New club drug: Preparation H?

Some macho dudes at NYC clubs rub allegedly Preparation H on their torsos to temporarily shrink fat deposits and look buff. It's apparently an old competitive body-building trick. From ABC News:
"The bodybuilders I know use it on their obliques -- their love handles -- to take away any lingering water weight before shows," (club bouncer Rob) Fitzgerald told ABC News. "The guys in the clubs heard about this, and the use of it spread virally like some kind of Internet meme."

Preparation H contains a medication called phenylephrine HCL that -- when used for the drug's intended purpose -- will shrink the swollen tissues of hemorrhoids. It works by constricting the nearby blood vessels that feed blood and fluid to the area.

But the ingredient doesn't discriminate what kind of tissue it will shrink, hence the underground beauty tips of applying Preparation H under the eyes, on love handles or other places. None of which Wyeth, the makers of Preparation H, support.
Link (via Dose Nation)


  1. Applying Prep H under the eyes to shrink the droopy skin that comes with old age, is as far as I know a well known trick.

  2. what happens when you mix phenylephrine HCL with MDMA, GBH, ethanol and exertion? Anything good?

  3. Fans of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” are flashing on images of Michael Constantine at the dinner table with his sprained elbow in a bowl of Windex.

    “This Windex, it fixes everything!”

  4. Takun- after doing all that,an ad in craigs list looking for a party with Tina methinks….

  5. Grammar fail!

    Some macho dudes at NYC clubs rub allegedly Preparation H on their torsos

    The use of allegedly as an adverb is placed to describe “prep H”, which is a noun. It should be placed before “rub”, not after.

  6. I wonder if use of Preparation H on your fat cells makes it harder to *lose* that fat at all.

    Also, what are the negative side effects of use?

  7. I first heard about the eye-bag-shrinking trick in the movie “Living in Oblivion” (recommended), where a make-up man has to use Preparation H on an actress who’s been out partying all night, giving rise to the following gag:

    Actress: (apologetically) I feel like such an asshole.
    Director: Nah, you’re just saying that because you have Preparation H on your face.

  8. Consider the prospect of crossing this with the previous “estrogen + penis” article. Preparation H on the penis to reduce blood flow? That also might be an effective way to slow down some aspects of sexually transmitted diseases.

  9. #16 (Xopher) It comes out of the tube and nowhere near your butt, so I’m sure it’s okay for any experimental shrinking you’d want to do. :)

  10. may have debunked whether or not it works, but has not debunked whether or not people actually do it anyway. Considering how stupid and vain clubgoing douchebags are, I’m sure that they do it anyway, regardless.

  11. ” —

    I’m torn between disgust and “Hey, I should try that.” — ”

    DARN IT! Vaity wins! I have to admit – I’m gonna try it. Call me shallow, insecure, vain . . . as long as I get laid, call me what you will.

  12. As an aside: Preparation H is not vegetarian for those of you that care about such things.

    Builders don’t so this anyhow – at least not any I’ve met.

    A far more predominant technique is the use of water strippers like Dandelion Tea or Uva Ursi a day before a contest or photo shoot. Builders will also drop all sodium intake and do a whole assortment of other specialized techniques to allow their muscle striations to be visible. It’s a strange world, but fascinating. There are reasons why folks like Kathy Acker and Matthew Barney use this stuff in their work – it is full of poetic contradictions.

  13. @25
    The only thing I’ve found that is good for baggy eyes is one of those blue ice face packs. And sleep…

  14. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to read Prep H was being used as a cosmetic drug. I was about to raid the medicine cabinet for a weekend to remember!

  15. Preparation H on the eyes?….hey that’s a detroit face lift and a well known beauty technique used by cheap hookers and rock musicians for many years.
    I think I first heard the term “Detroit face lift” used by David Johansen back in the 70’s..

  16. The Prep H eyebag trick has been around for a long time. Makeup artists have told me that they think it leads to increased wrinkling if overused. OTOH, what they sell for the same effect is much more costly.
    A cosmetic surgeon warned of dire consequences to the delicate tissues around the eyes. OTOH what he was selling… etc.

  17. Glossolalia Black 20: You mistake my reason for disgust. I have no objection to “butt stuff,” or even actual butts, near my face. It’s that a) Preparation H itself is disgusting stuff, b) so is vanity, and c) so are that set of clubgoers.

    I’m relieved to learn that it doesn’t work.

  18. @#21

    straightdope spoke to the receptionist at a modeling agency, the manufacturer who has a vested interest in avoiding lawsuits and a single personal test. Not exactly ironclad evidence.

  19. Im parsing words here, but the headline is misleading.

    Something you put on your skin for appearance does not qualify as a “club drug” in the common usage of the phrase. If that were the case, you could say hair mousse is the most popular club drug.

    “Club drugs” refer to something that affects your mind like ecstasy, ‘ludes, K. From Wiki…
    “tend to have stimulating and/or psychedelic properties.”

  20. The horrid drug abuse doesn’t end there. I have an Asian friend that gets red in the face whenever she drinks. She found that popping a couple Pepcid AC before hitting the bar solves that problem. There’s science behind it, but i’ll be damned if I know what it is.

  21. (@#36) They were having fun with the term “club drug” and people’s perception of it. It technically does fit the most basic definition of club drug since it’s a drug used in clubs (allegedly). Hair mousse is not as far as I know actually a drug, so it doesn’t qualify. Who wears mousse in 2008 any way? I’m pretty sure most of the so-called douchebags are wearing hair gel.

  22. @37
    “Ordinarily, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) is responsible for conversion of primary alcohols to aldehydes; aldehydes are then converted to carboxylic acids by aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). In the case of ethanol, the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, ethanol is converted first into acetaldehyde and then into acetic acid. Acetaldehyde is the most toxic of these three compounds, and is both a possible carcinogen and a major cause of hangovers; ethanol’s toxicity is lower, and acetic acid is relatively harmless.

    50% of the Pacific Rim Asian population inherit a mutant ADH known as ADH2*2 that leads to faster-than-normal degradation of ethanol to acetaldehyde. ADH deformities are not usually found in Caucasians, Native Americans, etc (Agarwal and Goedde, 1992). Moreover, 45-53% of the Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, and Korean population possess a mutant ALDH2 known as ALDH2*2, which is only 8% as effective as the normal, wild-type enzyme (ALDH*1). This mutant allele of ALDH2 is dominant, as it interferes with the formation of a fully functional ALDH2 tetramer [3]. The result is the accumulation of acetaldehyde. Approximately half of people of Asian descent are considered to be sensitive to alcohol due to this condition. [4] Flushing, after consuming one or two alcoholic beverages, includes a range of symptoms: nausea, headaches, light-headedness, an increased pulse, occasional extreme drowsiness, and occasional skin swelling and itchiness. These unpleasant side effects often prevent further drinking that may lead to further inebriation, but the symptoms can lead to mistaken assumption that the people affected are more easily inebriated than others.”

  23. got that? now Pepcid AC:
    “Mitigating the effects

    Much anecdotal evidence suggests that ingestions of low doses of heartburn medicine containing ranitidine or famotidine (such as Zantac or Pepcid AC) may be able to relieve the body of the symptoms if taken an hour before drinking.[citation needed]

    It is not known why ranitidine and famotidine may in some cases, but not all, help reduce the symptoms of the alcohol flush reaction. Alcohol causes an irritation of the lining of the stomach.

    One possible theory that may explain the effects of famotidine (and similar classed drugs) on the skin erythema or redness secondary to alcohol consumption is because the drugs are H2-antagonists or H2 antihistamines, which are used to treat peptic/gastric ulcers. In essence, if the “Asian flush” is an allergic reaction to the alcohol, then the mechanism of action of H2-antagonists can explain its effects on curtailing or decreasing the redness.”

  24. The first time I heard about PH being used for under the eyes was on an episode of Late Night with Conan – it was hilarious. He said his makeup person would have a non-labeled bottle, he asked what it was and they said “you don’t want to know” — I’d share a link to the vid if I could find one.

  25. Travis Pulley,

    Congratulations on having graduated from seventh grade. Our thoughts are with you.

  26. I read two things about Preparation H. Haven’t verified either. First, there’s shark oil in it, so those of us who like sharks will want to take a pass on it (as well as the snow leopard car wash mitt).

    Second, the recipe for Preparation H is different for the Canadian and American versions and that the American Preparation H will not shrink bags under your eyes, love handles or cure you if you are an asshole.

    But that’s just what I read somewhere.

  27. “But the ingredient doesn’t discriminate what kind of tissue it will shrink…” That explains why my psychiatrist rubs Preparation H on my head.

  28. SheamCF and Takuan:

    Thank you both. Asian flush has plagued my drinking years. This weekend may be the first time I will get wasted without the accompanying terrifyingly bloodshot eyes, fire-alarm complexion and itchy feet.

    See you in the gutter!

  29. I knew something smelled fishy as soon as I saw phenylephrine cited as the agent for this.

    Phenylephrine is in all reformulated (in the US at least as far as I know, though in other locations as well I think) “sudafed”-type (example: Sudafed PE) OTC decongestants, if it could diminish visible fat mass or water retention I’d think that these effects or some result of them would be listed among the contraindications or even exploited as an intended use.

    Considering that diuretic effects are not even mentioned we can cast a lot of doubt on affecting water retention.

    As for reducing visible fat mass, well I really don’t see how that’s possible to achieve by any means not related to either purging retained water or physically compacting the tissue, which, in “love handles” doesn’t sound remotely possible by pharmacological means.

    I’m not a medical professional, medical student, or otherwise, nor have I received formal training… but I do love to learn about pharmacology and share the info :)

  30. Random thoughts,

    It may make you look better, but the stuff does not smell good at all.

    My vet told me that applying it to cat wounds promotes faster healing by doing something with the epithelial cells. It does seem to work and I use it on my own cuts. He said he had read research on the subject.

    I am somewhat disturbed by the fact that it has shark oil in it given the plummeting numbers of sharks in the ocean.

    If one is dealing with hemorrhoids, then a mixture of 60% witch hazel liquid(pharmacy) and 40% aloe vera gel will work wonders. Just an FYI.

  31. Prep H is also used for tattoo work in order to reduce swelling etc…

    Cue me in the Local Tescos buying some sweeties and a big tube of H :D Mucho embarrassing!

  32. shark oil? there’s no way I’ll be using it on my boobs for sundress season.

    and antihistamines? given that they shrink and dry mucous membranes, and that sexual arousal is (in part) a histamine reaction, I won’t be putting it anywhere near the nether regions, either.

    I second the recipe from Torporous – witch hazel and aloe DO work to gently and effectively relieve swelling.

  33. @52 Squeeziecat
    “gently and effectively relieve swelling.”


    Thanks for confirming….I hope lots of people know about it because it really is a pain in the ass to not have a handle on a condition like this and its such an easy fix.

    Your nym has now ensured that my cat Cleo gets a good(though gentle) squeeze next time I see her :-)

    @51 Sazzamook
    It is totally embarrassing, but saying that your’re getting it to use on a new tattoo might be the least embarrassing reason I’ve heard to buy it…hmmm.

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