More than 40 years ago, skin patches were introduced as an effective way of delivering drugs into the body while avoiding the problems of tablets, which have to be absorbed in the gut first — meaning the dose can be reduced in strength by the time it reaches its destination.
A patch can also be useful because it avoids the gastrointestinal tract, helping anyone with stomach-related problems, where absorption can be an issue.
The patch delivers small amounts of the medication or treatment directly into the skin, where it acts locally or is absorbed into the bloodstream.
While this approach is already used to help smokers quit (nicotine patches) and women through the menopause (HRT patches), it is now available for a wide variety of conditions.
ADRIAN MONTI asked experts for their views on some of the latest products, which we then rated.
Revive Sleep Patches, pack of 30, £14.99, amazon.co.uk 2/10
The Revive Sleep Patches cost £14.99 on amazon.co.uk
CLAIM: These offer fast relief for insomnia and sleep deprivation. Each patch contains melatonin, the hormone produced in the brain to help you sleep, lavender and rose oil extract, which are absorbed via the patch.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘I’m sceptical of these patches being an effective delivery system to gain a good night’s sleep,’ says Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert.
‘The patch delivers 5 mg of melatonin over a long period and I am not convinced this slow release will make it effective — the body naturally has very high levels of melatonin before bed, which dissipate through the night.
‘Lavender and rose oil are relaxing ingredients, but I’m not aware of any studies that show they directly help with sleep. You’d be better off relaxing with a massage.’
Warts and verrucas
Maxmedix Wart and Verruca Patch, pack of 28, £19.99, shytobuy.uk 1/10
The Maxmedix Wart and Verruca Patch, pack of 28 costs £19.99 at shytobuy.uk
CLAIM: Warts and verrucas are the result of an infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) — a verruca is a wart on the sole of the foot or around the toes. They are contagious and usually caught by contact.
These patches contain salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin. A new patch should be applied every 12 hours. After a few days an abrasive material such as a pumice stone can be used to rub away the softened skin.
EXPERT VERDICT: Mel Sykes, an NHS community podiatrist in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, says: ‘In the NHS, we do not treat verrucas because they are caused by the HPV virus and there are over 100 variants, so a treatment which works for one may not work for others and the body’s immune system will eventually kill it.
‘I wouldn’t bother with these patches: let your body deal with it.’
Compeed Cold Sore Patch, pack of 15, £5.69, superdrug.com 8/10
Compeed Cold Sore Patch costs £5.69 at Superdrug
CLAIM: By covering cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus, these invisible patches act as a shield to prevent scab formation and provide pain relief and reduce redness and tingling.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘This patch contains a hydrocolloid, a biodegradable dressing that forms a seal over a cold sore, which promotes quicker healing by both stopping the cold sore spreading and preventing infection from external bacteria,’ says Ben Merriman, a community pharmacist in Cumbria.
‘A Danish-led trial in 2008 found that this type of patch was effective. The standard treatment for a cold sore is an antiviral cream such as Aciclovir.
But this won’t have any effect after the cold sore has crusted over, so these patches seem to have a place in treating a crusted over cold sore.’
Zitsticka Hyperfade can be purchased at beautybay.com
Zitsticka Hyperfade, pack of 12, £29, beautybay.com 5/10
CLAIM: Each patch has 24 self-dissolving ‘microdarts’ which contain chemicals to lighten the dark marks from acne. Use every three days for two weeks or until the darkness fades.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Containing eight well selected ingredients including vitamin C, liquorice root extract and tranexamic acid, these patches will help acne and address the post inflammatory hyperpigmentation — darkened skin — that often occurs after getting spots,’ says Dr Ophelia Veraitch, a dermatologist at University College London Hospital and at the private Cranley Clinic in London.
‘But without treating the underlying acne, you could easily find yourself forever chasing spots by covering them over with these patches, leaving more spots to pop up elsewhere.
‘A good skincare routine, light therapy and prescription creams can help and, once the inflammation has stopped, the dark marks and scarring usually heal by themselves.’
Patch MD Immunity Defence Plus, pack of 30, £21.50, supplementhub.co.uk 2/10
Patch MD Immunity Defence Plus costs £21.50 at supplementhub.co.uk
CLAIM: An alternative to taking a supplement, this contains echinacea, elderberry and olive leaf extract as well as antioxidants, vitamin C (17 per cent of the recommended daily amount) and vitamin D (19 per cent of your RDA).
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘If you’re reasonably fit and healthy with a balanced diet, there’s no need to take any sort of supplement — other than vitamin D in winter due to lack of sunlight — to boost your immune system,’ says Ben Merriman.
‘Some patients with reduced absorption from their gut (perhaps due to gastric surgery) may benefit from a patch as it would bypass the digestive system, but for 99 per cent of people, these aren’t needed.
‘They are also expensive compared to a multivitamin which costs around £2 for a month’s supply.’
Vitabiotics Jointace patch, pack of eight, £9.15, vitabiotics.com 6/10
The Vitabiotics Jointace patch can be purchased at vitabiotics.com
CLAIM: This patch contains glucosamine sulphate, a sugar that helps to build cartilage, and chondroitin, which is found in the cartilage around joints and helps with elasticity, as well as essential oils with anti-inflammatory effects and menthol.
EXPERT VERDICT: Tim Allardyce says: ‘These patches contain glucosamine and chondroitin, heralded as the wonder supplement for joint pain.
‘There is mixed evidence for the benefits of glucosamine (no longer prescribed on the NHS because of a lack of evidence that it works) and chondroitin, so wearing them might provide relief.
‘The patch is likely to be less effective than a painkiller. It is, however, more natural — without the side-effects of medication. The menthol is a counter-irritant and provides a cooling effect, which can help distract from pain.
‘For the fairly modest price they are worth a try — they are likely to be a bit hit and miss, but being natural makes them safe to use.’
Tiger Balm Pain Relieving Patch, pack of four, £5.63, uk.iherb.com 5/10
The Tiger Balm Pain Relieving Patch costs £5.63 at uk.iherb.com
CLAIM: These patches contain camphor and menthol — topical analgesics. They can be worn under clothes and are suitable for knee, wrist, back and shoulder pain.
EXPERT VERDICT: Tim Allardyce, a physiotherapist and clinical director at Surrey Physio clinic, says: ‘Tiger balm seems to have a mystic appeal to it, and as such could help as a placebo.
‘It claims to have a 100-year history of pain relief and some of my patients do report benefits after using it.
‘It is natural and does not contain medication, which makes it an excellent alternative to medicated gels, although it may not be quite as effective as these.
‘The camphor is a mild anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial and can be used for minor pain.
‘For the price, it’s worth trying, and I would expect some people would see some benefit.’
Microneedling patches, pack of four, £9.95, vicereversa.co.uk 4/10
The microneedling patches cost £9.95, at vicereversa.co.uk
CLAIM: These patches — the size of a 5p coin — reduce skin damage and scarring from spots.
Each contains 360 tiny ‘needles’ made of crystalised salicylic acid to unblock pores, as well as totarol, a natural antibacterial, and green tea extract, an antioxidant. The needles penetrate the top layer of skin then dissolve into the layers beneath to stop bacteria forming.
EXPERT VERDICT: Dr Ross Perry, an aesthetic doctor and medical director of Cosmedics Skin Clinics in London and Bristol, says: ‘Microneedling is a technique used in a medical setting, where it is very effective.
The needles create an inflammatory reaction, and the healing process gives the skin a boost. But this is a £10 product, so the result is not going to be anywhere near as good as at a clinic.
‘And avoid overuse, which could damage the skin.’
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