Lately, my face will become slightly red when I drink wine or tequila. Luckily for me, my social calendar is non-existent due to the pandemic, so no one has seen this new red, hot face I’ve been sporting. The weirdest bit is how hot my face feels post drinking – it’s had me thinking: what about alcohol makes our faces feel weird? Is it an allergic reaction? Or is it case by case?
Turns out, flushing (the glow or redness) can occur when the alcohol isn’t digested completely. Due to a genetic mutation, the expression of an enzyme called ALDH2, decreases. When you have low levels of ALDH2, you are unable to break down the molecule in the body which causes unpleasant side effects — including flushing, nausea and headaches. A similar enzyme deficiency happens to 20-50% of individuals of East Asian descent. If like me, you are not of East Asian decent, you could be experiencing the redness or irritation while consuming alcohol for a few different reasons.
Alcohol leads to dehydration and if your water intake was poor, flushing could also occur. Low water balance can cause swelling, puffy eyes, under-eye circles and dull-looking skin. Reactions could also occur based on the types of alcohol you’re drinking. It’s a smart idea to keep track of the drinks that cause flushing, to help you out, we created the below cheat sheet.
Red Wine: Has more tannins (biomolecule) and sulfites than white wine. If you are allergic to tannins or sulfites, your skin could become flushed.
Beer: If you have a severe gluten intolerance, you could experience flushing or irritation with beer — not to mention sever bloating, puffing and acne flare-ups.
Vodka: With with no sugar and salt, vodka is the easiest alcohol to get out of your system but the easiest to hit.
Tequila: Shockingly, tequila is easily digestible but can cause active flare-ups, bloating and inflammation to stir even more.
Sweet Drinks: Sometimes the sugar in fruity drinks can cause headaches or redness.