Do Vitamin Patches Work? The Science Behind the Patch

Gummies, powders, IVs – there are more ways to take your vitamins than ever before. Patches are becoming a more popular option, but are vitamin patches effective? And are they really better than pills?

Read on to learn the answers to the questions, “Do vitamin patches work?” “Are vitamin patches effective?” and “Which vitamin patch is right for me?”

Transdermal Absorption 

Vitamin patches rely on a mechanism called “transdermal absorption.” What does that mouthful mean? Trans is the Latin prefix for across or through, and dermal refers to the skin, so it’s just a fancy way of saying “absorption through the skin.”

At first glance, administering drugs through the skin feels like a no-brainer. After all, the skin is a big target and is good at soaking up things like lotion. But your skin is designed to protect you from various invaders, and it can be tough to get through.

Getting through your skin is also a lot different than just going into your skin. Ultimately, transdermal medications have to get past the epidermis, or the outer layer of skin, to get to the dermis, or the inner layer of skin. Unlike the epidermis, the dermis contains capillaries that lead to the rest of the bloodstream.

How it Works

Transdermal patches can employ several different techniques to try to get through the epidermis. The first way is to go from cell to cell. This may seem like a more direct route, but it can be an inefficient way to transport a supplement or medication.

The second way is to get into the tiny spaces in between cells in the epidermis. If a drug or supplement has smaller molecules, this can be an easier and more efficient way to get it into the body. 

The third way is to use microneedling technology to create tiny channels through the epidermis into blood capillaries in the dermis. A microneedling device can be applied to the area before putting on the patch, or dissolving needles can be included inside it. This is the cutting edge of transdermal technology, and it may lead to even more medications being administered as a patch.

Difficulties in administration may explain why the first transdermal medication patch was only released in 1979 – it was a scopolamine patch intended to help with motion sickness. Patches didn’t really take off in the public imagination until the broad use of nicotine patches started in the 90s.

The Anatomy of a Patch

How do vitamin patches work? Through a multi-layer structure. First off, there’s the backing, typically made of plastic, which protects the patch and drug from the outside environment. 

Beneath that is the matrix layer, which suspends the vitamins right above the skin. This layer may contain starch or other bulking agents – the goal is to keep a consistent supply of vitamins in direct contact with the skin.

The layer closest to the skin is the adhesive – as heat and moisture from the body start to dissolve the adhesive, vitamins from the matrix can be absorbed into the skin

The vitamins work their way through and in between cells until they reach capillaries in the dermis. From there, the vitamins are in the bloodstream and can work their magic!

Transdermal Patches in Medicine

You may already be familiar with some uses of transdermal patches. The nicotine patch to help people stop smoking is probably the best-known example. It’s helped thousands of people to quit or cut down on their smoking.

Patches are also a common way to administer heavy-duty painkillers – they’re great for administering medications at a low but consistent rate. Patches can also be useful for anti-nausea medications or for administering drugs that can cause nausea.

Scientists are working on understanding how best to use microneedling technology and how different agents can aid the absorption of vitamins and drugs through the skin barrier. In the future, you can expect even more drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, to come in a transdermal variety.

Why Use a Vitamin Patch?

So patches aren’t as exotic as they initially seem, and they can be an effective way of delivering vitamins. But what would make this delivery device preferable to just swallowing a pill?

If you have difficulty swallowing pills, then using a vitamin patch may be a no-brainer. After all, a multivitamin pill is useless if you can’t take it. Patches can also be a good choice for children who struggle with swallowing pills (though you should always consult with your child’s doctor before starting them on a vitamin regimen). 

Even if you primarily use vitamin pills, patches can still be a good temporary solution. Traveling can make it hard to remember to take your pills, and motion sickness can be tough on the tummy – patches help with both of those issues.

Temporary nausea, whether from the stomach flu, migraines, or other causes, can also be a good reason to keep vitamin patches on hand.

If you’ve had bariatric surgery, you know how important it is to make sure that you get your necessary vitamins, yet you also have to manage what you put into your stomach. Vitamin patches can help you get the nutrients you need in an easy, pain-free way.

Getting needed nutrition post-bariatric surgery can be difficult – don’t start any vitamin regimen before talking to your doctor. 

Do Vitamin Patches Work?

Yes! Transdermal absorption is an effective way to administer vitamins. That said, it may not be the best way for your specific needs.

You should talk to a doctor or other medical professional before you begin taking a supplement or using a vitamin patch. Your doctor can help determine if a patch is the best way to support your wellness goals. 

The science of vitamin patches is still in its infancy, but doctors are interested in their ability to circumvent the digestive system. Some studies see promise in patches delivering micronutrients, for instance. 

Are Vitamin Patches Effective? More Effective than Pills?

If you are currently suffering from a vitamin deficiency, pills are likely preferable to vitamin patches. This is because absorbing vitamins through the skin can be more difficult for your body, especially if it’s stressed from malnutrition.

But if you suffer from occasional or chronic nausea, have had bariatric surgery, or simply don’t like taking pills, vitamin patches could be a great solution for you. A vitamin that you take every day is better than a vitamin you don’t.

What Vitamin Patches Are Available?

There is a wide range of vitamin patches available for any need you might have. You can focus on getting one specific nutrient like B12, D3, or biotin. Or you can focus on a specific need like endurance, immune defense, or anti-aging.

There are even vitamin patches that can help you get to sleep or help you with a hangover!

There are also multivitamin patches available, with and without iron, that can be substituted for your traditional daily multivitamin pill. 

You can always use more than one type of patch. Many vitamin patch users wear 2, 3, or even more patches! Just double-check the ingredients to make sure you aren’t getting too much of any one specific vitamin.

How Do I Wear My Vitamin Patch?

Are vitamin patches effective? Only if they’re worn properly. 

You can wear your vitamin patch on any clean, hairless part of your skin. Shoulders and hips are great places. For best results, you should rotate patch locations.

Though your patch should stay in place through regular movement and even exercise, you should avoid getting your patch wet. Water can cause the adhesive to stick firmly to the skin, making it hard to pull the patch off. 

Patches may occasionally cause skin irritation or sensitivity. If this happens, you can use rubbing alcohol or baby oil to remove the patch.

In general, you should wear a vitamin patch for about 8 hours. If it’s easier for you, you can always wear it at night while you sleep.

How Can Vitamin Patches Improve Your Life?

Whether you’re looking to address a specific health concern or simply want a more convenient way to take your supplements, vitamin patches are the way to go!

With so many varieties from PatchMD, it’s easy to find one that’s perfect for you. Plus, you can save up to 50% when you sign up for a subscription.

Take a look at our full selection and get started today!