I suffer from what I like to call Intense Hangover Syndrome. By that I mean that it doesn't matter if I have one glass of wine or down more than half a bottle — I will inevitably wake up feeling headache-y, nauseous, sweaty, and foggy. Naturally, I'm always looking for something to ease the pain (that doesn't involve swearing off alcohol entirely).
Recently, I've noticed a new type of cure popping up in my email inbox and conversations with friends: patches. There are multiple brands that sell these stick-on hangover cures, all of them claiming to work in a similar way. The patches are infused with the nutrients that get depleted when you're drinking. When you stick them on, those vitamins absorb into the body through your skin, helping stave off the next-day pain.
"They work great," one comment the Bytox website reads. "Used them the past few weeks and haven't had any hangovers after drinking my normal amount."
Hangover remedies and preventive treatments, like these patches, are becoming trendier with each passing year. Kendall Jenner and other celebs are calling in their own IV drips to try and prevent any damage done by bottles of Dom and Don. Bytox patches are even being sold on websites like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie (seriously).
According to the brand, the patches are packed with B complex vitamins. Drinking alcohol famously zaps vitamin B levels, and that may be one reason you often wake up feeling low energy and achy. So the thinking behind Bytox is by keeping B levels high while and after you drink, you may feel fresher the next morning. The patches also contain nutrients including vitamin A and green tea extract too.
To apply the patch, you peel off the back, and stick it, adhesive-side down, on a dry, hairless area on your body (I put mine on my left shoulder). They're larger than I expected — around two square inches. The instructions say to put your patch on 45 minutes before you start drinking, then keep it on for at least 8 hours after you’ve stopped consuming alcohol.
The first thing I noticed about the patches was the aroma. The only way I can describe it is that it smelled kind of like a berry doused in chemicals. (Acai is the first ingredient listed on the package.) Still, it was bearable, and I was determined to ride this remedy out to see if it really worked.
I put the patch on around 20 to 30 minutes before I had my first drink — a vodka soda — and went about my night on the town as usual. (Confession: I may or may not have taken an extra shot or two of tequila to really test out its effectiveness.)
But, alas, I woke up feeling hungover. Maybe not as wiped out as I normally would have — but hungover all the same. To be fair, I did start drinking before the patch had been on for the full recommended 45 minutes. But still. I'd hoped for more.
That was my experience. But then, what's up with all the positive reviews? "The placebo effect is powerful, and the feeling that they're doing something to help themselves feel less hungover can definitely contribute to how much better they feel," Dr. Ali Raja, MD, previously told Refinery29 about hangover remedies.
As for the science? One study funded by the makers of a different hangover cure that also contains B vitamins found that people did feel it helped prevent symptoms. Another, published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found an association between dietary intake of vitamin B3 and hangovers, but not other B vitamins.
Bytox's patch formulation brings other complications. “My message for the public is ‘buyer beware.’ The evidence for nutrient absorption through the skin barrier is very limited, and many of the health-related claims are unsubstantiated. The companies need to provide proof for the claims,” JoAnn Manson, a physician, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard professor, said in an article in The Washington Post. “I would ask the companies to ‘show me the data’ — show me evidence that absorption is effective and blood levels of these vitamins and minerals increase appropriately.”