What Are Hangover Patches and Do They Really Work?

With the growing popularity of hangover products, there seems to be a flood of new products claiming to be the next best hangover cure or remedy. But do these products actually work? One type of hangover product we’ve noticed growing in popularity is the hangover patch. The claim is that you stick a patch onto your skin before you drink and your body is supposed to absorb vitamins and nutrients while you drink to reduce hangover symptoms. We consulted Dr. Bethany Sanstrum, who holds a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology to see if these hangover patches really do what they claim. Here’s what she had to say:

There are multiple types of transdermal patches that have slightly different mechanisms for delivering compounds to the body through the skin. The first transdermal patch was created in the 1970’s. It utilized a membrane-based compound release system and was marketed to treat motion sickness[1]. Since then, modern patches have advanced to a stable release system by adding permeable drugs in the adhesive lining [1]. These types of patches are used for many purposes, and include oestradiol patches for female hormone therapy, nicotine release patches for smoking cessation, and more recently, vitamin patches for hangover symptoms [1].
Transdermal patches have been very effective at reducing smoking and as a topical pain reliever, but are they an effective tool for hangovers? The short answer to this question is - not likely. Hangovers occur after heavy drinking as the body reduces the amount of alcohol in the blood [2]. The most common symptoms associated with hangovers are headache, tiredness, nausea and anxiety [3-4]. Transdermal hangover patches claim to reduce the side effects of hangovers by providing vitamins and nutrients through the skin. However, there has not been clear evidence that transdermal patches are effective at delivering these compounds into the bloodstream.
Compounds suitable for transdermal delivery must first be able to penetrate the skin. However, skin is a highly protective barrier and its main purpose is to keep unwanted small particles out of the body. The main factors for effective compound use in transdermal patches are solubility (or melting point) and size [1]. Unfortunately, the compounds used in hangover supplements do not have the required combination of these properties. One study examining the absorption of zinc in sunscreen found that only a small amount of particles were absorbed through the skin [5]. Another study examining magnesium supplementation concluded that transdermal application is not scientifically supported [6]. This trend continues to be the case with larger molecules such as the multivitamins common in hangover supplements. Patients who used multivitamin transdermal patches had lower vitamin levels and were more likely to have a deficiency of vitamin D then those who took oral supplements [7].
These factors support the conclusion that oral supplements are a more effective delivery system then transdermal patches for hangover supplements. In combination with proper hydration, capsule-based hangover products provide essential vitamins and support the metabolism of alcohol to help reduce hangover symptoms using a proven delivery method.

So there you have it. According to Dr. Bethany Sanstrum, transdermal patches are unlikely to be effective for delivering large molecules such as multivitamins and ingredients commonly found in hangover supplements, and that oral supplements such as pills are more effective. We also found many of these hangover patches really only contain basic vitamins and lack the other nutrients needed to fight hangover symptoms successfully. So we encourage our readers to thoroughly examine the ingredients used before deciding on which product is right for them.

 

References:

 

1. Pastore MN, Kalia YN, Horstmann M, Roberts MS. Transdermal patches:  History, development and pharmacology. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2014; 172, 2179-2209.

2. Verster JC, Scholey, A, van de Loo AJAE, Benson S, Stock A-K. Updating the definition of the alcohol hangover.  Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2020; 9, 823.

3. van Schrojenstein Lantman M, Mackus M, van de Loo A, Verster JC. The impact of alcohol hangover symptoms on cognitive and physical functioning, and mood. Hum. Psychopharmacol. 2017; 32, 5.

4. Gunn C, Fairchild G, Verster JC, Adams S. The effects of alcohol hangover on executive functions. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2020; 9, 1148.

5. Gulson B, McCall M, Korsch M, Gomez L, Casey P, Oytam Y, Taylor A, McCulloch M, Trotter J, Kinsley L, Greenoak G. Small amounts of zinc from zinc oxide particles in sunscreens applied outdoors are absorbed through the skin. Toxicological Sciences. 2010; 118, 140-149.

6. Gröber U, Werner T, Vormann J, Kisters K. Myth or reality – transdermal magnesium? Nutrients. 2017; 9, 813.

7. Saurabh S, Gao Y, Maduka S, Smith L, Lasley R, Singh N. Is transdermal multivitamin patch effective in gastric bypass patients? Obesity Surgery. 2019; 29, 3818-3823.

June 19, 2020 — Rallymate