The experiments that follow are neither peer-reviewed nor mentally sane.
Unless you’re a victim of the so-called “Asian Flush”, who turns neon red after just one shot. Of beer.
The Crazy Rich Asian did not address this subject, but it should have. Asian Flush a.k.a Alcohol Flush Reaction a.k.a Why-Your-Face-Liddat afflicts up to 36% of all East Asians, and the struggle is real. The Flush, caused by an enzyme malfunction, doesn’t just turn you into a sexy tomato. It also ruins your drinking experience by way of heart palpitations, ear/facial discomfort, breathing problems, bloodshot eyes, and other unpleasant symptoms.
Even if you don’t mind the physical effects, there’s no dodging the social commentary.
During Martell NCF’s night at Zouk earlier this month, Shi Ying, 19, tells me how she gets really tired of her friends reminding her 24/7 about the redness of her face: “The moment I use my phone, they’ll be like – OMG SHI YING, ARE YOU DRUNK-TEXTING SOMEONE – just because my face is red”
Things are no better for her friend, Keith, who is even redder under the influence.
“If I drink beer, it [redness] goes all the way to my hands,” he explained, “Even those friends know me and drink with me will point it out without fail. They will always say: ‘KEITH ARE YOU DRUNK ALREADY??'”
Sadly for them, no cure exists. Wikipedia contains the ever-so-helpful suggestion of ‘Prevention would include not drinking alcohol’, but not everyone can afford to heed the advice of Dr. Obvious, M.D.
What about your social life? What about corporate settings where a glass of wine is often customary? What about weddings, family gatherings and the thousand and one occasions where not-drinking raises even more questions than a sambal complexion?
In the public interests of flushers everywhere, we decided to search for a cure. The scientists may have no answer for the Asian Flush, but there is certainly no shortage of rumours, myths, and hot, steaming bullshit.
The Logic: According to Esquire magazine’s interview of billionaire craft beer mogul Jim Koch (Boston Beer Company), the answer is swallowing dry yeast. Yes, you read the sentence correctly: yeast. Take one spoonful of baking yeast, stir it into a cup of yoghurt for flavour, and eat it. Apparently, the ADH enzyme within your baking yeast will break down the alcohol before it reaches your liver, thus preventing drunkenness and redness.
Jim Koch graduated from Harvard and his company is worth US$2 billion, so the man probably knows what he’s doing?
The Result: Lol no. This cure sounds completely stupid and unfortunately, it is. Even with just one spoonful of yeast in the yoghurt, it is completely disgusting and nasty, says Shi Ying, who could “smell the yeast and taste the yeast” as she swallowed her 4 spoonfuls of sadness.
And it only goes downhill from here. The yeast did not have an effect on the Asian flush but it did produce … farts, lots of explosive farts. Since the club was packed, Shi Ying had to make multiple runs for the toilets outside Zouk to expel all that excess gas.
The Logic: According to CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta, fruits are good for combating your Asian Flush because their sugars help break down alcohol. Hence, Papayas should be twice as good because they contain not only sugars but also Papain, a protease-enzyme used by chefs and Amazonian tribes to tenderise chewy cuts of meat.
If it works for your cheapo sirloin, maybe it can do the same for Ethanol? Some have gone so far as to take pure papaya enzyme sans papaya.
The Result: Nope. After consuming 4 chunks of Papaya, Sherwin remained just as red as before. In fact, she puked up some of the papaya a short while later because a) alcohol and b) gastric?
“I think papaya might actually make things worse because fruits are acidic,” said Keith, “My stomach tends to get a bit rumbly when I eat fruit after meals. So maybe not the best idea.”
“Also, I’m not sure how long it takes to digest papaya,” Sherwin added.
Moral: Not all enzymes are created equal.
The Logic: The science behind this is complicated and beyond my scope, but it goes something like this.
Your face turns red because histamines cause blood vessels to dilate. These histamine compounds are released when your body converts alcohol into toxic acetaldehyde too quickly.
Antihistamines like Famotin can’t get rid of acetaldehyde, but it does block histamine receptors from triggering. In theory, this will prevent not only redness, but also the laboured breathing and bloodshot eyes that many flushers experience. Not bad for a pill that costs just $1.26 from your local pharmacy.
The Result: Maybe. A large number of Youtube videos have proclaimed this pill the second coming for flushers but it was hardly the miracle we were promised. Sherwin took one pill and waited about 20 minutes before chugging Martell NCF, but it did not deliver her from redness. However, her bloodshot eyes and face felt quite a bit better so we’re calling it ‘plausible’.
“I think the pill is a ‘TBC’. A lot of my friends in the US swear by it and take it all the time,” she said, “It might work for some people. Maybe the dosage is too low.”
The Logic: Chamomile tea is not just for neurotic tai-tais and insomniacs who can’t afford Xanax, it is also for desperate drunks trying to rid themselves of redness. This is because Chamomile contains ‘natural antihistamines’ that act like nature’s Famotin.
Admittedly, I could not find any reliable sources about how ‘natural antihistamines’ work, or if they even exist. But let’s not dismiss the poor flower when we’ve considered yeast in all seriousness.
The Result: Maybe. To everyone’s complete and utter surprise, Chamomile was not the completely worthless herb we all thought it would be. Keith usually turns a striking scarlet, but he was noticeably a few shades lighter after sipping the Chamomile tea. Light enough for our photographer to notice.
Keith, however, remained unconvinced. Or rather, he was convinced that it’s not Chamomile, but the natural effects of time.
“I usually get less red as the night goes on so I don’t know how much of it is due to the Chamomile,” he explained, “Still a very soothing drink though. At least it keeps you hydrated.”
The Logic: None that I can discern. Urinal guy just sounded really convincing because I was drunk and blushing like crazy.
The Result: Shi-Ann: “I don’t think this is a real remedy. I HIGHLY doubt if this would work.”
Lol no. Shi-Ann took five shots in 5 minutes flat (!) but it had the same effect on her as a well-paced, slower drinking session. Don’t listen to drunk people giving life advice at urinals. Don’t listen to drunk writers paraphrasing advice from other drunk people.
The Logic: On the subject of eliminating the Asian Flush, there are two main schools of thought. The first tries to prevent flushing by means of biochemical sorcery (i.e. Famotin). The second simply tries to slow down your body’s rate of alcohol absorption.
Butter clearly belongs in the latter category. Popular wisdom dictates that oily junk food will coat your stomach with a layer of grease, thus slowing alcohol’s absorption into the bloodstream. This is supposed to help you outlast your friends in a night of binge-drinking because the alcohol will ‘bounce’ off your oily stomach walls like onions in a non-stick frying pan.
Furthermore, certain websites have claimed that digestion is slowed by the presence of fats, which butter certainly contains an abundance of.
Keith, the designated victim, is skeptical. He says, “But redness has nothing to do with quantity. Doesn’t matter if it’s one drink or many, I still get red.”
The Result: Keith is right. It doesn’t work. Despite eating nearly half a tub of margarine, he still looks crimson after just 2 drinks. Not only is he traumatised by the experience, he is also deeply disappointed that Rice Media did not at least provide atas butter.
“I was looking forward to it because I like butter but I was like ‘fuck’ when I saw margarine,” he said, with visible sorrow, “I actually felt a bit worse because I was so bloated.”
He also does not understand why margarine would be considered a cure when you can just eat fried chicken to get the same oily coating.
And frankly speaking, neither do I.
The Logic: An ounce of foundation hides a multitude of sins. Since green is the opposite of red, it offsets your skin’s rosy tinge. Flushforums (a forum dedicated to flushing, who knew?) recommends this ‘colour correction’ method and so does Youtube. The make-up section is awash with green concealer tutorials for everything from Asian flush to acne to St Patrick’s Day.
The Result: Yes. Sadly, this is the only cure that works 100% of the time. The result is not only visible but quite drastic, as you might expect for a make-up product that is formulated to counter skin-level redness.
Keith concurs: “I knew this was going to work because I once used it to cover up a hickey before my family gathering. I went to a friend’s house and she helped me put on green make-up and foundation.”
However, the method does have downsides. As Shi-Ann explains, you can’t put green concealer after drinking because its moisturiser-like consistency will rub off your foundation and make a mess on your cheeks. But if you use green-tinted make-up beforehand, you will look like a ghostly apparition until your flush kicks in.
The Logic: ‘Don’t drink on an empty stomach’ is a saying so ancient and oft-repeated that you can find it engraved in cave paintings. Next to #MakeNeanderthalGreatAgain and a lifehack called ‘Fire’. If it has helped centuries of drunks sober up by slowing alcohol absorption (like grease), so perhaps it can also reduce your flush.
The Result: No. Shi Ying ate 5 slices of bread but it made zero difference, so I doubt if carbs or dough is the solution hiding in plain sight.
That being said, all of our test subjects started eating bread w/ margarine after they got wasted because it was ‘so comforting’ and ‘it made everything instantly feel better’. Much like Hai Di Lao or Macs or that late night Prata, it does seem to ‘soak up’ that alcohol even if it does nothing to make your face more insta-friendly.
Or as Sherwin puts it: “I would rather look like a tomato than touch the margarine.”
You can try antihistamines or chamomile extract, but there’s really no guarantee that it will work. Bread and butter might prove comforting after a long night of getting wasted, but it does nothing for your asian flush, which often appears with only one or two drinks.
It saddens me a little to write this, but perhaps the only real solution is to stop worrying and love the flush.
After all, the whole point of drinking is to let go of petty shit like how-your-face-might-look. As one eloquent youtube commenter put it — “The only cure for asian flush is to get so shitfaced until you stop giving a fuck.”
Words to live by. Drink responsibly, kids.
Don’t forget to repost, retweet and reincarnate as @Martellsg_NCF for good fortune.