Why Your Face Turns Red After Drinking Alcohol

If your face turns red after having a few drinks, it might be because of your genes. Facial flushing, or alcohol flush reaction, is caused by a mutation of the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) gene (via Healthline). ALDH2 is an enzyme that helps break down acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol.

People who get flushed after drinking, however, have an ALDH2 enzyme deficiency, which can result in a buildup of acetaldehyde in the body. Too much acetaldehyde can cause facial flushing, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and a rapid heartbeat. Although facial flushing isn't dangerous, studies have shown drinking more than four alcoholic beverages per week can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Anyone can have an ALDH2 deficiency, however, it is more common among people of East Asian descent. Around 36 percent of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people experience facial flushing. This is why the condition is often referred to as "Asian flush."

How to delay or prevent facial flushing

While there is no way to fix or reverse an ALDH2 enzyme deficiency, there are ways to delay or prevent alcohol flush reaction from occurring. The easiest way to avoid experiencing facial flushing is to stop drinking alcohol or limit your consumption (via Verywell Health).

If you don't want to completely give up alcohol, though, you can alter your drinking habits. Limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage per hour, and drink slowly, or eat a meal before drinking to slow the buildup of acetaldehyde. Drinking plenty of water between each alcoholic drink can help prevent facial flushing as well.

Some medicines, like histamine-2 blockers, can control alcohol flush reaction by slowing down the conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde in your body. However, histamine-2 blockers are a temporary way to reduce face redness and do not actually treat your ALDH2 deficiency. Because they stop your face from turning red, you can also end up drinking more than you should. Facial flushing is often a sign that you should put the breaks on consuming more alcohol.