Do anti-aging skin care patches really work?

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Do anti-aging skin care patches really work?

$80: These patches are scary when you first see them, and my husband made fun of me for looking like a Vulcan while I was wearing them. Regardless, I was pretty impressed with my first trial, and am planning to finish a month’s treatment. These patches are heavy duty, and feel like stiff, stretchy fabric. You’re supposed to wear one for 30 minutes once a week. Each patch contains hyaluronic acid, okra plant extract, argireline and madagascan herbal extract — all of which the company says are wrinkle relaxers. They also have vitamin B3 for skin brightening and vitamin C, which serves as a powerful antioxidant. This patch felt a little tingly to me, and there are some indentations on the sticky side of the mask, which temporarily left indentations on my forehead when I removed it. But I could visibly see improvement an hour later. Again, I can’t say if they will do anything for my skin long-term, but I’m definitely finishing up my box. There is a version for eyes, as well.

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$195: This high-end Korean skin care brand is known for its amazing combination of natural and high-tech active ingredients, and this product is the perfect example. Like the StriVectin Labs product, this is also a two-part system that’s specifically designed for smile lines. You apply the cream, which contains the now-familiar hyaluronic acid; red ginseng, used to promote collagen production; and lotus flower seed, which helps prevent degeneration of skin cells. You then apply a patch over the cream, which you can wear overnight twice a week. The patch is really thin and I barely noticed it was there. As with the other two patches, my fine lines seemed slightly finer after I removed the patch. My suspicion is that these patches really push the hyaluronic acid — which is already a good wrinkle filler on its own — to the next level.

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$62: This is a two-part system. First you apply the gel patches to any place on your face where you want targeted wrinkle reduction. They’re paisley-shaped, so they work under your eyes, on your smile lines or on your forehead. (I chose my smile lines.) The patches are a bit, well, gel-y, but they’re cooling and it wasn’t a problem to keep them on for the recommended 15 minutes. Each contains StriVectin’s proprietary skin care technology, NIA-114, which was originally developed to decrease stretch marks and which the company has since parlayed into anti-aging treatments. They also contain a whopping dose of hyaluronic acid, which moisturizes and helps fill in wrinkles temporarily. After you remove the patches, you follow up with a balm that contains even more NIA-114. During my trial run, I found that my skin looked smoother — even the next morning — and it definitely felt softer.

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Skin care companies are perpetually seeking new ways to stand out on today's crowded cosmetics shelf. The best way to do that, it turns out, is to offer a product that really works.

One of the biggest challenges that skin care manufacturers face is how to get ingredients to actually penetrate your skin - no mean task, given that your skin is designed to protect you and keep chemicals (even those helpful anti-aging ones) out. Recently, skin care companies have been turning to skin patches, a treatment method that's been in vogue with the medical community for many years.

These new skin patches are different from Frownies, those "as seen on TV" anti-wrinkle forehead stickers that claim to stretch your skin and help smooth wrinkles. (And which also don't do anything, a 2009 medical study demonstrated.) Rather, the new breed of patches acts as a delivery system rather than a physical wrinkle eradicator, much like nicotine or pain-control patches. But do they work?

"Yes, patch systems are effective delivery systems," Ni'kita Wilson, CEO and director of innovation at Catalyst Cosmetic Development, tells us. "I have seen studies where incorporating a patch increases the penetration of the ingredients." One review article, published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research & Allied Scienceslast year, found that patches create tension in various directions on the skin, thereby increasing its permeability.

This fall, a slew of new products incorporating patch technology hit our desks, to which we submitted to our increasingly (and increasingly worrisome) fine-lined face. We've already mentioned Lancome's posh new eye cream, which includes weekly patches, but these new products - from StriVectin, Sulwhasoo and Biobliss - target other areas, including your forehead and smile lines.

Click through for reviews of each, and please note that I can't discuss the long-term effects of the products, since I only used them for a few weeks.

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