Millions of people around the world get red cheeks from drinking alcohol. Commonly, people experience a bright red face after drinking red wine specifically. So why does this happen?
Why do I get a red face after drinking red wine?
There’s a couple reasons you might be experiencing this reaction to red wine and it can be hard to determine which one is the cause.
- You have a liver enzyme deficiency (alcohol intolerance or alcohol flush reaction)
- You have a sensitivity or intolerance to an ingredient or preservative
- You’re on medication that is interacting with alcohol
1. You have a liver enzyme deficiency
Do you get a red face after drinking any type of alcohol? If yes: it’s likely that you could have a liver enzyme deficiency. People with this condition, an ALDH2 deficiency, will look flushed after drinking alcohol (including red wine). Because the most common symptom is your face turning red, it’s commonly called an “alcohol flush reaction.”
An ALDH2 deficiency means that your body can’t metabolize alcohol properly. Side effects include a red flushed face, headaches, congestion, dizziness and nausea. However, not everyone experiences all of these symptoms or to the same severity. So you might get a red face and stuffy nose when you drink alcohol, but not dizziness or headaches.
Many people with this condition are of East Asian descent, so sometimes it’s called “Asian Flush.”
However, Caucasians can inherit this ineffective liver enzyme, too.
Another term for this condition is “alcohol intolerance” which helps include all ethnicities who experience this.
The main way to tell if this is the cause of your red face after drinking red wine is if this reaction happens with any alcohol consumption. If it’s just red wine that gives you a negative reaction, it’s caused by something else. Alcohol flush reaction happens with any type of alcohol.
Common names for this condition:
- ALDH2 deficiency
- Alcohol flush reaction
- Alcohol intolerance
- Asian Flush or Asian Glow
Want to learn more about alcohol flush reaction? Make sure to check out: Why does my face go red after drinking alcohol?
Here at Asian Flush Cure, we’ve been testing products that provide relief for alcohol flush reaction (or Asian Flush). Currently there is no cure, but we’re hoping to find the best products to make alcohol more enjoyable again. If you suffer through annoying symptoms (including a red face from alcohol) make sure to check these out for yourself.
Want to see what we’ve tested so far?
2. You have a sensitivity or intolerance
If you have a negative reaction to red wine, it might be because you have an intolerance or sensitivity to either: an additive, preservative or ingredient within the alcoholic beverage.
Red wine specifically is full of ingredients and preservatives that can give people negative reactions, including histamine, sulphites and tannins. These chemicals can cause allergy-like reactions, such as a red face, congestion and/or headaches in some people.
A chemical like sulphites (or sulfites) help keep wine fresher for longer. Most countries require sulfites to be labeled on the bottle if the quantity is higher than 10 parts per million. However, there are a few wines on the market that have little to no sulfites added (if you want to try those out instead!)
Tannins are also found in wine and refer to the dryness or bitterness of a wine, typically associated with red wine. Tannins come from the stems, seeds and skins of the grapes used in the wine. However, they can also come from oak barrels used to age certain wines and are a great natural antioxidant to preserve the wine. Usually tannins don’t cause flushing, but can give some people headaches.
Am I allergic to alcohol?
Some people who experience these negative reactions believe they are allergic to alcohol. This is likely not the case! An allergy to alcohol is very rare, but it’s much more common to have some type of sensitivity or intolerance instead. However, an “alcohol intolerance” is something different. In this section, we mean an intolerance to sulfites, tannins, or other ingredients or preservatives. If you have an alcohol intolerance, that would fall under our ineffective liver enzyme section above.
Some individuals may have negative reactions to other drinks, like beer and cider. These drinks can contain all sorts of triggers, like gluten, hops, wheat, sulphites, grains and barley. So while you’re not allergic to alcohol, you’re actually having a negative reaction to one of the ingredients instead.
3. You’re on medication
Some medications cannot be taken with alcohol, or you could experience a negative interaction. Some drugs might cause your alcohol tolerance level to drop dramatically. Or, your medication might trigger new side effects from drinking alcohol.
Make sure to speak to your doctor before drinking alcohol whenever you get a new prescription.
Red face after drinking red wine – next steps
Before you can take any action, it’s important to understand why you’re getting this reaction in the first place. If you experience facial flushing when you drink alcohol, it’s likely that you have alcohol intolerance or alcohol flush reaction. The products that we review on this website may be able to help your symptoms.
If red wine is the only type of alcohol that impacts you, it’s likely that an ingredient, additive or preservative in the wine is causing your problem. Taking an allergy test with your doctor or allergy specialist might help shine a light on what you’re reacting to.