Asian glow, or Asian Flush, impacts so many of us from around the world.
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 way to get rid of Asian flush, 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!
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.
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 a Antihistamine, specifically, a 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 extreme flush.
So Zantac, Pepcid AC and other histamine blockers are doing what their names say, blocking histamines in order to prevent flushing bought on by alcohol consumption.
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 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's 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 behavioral 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're consuming Pepcid AC alongisde your beer, spirits, or wine; you really need to pace yourself as it's likely your blood alcohol levels will raise 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 non-sense. 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 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 really 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 favorite 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 acetyldehyde. 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 flavors from over-zealously crushed mint, and soggy leaves that get stuck in your teeth/straw. You only need to press the mine leaves gently in order 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!
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?