Byline: Chantal Tode

NEW YORK — Forget about pumps, spray bottles and serums. The transdermal patch just may be the next wave in skin care, according to several manufacturers who are shipping treatment patches to the mass market.
Transdermal patches, which have many uses, are probably best known for their application as a nicotine patch worn by those trying to quit smoking. More beauty-oriented patches infused with skin care ingredients have also been available for several years in a limited, high-end distribution.
That’s all about to change.
In January, Doak Dermatologics and University Medical introduced mass market skin care patches, and more are promised over the next few months. Executives at these companies say they are hoping that patch technology will give skin care the same lift that nicotine patches provided for the antismoking category.
“At first, [transdermal patches] were a fringe item,” said Francine Porter, executive vice president and co-founder of Osmotics, a company that claims it was the first, in 1995, to apply transdermal technology to skin care. Osmotics patches are now sold in Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom department stores.
“But now, they are really starting to catch on in the mainstream,” Porter added.
The cosmetic application of transdermal patches could be a $500 million to $700 million industry in the next five years, Porter surmised. The industry’s volume today is probably under $50 million, she said.
Growth will accelerate, said Porter, as dermal patches become available for a variety of purposes, such as fighting blemishes or sun spots.
Others aren’t so convinced of the patch’s widespread appeal. Dr. Frederic Brandt, associate professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Miami, said that while there are no known major side effects to patches, he wonders if consumers will feel they’re worth the trouble and expense once the novelty has worn off.
“Skin care is getting very high tech,” said Brandt. “There are a lot of delivery systems without patches that work very well. People want simplicity, and it is hard enough to get people to put creams on.”
Originally, transdermal patches were employed solely as an alternative to oral medications. Affixing a patch to the outer layer of skin allows a continuous dosage of medications, such as estrogen or nicotine, to travel through the epidermis into the bloodstream.
Skin care patches that contain ingredients such as vitamin C or collagen are meant to be worn over a period of time — anywhere from 10 minutes to eight hours — and purport to be a more efficacious method of delivering skin care ingredients than traditional creams or lotions.
Executives at the companies that manufacture skin care patches assert that their products — unlike the pharmaceutical versions — are either topical or penetrate only as far as the lower layers of skin and do not reach the bloodstream.
Still, there’s no consensus among manufacturers about how to refer to skin care patches. Several call their products “transdermal” even though they don’t reach the bloodstream, while others advertise them as “dermal” patches.
Whatever they’re named, manufacturers insist skin care patches do a better job of reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fighting the signs of aging than other skin care delivery systems.
The reason, they say, is because patches can be applied directly to problem areas on the face and will continue to deliver ingredients for a specified length of time. Since the skin can only absorb so much at once, the continuous application of ingredients allows the treated area to soak up more.
Patch technology supposedly also enables manufacturers to employ stable formulations of vitamin C and other ingredients that start to break down when they are exposed to liquid or air. The patches are packaged in air-tight envelopes and do not come into contact with either element until they are applied to the skin.
As with any cosmetics, any improvement in appearance provided by skin care patches is not permanent, say manufacturers. Consumers must continue to apply the patches in order to maintain results.
The side effects of skin care patches, if any, are minor, say executives. These include a risk of skin irritation for the small percentage of the population that is allergic to either the adhesive used in a patch or to topical vitamin C. Vitamin C patches can also have a slight lightening effect on skin.
Ease of use is one of the benefits Doak Dermatologics claims is provided by its Le Pont dermal patch, which went on sale in drugstores in January. Le Pont is manufactured under a private label agreement with Osmotics, which received a patent for its transdermal technology in December.
“When you put a cream near your eyes, if you put it too close, it might irritate your eyes,” said Gene Goldberg, senior vice president at Doak. Using a patch “would prevent that type of irritation.”
Le Pont’s patch contains 30 milligrams of vitamin C, which is activated when it comes into contact with moisture on the skin and is released over a period of eight hours, said Goldberg.
Vitamin C reduces the appearance of wrinkles by stimulating the body’s production of collagen in the spot where it is applied, said Goldberg. Collagen is theoretically responsible for the elasticity and suppleness of skin.
Le Pont is priced at $34.95 for twelve pairs of patches, which are packaged with a vial of oil useful for their removal.
The line is in approximately 5,000 doors, and Goldberg predicted it will be picked up by another 10,000 doors this year.
Doak is planning to spend more than $2 million in print, radio and TV advertising for the line this year and is forecasting a first-year wholesale volume of $3 million.
Drugstores are merchandising high tech skin care items together, said Goldberg, and promoting them separately from standard skin care. “The whole concept of new technology in skin care goes into one area,” he said.
University Medical has been present in the mass market for the past five years with Face Lift Cell Regeneration System, a technologically driven skin care line.
In January, the company started shipping Face Lift Vitamin-C Anti-Wrinkle Patch to the 26,000 doors in which the brand is already sold. Company executives predict the line will be in a total of 30,000 to 35,000 doors before the end of the year.
“Dermal patches are the trend of the future,” said Debra Tiberi, the firm’s director of product development.
The ingredients in University Medical’s dermal patches travel through the upper layers of the skin and stop short of the bloodstream, said Tiberi, who claimed that the patches have been clinically proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles by 50 percent in two weeks.
The company’s patch was designed to be worn overnight, and according to labeling on the package, it shouldn’t be used more than twice a week for two weeks and once a week thereafter. The retail price is $9.99 for a box of 4 envelopes containing two patches each.
The company will back the patch with a $10 million advertising budget this year that will include TV, print and radio ads. In addition, four to five million samples will be placed in print ads.
The company is expecting the patches to generate $30 million in retail sales in the brand’s first 12 months, said Tiberi.
Meanwhile, the New York-based Dermatological Sciences Corporation is gearing up to introduce a version of its prestige-market Somme Transdermal Firming Facial Patches to drugstores. Called BioSomme Vitaplex, the products will likely start shipping in March.
The company’s original patch contains glycolic acid and plant collagen. Glycolic acid is used to increase the rate of cell renewal, which reportedly helps expedite the delivery of collagen into the skin, said Jan Hogan, vice president national sales manager.
The patch works faster than others, she added, because Somme’s technology enables the ingredients to penetrate deeper without getting into the bloodstream.
Dermatological Sciences licenses its technology from several European companies, and has exclusive rights in the U.S. market.
The mass line will consist of a transdermal collagen patch that has a smaller concentration of active ingredients than the original patch, a transdermal vitamin C patch and a topical acne patch as well as other nonpatch skin care items such as a cleanser, moisturizer and vitamin C serum.
Somme’s vitamin C patch will be available in one version for under the eye and another for the upper lip. The collagen patch will be available for under the eye, the upper lip and the forehead. The company recommends that each should be worn for one hour.
Prices will be $5.99 for a cleanser, $12.99 for three applications of the collagen patch, $8.99 for five applications of the vitamin C patch and $6.99 for 12 applications of the acne patch.
Patches are hot right now, said Hogan, because they are “easy to use and people can focus in on what they think is their biggest problem.”
The company will be using a dermatologist, New York-based Dr. Debra Jaliman, in a TV ad for the line.
Still another company is hoping to capitalize on the trend for using patches to deliver skin care benefits.
Andrea, a division of American International, manufactures the Andrea Eye Q line of eye-makeup removers, which it recently extended into the treatment area with three new products: Daily Intensive Eye Cream, Undereye Circle Complex and Anti-Stress Eye Mask. They started appearing in the brand’s 10,000 doors in January.
The eye mask is a patch premoistened with ingredients such as vitamins B5 and C, cucumber extract and aloe. The patch, which is meant to be applied under the eyes and left on for 10 minutes, works topically to combat puffiness. It makes no claims to penetrate the epidermis.
Theresa Bui Costanzo, Andrea’s skin care brand manager, said the firm saw an opportunity to expand into the treatment area and, with the eye mask in particular, to create a spa-like treatment that doesn’t require users to lie down. A box of four pairs of eye masks is priced at $4.95.
It remains to be seen whether transdermal patches can make an impact in the mass market, but beauty executives aren’t the only ones who see a world rife with patch uses — they’ve provided subject matter for “The Simpsons” as well as many newspaper features.
Sci-fi novelist William Gibson, who is credited with coining the term “cyberspace,” makes transdermal patches a delivery system for illicit drugs, among other ingredients, in his novels and features characters said to be “derming.”

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