If you’ve read any of our Strategist editor hauls, you’ll know that our writers and editors buy a lot of stuff, and even though we think carefully about each thing that goes into our carts, there are still standouts. To close out the year, we’ve asked our staffers to write about the best thing they bought in the past 12 months. Today, Arielle Avila on the over-the-counter pills that stop “alcohol flush” so she can actually enjoy drinking.
For years now, I haven’t been able to drink alcohol and actually have a good time. Thanks to what’s often called alcohol flush or the “Asian Glow,” uncomfortable symptoms start to creep in after just a few sips. My heart rate goes up, and red splotches appear across my chest and arms. Eventually, my face turns beet red. I look and feel like I just attempted a two-mile sprint, after just one or two drinks. And the next day, I feel like I downed ten.
My body’s response to alcohol isn’t uncommon, especially among people of Asian descent, hence the term “Asian Glow.” A helpful Vox video explains that the reaction is an immune response that happens when the body can’t properly break down alcohol, and because of this, drinking can come with more serious health risks that go beyond just a nasty hangover.
These risks don’t always deter people from imbibing. A quick Google search will show the internet is full of Reddit threads and forum discussions about potential remedies and cures. I’ve had friends recommend taking Pepcid AC or antihistamines before drinking (there are also Redditors and TikTokers who’ve had success with these methods), but for me, they only prolong the reaction. And I still wake up the next morning after just a few drinks with a pounding headache and nausea that lasts all day.
But this summer, I was served ads on Instagram for Sunset, an over-the-counter pill that bills itself as “an alcohol flush support.” (Yes, there’s even a DTC Insta-friendly hangover product now.) The company stood out to me because it claimed its product would “attack the root of the problem by breaking down the toxins that cause your reaction” instead of merely masking it. Sunset’s website goes more in-depth on the science behind its product — terms like “glutathione synthesis” and the “ALDH2 enzyme” are mentioned — but, essentially, Sunset says its pills will not only help with alcohol flush itself but also reduce long-term health risks linked to the immune response that causes it. And while there is technically no proven “cure” for the effects of alcohol, hangover treatments can definitely help to mitigate symptoms, as we’ve reported on before. Sunset also advises speaking to a physician before taking it, and while I’m no doctor, I was convinced to test it out.
I met up with some friends for a happy hour and started with an easy, low-ABV drink: a White Claw. Taking Sunset’s advice, I drank about half a can, and once I could feel my heart rate increase (the first signs of a reaction), I took three pills. After about 30 minutes, I felt completely normal. I finished my drink, expecting red splotches to pop up on my chest, but to my surprise, they didn’t appear. I had a celebratory cocktail, still nervous, but all that happened was I felt a bit of a buzz. For the first time, I was able to sit and enjoy a couple of drinks without feeling hung-over by the end of the happy hour.
I was still skeptical, thinking my relief was a onetime fluke. But each time I’ve used Sunset, I have stayed completely splotch free and my heart rate hasn’t increased to uncomfortable levels like in the past. Another plus I’ve found is that my hangovers are significantly milder than before. Sunset is now one of the few essentials, along with my phone, wallet, and keys, that I don’t leave home without. I’ve been able to enjoy plenty of other happy hours with friends, dinners paired with a glass or two of wine, and even nights out with one too many drinks.
While it’s not a miracle product for all the consequences that come from drinking alcohol, it has certainly made my own experience much more normal. And that is enough for me to raise a glass.
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