneficial extent by the oral administration of a single dose of 3 g of glutathione.”
The study found that you could not take glutathione supplements and expect its levels to increase - it must happen indirectly.
NAC as a way to increase glutathione and prevent Asian Flush
Another way to increase your body’s glutathione levels is by helping it to produce it by itself. The body produces glutathione naturally and merely requires the right quantities of certain compounds to do so.
One such compound is NAC. NAC is an amino acid required for the natural synthesis of glutathione directly in our cells.
NAC is usually the limiting factor in the production of glutathione because of its shortages in many people’s diets. It is present in many fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs, but it gets destroyed by cooking and rarely makes it through the digestive tract.
Therefore, NAC supplementation is a great way to increase your body’s natural glutathione levels before consuming alcohol. This supplementation can provide much-needed support to the ALDH2 enzyme and help reduce the severity of a red face from alcohol.
Another great benefit of NAC is that it has been shown to bind directly to acetaldehyde - the toxin behind alcohol flushing. In another study, scientists demonstrated the ability of NAC supplementation to reduce blood acetaldehyde associated with alcohol.
“ N-acetyl cysteine, an analogue of the dietary amino acid cysteine, binds acetaldehyde, thus preventing its damaging effect… “
This study indicates that NAC can support the ALDH2 liver enzyme. It does this by firstly increasing glutathione synthesis in the body, and secondly, by binding to the flush causing toxins in the liver.
Thiamine aids the function of NAC and helps with Asian flush prevention.
Thiamine is contained in many foods at low concentrations, with yeast and pork containing the highest levels. It is also found in the outer layers of unrefined grains and cereals but often removed during industrial processing.
Some studies have linked Thiamine to the proper metabolism of alcohol. Furthermore, its deficiency can cause additional stress on the liver’s ALDH2 enzyme.
People mustn't be deficient in thiamine before consuming alcohol. Supplementation of thiamine aids the ALDH2 enzyme by eliminating the stress caused by its deficiency. At the same time, it accounts for the variability in different people's thiamine levels before alcohol consumption.
In addition to accounting for pre-drink deficiencies, recent studies have also suggested that thiamine works in synergy with NAC in preventing acetaldehyde toxicity.
Therefore, by turbocharging the function of NAC, thiamine supplementation can provide much-needed support to the ALDH2 enzyme. This support helps to reduce the severity of a red face from alcohol.
Quercetin is natures answer to Pepcid.
Many studies have demonstrated the potent anti-histamine and anti-oxidant properties of quercetin.
Found in varying quantities in fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains, quercetin can be obtained as a concentrated flavanol for supplementation. Furthermore, unlike Pepcid AC and Zantac, there is little evidence to suggest any danger in taking quercetin before consuming alcohol.
This distinction makes quercetin our preferred natural anti-histamine for protecting the body against the inevitable release of histamines that happens when toxins slip through the first layer of defence. The more histamine protection you have, the less likely it will be that you experience an alcohol red face.
Bromelain is quercetin’s turbocharger
Bromelain is a protein extract taken from the stems of pineapples and commonly used as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Researchers at the Institute for Male Urology, in Los Angeles, conducted a study looking at the therapeutic effect of quercetin for patients with prostatitis. Relevant to us was their finding that bromelain helped increase the absorption of quercetin and improved results by over 300%.
By increasing the absorption of quercetin, bromelain acts as a booster for its antihistamine properties. This boost helps ensure a second level of defence against a red face from alcohol.
Sunset contains this potent combination of Quercetin and Bromelain. The compounds are balanced precisely to prevent alcohol-related toxins from causing a red face from alcohol.
Stopping the alcohol-induced depletion of vital ingredients
The catch 22 is that many of the compounds necessary to stop a red face from alcohol depleted by alcohol. Therefore, most alcohol flushing product will be useless as soon as you consume alcohol - sounds a bit silly right?
Glutathione levels in the body are depleted heavily by the consumption of alcohol. As indicated by one 2008 study:
“Glutathione plays an important role in the detoxification of alcohol and acute alcohol administration leads to glutathione depletion in the liver and other tissues.”
Furthermore, your body’s ability to absorb thiamine, another essential component of proper alcohol metabolism, may also be restricted by alcohol consumption. As outlined in a study:
“Alcohol reduces the rate of intestinal absorption and the net transmural flux of thiamin. Furthermore, alcohol inhibits only the active and not the passive component of thiamin transport by impeding the cellular exit of thiamin across the basolateral or serosal membrane.”
What this means is that your body’s ability to use glutathione and thiamine is significantly restricted when you consume alcohol. Therefore, there needs to be a third layer of defence that protects flush fighting compounds from being depleted by alcohol.
Don’t panic, have a cup of tea (or Sunset pills!)
L-theanine is a non-protein amino acid found only in green tea. Researched extensively in Japan, studies have shown l-theanine to be a powerful antidote for the adverse effects of alcohol.
The School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Shizuoka in Japan extensively studied the interaction of l-theanine with alcohol.
They found it to significantly lower blood levels of alcohol, while also accelerating the breakdown of acetaldehyde.
In their research, they stated:
On the 1st hour after ethanol administration, the ethanol concentrations in blood of the theanine combined groups decreased compared with the ethanol-alone group. The alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase activities in the liver increased by combined theanine.
In the same study, researchers also noted increased glutathione levels in subjects administered with l-theanine before consuming alcohol.
This finding implies that l-theanine also works to help counteract the alcohol-induced loss of glutathione and other vital compounds necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol.
L-theanine makes sure all of the ingredients in the formula have a chance to work correctly. It does this by altering the chemistry of the alcohol you consume so that it doesn’t deplete the function of important flush fighting compounds in your body.
Therefore, taking an alcohol flushing supplement without this vital third layer of defense would burn a hole in your pocket and do very little for your alcohol red face.
How To Prevent Asian Glow Safely & Effectively
The internet is brimming with information on Asian flush, including its causes, statistics, studies, and anecdotal examples. However, not enough information can be found regarding its prevention and treatment, so if this piques your interest, you’ve come to the right place.
The alcohol flush reaction has many names, Asian flush syndrome and Asian glow being the two most common ones. As you may already know, it involves red facial and upper body flushing after drinking even the smallest amount of alcohol, oftentimes accompanied with other side-effects like nausea and an elevated heart rate.
The results of the largest ever Asian Flush survey found that 77% of responders have actively tried to stop Asian Flush symptoms. Some people may disregard this condition, but it shouldn't be underestimated how uncomfortable, embarrassing and downright painful Asian Flush can be.
With that said, let's talk about some DIY Asian flush cures you can try at home to alleviate symptoms.
DIY Asian flush cure #1: Pepto Bismol or Pepcid AC/Pepcid Complete
Pepcid AC & similar products are both essentially a chemical mix called 'Famotidine'. Famotidine is a histamine-2 blocker (better known as an Antihistamine, specifically, an H2 antagonist).
Famotidine works by decreasing the amount of acid the stomach produces, which is why Pepcid's main use is to settle a bad stomach/indigestion or heartburn.
How Pepcid and similar products stop Asian glow
As talked about in our previous article explaining the cause of Asian glow, for sufferers the root issue is a genetic defect in an enzyme, ALDH2 - the one that metabolizes alcohol, that causes acetaldehyde (the toxic byproduct of alcohol in humans... think of it like alcohol's waste) to accumulate in the body.
A build-up of acetaldehyde in the body is what essentially makes us drunk, with all the symptoms that I'm sure the majority of us are familiar with: nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and all that good stuff.
This same ALDH2 enzyme that operates inefficiently in the body of alcohol flush suffers is also responsible for processing histamine, the same chemical involved in allergic reactions that allows more blood flow to areas of your body like your face, causing a flushing reaction.
That means that if you have a genetically changed ALDH2 enzyme, you don’t break down histamines as quickly, either. And that’s when the flushing comes in. When the enzyme works overtime to try to process the alcohol, histamine builds up and causes an extreme flush.
So Zantac, Pepcid AC and other histamine blockers are doing what their names say, blocking histamines to prevent flushing bought on by alcohol consumption.
According to the FDA, Pepcid ingredients include:
"either 20 mg or 40 mg of famotidine and the following inactive ingredients: hydroxypropyl cellulose, hypromellose, iron oxides, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, corn starch, talc, titanium dioxide, and carnauba wax."
What about Pepto Bismol and alcohol?
Pepto’s active ingredient is called "bismuth subsalicylate." This has anti-inflammatory properties that reduces irritation that can cause diarrhea and upset stomach. If you're struggling with uncomfortable side effects from drinking alcohol, Pepto might seem like an easy choice. But there's a few ways it interacts with alcohol that aren't ideal.
One of the main issues with Pepto Bismol and alcohol comes down to the liver. The liver is responsible for breaking down both alcohol and Pepto Bismol. But what if the liver is too busy with one to properly deal with the other?
A potential problem is that if the liver is too busy metabolising one product, it may not break down the other as effectively as it should. This could damage the liver and cause alcohol and Pepto to be present in the body longer than normal. If you struggle with Asian Flush, it could mean that alcohol stays in your body longer than it needs to be, causing more symptoms (like a bright red face).
Do Pepcid AC & other histamine blockers actually stop Asian flush?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is 'yes, but not as well as they could', and studies show that there are some risks. It's important to remember these drugs, like Pepcid, were not created for the treatment of Asian flush.
Denise from the blog Lovelyish shared her thoughts about Pepcid AC & its effects on Asian glow in an interesting post:
"A lot of partiers take this, and I’ll admit that it works…a little. I still got pink, but my face didn’t feel like it was burning, nor did my head hurt as much. It wasn’t a miracle-worker by any means, though, and I suspect it only worked because I ate a lot of food right before taking it."
So Pepcid AC, Zantac and other histamine blockers can help lessen the intensity of alcohol flush reactions, but it's not quite a silver bullet and may require some additional steps to fully get rid of your flush.
There are also some studies that show, while these medications do block the flushing reaction, there are some side-effects that are worth noting.
The major side effect when using antihistamines like Pepcid AC for alcohol flushing is that you can get drunk a lot quicker. The behavioural pharmacologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Dr Ann Manzardo, revealed:
"H2 (histamine) blockers slow the metabolism of alcohol, increasing peak blood alcohol concentration to potentially dangerous levels."
In other words, Pepcid AC & similar products can increase the rate at which blood alcohol levels rise, causing you to reach your limit much more quickly. If you would like to find out more about this, you can check out our article about Pepcid AC and Zantac for Asian flush.
If you're consuming Pepcid AC alongside your beer, spirits, or wine; you really need to pace yourself as it's likely your blood alcohol levels will rise quicker then usual and you will, essentially, get more drunk from less alcohol. Drink responsibly, people!
Tums and alcohol
While not as common as using Pepcid for alcohol flushing, some people resort to using medications like Tums to help reduce their symptoms when they drink alcohol.
Tums are antacids typically used to treat symptoms like heartburn, upset stomach or indigestion, usually as a result of too much stomach acid in the system. However, antacids can impact other medicines so it's advised not to take other medicines within 2-4 hours of taking an antacid like Tums.
Like the other medical techniques, Tums was not created for treatment against Asian glow and does not address the issue of acetaldehyde build up in your system.
DIY Asian flush cure #2: Makeup
A lot of people, after getting discouraged in their flush-fighting efforts, will recommend taking crazy actions, like just giving up alcohol forever or other such nonsense. If you're anything like us, and you don't just give up when faced with a social challenge, then you might want to give makeup a try in order to cover your alcohol flush reaction.
And this is not just advice for women, men should not be afraid to use a little bit of makeup. We advise getting a female friend or family member who uses makeup to help if you're a male with no makeup experience, they can either assist with the application or simply show you the basics.
Xiaofei Jalette, deputy fashion editor of the popular Asian culture media outlet Mochi Mag provides some fantastic advice for using makeup to help with alcohol flush reaction:
“Use a green tinted primer to counterbalance the anticipated red flush. Next, layer on BB cream and dust with a light compact powder to set in the color—thicker layers of BB cream will conceal better, but remember to match your skin tone to maintain a natural look,"
"Follow with your usual eye makeup routine, using primer before and shadow after to avoid smudging. To finish, lightly sweep a peach or coral blush across your cheekbones to give off that natural glow. Remember, you are only painting a ‘canvas’ on your face that will cover up the flush later."
We'd also recommend hitting up YouTube for some fantastic makeup guides and tips. Careful though, you might find yourself watching hours of cool makeup tutorials like one particular Sunset writer.
DIY Asian flush cure #3: Strategic drink selection
This is not really a 'DIY tip' as much as it is advice on changing the way you choose your drinks. The Sunset team has created a fantastic digital book that contains some amazing drink recipes for alcoholic beverages and cocktails specifically designed to reduce alcohol flushing, and it's called Flushed: A drinkers guide to flushing.
Everyone reacts to different drinks differently. Some have severe reactions to white wine while others may react more strongly to beer. Once you have an idea on what drinks bother you most, you can avoid those when you're out and stick to drinks that give you a less alcohol flush reaction.
Here's a short preview from the book explaining how the recipes can help you reduce alcohol flushing:
And here's a favourite flush-free cocktail mix, the ever-popular Mojito:
Flush-free Mojito Drink Recipe
- 3 fresh mint sprigs
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1-ounce Simple Syrup
- 2 ounces white rum
- 1 1/2 ounces club soda, chilled
Why it helps with alcohol flush
[From the 'Flushed' book:] With simple ingredients with no additives or chemicals, the vitamin C rich lime aids in a small way to mitigate some of the damage done by alcohol's breakdown and acetaldehyde. It's often very cold and has a bitter edge, meaning it can't be drunk too quickly - perfect to sip on as a cocktail on a hot summers day.
Most Mojito recipes are served with (overly) mashed mint leaves, guaranteeing two problems: bitter flavours from over-zealously crushed mint, and soggy leaves that get stuck in your teeth/straw. You only need to press the mine leaves gently to subtly release their oils, then you strain them out to ensure a silky-smooth sipping experience.
Flush-free Mojito Instructions
- Place 2 of the mint sprigs, the lime juice, and the simple syrup in a cocktail shaker and press gently against the mint with the back of a spoon to release the oils.
- Add the rum and a handful of ice and shake vigorously until the mixture is well chilled - about 20 seconds. Fill a 10-ounce glass with ice and strain the drink into the glass. Top with club soda and garnish with the remaining mint sprig.
- Sit back, don your best Hawaii shirt and wayfarer sunglasses, and enjoy your alcoholic beverage... sans the flush!
DIY Asian flush cure #4: Stay hydrated!
Drinking lots of water can be very beneficial when it comes to Asian flushing, and the reason is simple.
Having enough water in your system before even starting to drink can be helpful in reducing Asian glow since alcohol dehydrates the body, hence causing more intense blood flow.
This results in facial flaring, so by having plenty of water in your system you may not be able to prevent this reaction, but you may still be able to reduce it at the very least
Final Thoughts On How To Prevent Asian Glow
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, none of these techniques are 'knock-it-out-of-the-park' alcohol flush solutions, but they can help reduce your flush problems to more manageable levels.
Sometimes you just need a quick solution for a last-minute night out with friends, you know?
For the ultimate in alcohol flush solutions, however, it really is worth giving Sunset alcohol flush support a try.