Do Vitamin Patches Work? We Asked Experts

Social media is buzzing with claims that vitamin patches may help with deficiencies and chronic conditions and even prevent hangovers. But experts say the evidence is slim.

The supplement market is rapidly expanding, growing from approximately 4,000 products three decades ago to 95,000 products in 2023. In the United States, supplements are regulated as food rather than drugs, allowing unproven products to enter the market without authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Transdermal patches, also known as vitamin patches, are the latest wellness trend that may offer little to no benefit to users.


Manufacturers offer a wide variety of patches that are promised to deliver multivitamins, vitamin D, and omega-3, among other micronutrients, through the skin. Some patches are marketed as designed specifically for conditions like menopause, allergies, and even hangovers.

The patches should be attached to an area with little or no hair, such as the shoulder, back, or hip, and worn for several hours.

While patches for motion sickness, as well as nicotine and birth control patches are approved by the FDA as medicines, products delivering vitamins through the skin are poorly overseen.

According to the agency's definition, a dietary supplement is a product intended for ingestion, like pills. This raises questions about whether vitamin patches can be labeled or marketed as supplements.

How effective are vitamin patches?

Kirstin Vollrath, MS, a professor of practice in the Health and Human Performance Department at the University of Houston, says the long-term safety and efficacy of vitamin patches in humans are not yet known and need further study.

"Preliminary study results have indicated that a transdermal approach faces challenges in permeating the skin barrier, especially for certain micronutrients like iron. Utilizing transdermal patches alongside microneedling has improved delivery but results seem to be less effective and less consistent than oral supplementation," Vollrath says.

A small study from 2019 compared the effectiveness of multivitamin oral supplements and multivitamin patches in patients who underwent bariatric surgery. Twelve months after the procedure, patients in the patch group were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency and lower serum concentrations of B1, B12, folate, and ferritin.


A 2020 study included endurance-trained runners with iron deficiency who either took oral iron supplements or wore iron patches. The patches showed no beneficial effects, while oral supplements increased serum ferritin concentrations.

Danielle Gaffen, MS, RDN, LD, a nutrition expert for managing inflammatory bowel diseases, says B12 vitamin absorption through the skin is very limited. Meanwhile, oral supplements have a more established track record with substantial evidence supporting their effectiveness in raising vitamin levels in the body.

Gaffen tells Healthnews, "If you are considering a specific company's vitamin patches, I recommend contacting the company to request their data on how effective their patches are in raising B12 blood levels. However, this information is not currently public. Without data demonstrating that these patches work, it may not be worth the investment."

What are the risks of vitamin patches?

Vollrath says adverse events that have been observed include redness, irritation, and discoloration of the skin at the site of patch application.

Patches may not provide the intended dosage due to the limited absorption of vitamins through the skin, which could lead to deficiencies if a patient relies solely on patches for their vitamin intake, according to Gaffen.

Since the efficacy of many vitamin patches is not well-documented, you may end up spending money on a product that does not deliver the promised health benefits. Always consider consulting with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.


Who needs supplements?

Vollrath says that vitamin supplementation is not recommended for healthy individuals. Instead, they should consider a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as lean proteins and unsaturated fats, to meet their nutrient needs.

However, supplements can help people with certain diagnosed conditions, like nutrient deficiencies. For example, menstruating women who have anemia may benefit from iron supplements, while folic acid supplementation during pregnancy may reduce the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect.

Patients with conditions like Crohn's disease or diabetes who take metformin can develop vitamin B12 deficiencies, which require special supplementation.

There is little evidence that vitamin patches can help with nutrient deficiencies and other conditions. Before using any supplement, discuss possible benefits and side effects with your healthcare provider.



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