Many conditions can lead to malabsorption of nutrients through your digestive system, from cystic fibrosis to bariatric surgery. For these patients, getting proper nutrition can be a genuine struggle. Even taking supplements won’t do much if you can’t absorb them.
PatchMD has spent the past decade developing ways for essential vitamins and minerals to bypass the digestive system. Their approach? Adhesive patches that provide vitamins directly to the bloodstream through your skin. But any new method of medicating feels risky. We’ve tested and assessed the merits of PatchMD’s transdermal, time-release patches to see if they’re right for you.
- Offers a unique method of delivering vitamins and minerals
- Extremely affordable
- Completely gluten-, lactose-, and latex-free
- A 100% money-back guarantee within 30 days
- Take 20% off by subscribing to PatchMD’s newsletter
- Scientific studies proving the patches work are minimal
- Dosages are well below suggested daily guidelines
- Customer service is sometimes lacking
PatchMD provides a novel, affordable method of getting your vitamins. It’s a clinically proven method that can be particularly useful for people whose digestive system creates difficulty absorbing nutrients.
The transdermal patches from PatchMD rely on a three-layer design that ensures steady delivery over a longer period of time, compared to the single, huge burst of nutrients you typically consume in the form of a supplement pill. Choose the subscription option and save 40%.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers like you make more informed decisions to live healthier lives. We extensively test each health service we review.
Our team has spent over 155 hours testing and researching PatchMD and its close competitors in order to give you an unbiased exploration of your health supplement options, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. Through a thorough and deliberate approach to every product we encounter, we evaluate services based on adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, this review of PatchMD, like all health-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
In order to give you the most thorough analysis of PatchMD and their products, we focused on what matters most to you as a customer. This includes the quality and cost of their products, how many different products they offer, how well their customer service performs, and how easy (or difficult) it is to find what you’re looking for on their site.
7.9 / 10
Every ingredient in these patches is sourced efficiently without gluten, lactose, or latex. PatchMD is the only supplement patch maker in the United States to make patches with certified ingredients in a registered facility, which is a big plus. As with all supplements, it is extremely difficult to tell whether or not the patches are working without regular blood testing. However, the science behind transdermal supplement patches is minimal. PatchMD also recently changed their formulas, dropping their vitamin potencies by up to 98%.
8.0 / 10
While you won’t be able to find every common vitamin or mineral in PatchMD’s catalog, they have several of the vitamins and minerals that most Americans are deficient in. They also have a few unique blends, such as their Happy Hour hangover helper, Sun Away Plus anti-sunburn, and Allergy Plus antihistamine patches. With more than 75 products for sale – several of which are different doses or numbers of the same patch or packaged bundles – you can still find most of what you need.
9.0 / 10
Frequent deals (including buy one get two free and free shipping over $50) are only the start of PatchMD’s low-cost model. Their auto-ship subscription knocks a hefty 40% off, double what their most generous competitors offer. Plus, each box costs less than a dollar per day of use at its most expensive and only decreases as you order in bulk.
7.7 / 10
While they have two phone lines, an email address, and their corporate office address listed on their site, be aware that PatchMD has a small staff and may take some time to get to your questions. When you can get in touch with them, they are professional and wrap concerns up well. After PatchMD reformulated their patches without notice to significantly lower doses (altering packaging and products before updating the website), many customers were discontent with their orders. PatchMD has refunded much of this, but it leaves a mark on their customer service history.
8.5 / 10
Despite many overlapping pop-ups across the site, it’s relatively easy to find what you’re looking for. All major products are listed in the bottom-most section of the site, and there are multiple ways to search for products by name, category, health focus, or keyword. The site is clear in its layout, though its graphic design leaves some to be desired.
Founded in 2010 by pharmaceutical salesman Earl Hailey, PatchMD is a marketplace that produces and sells vitamin and mineral supplement patches that allow you to absorb your daily nutrients through your skin. These transdermal patches release ingredients slowly into your bloodstream, giving you the benefits of gradual absorption not offered by pill or liquid supplements.
PatchMD makes a wide variety of patches designed to help various health issues, from hangovers to iron deficiency. The most specific products are common vitamin patches to help prevent deficiencies, whereas they also offer patches aimed at anti-aging and improving cognitive function.
Like oral supplements, transdermal patches deliver vitamins and minerals to the body. However, there’s no need to swallow a pill – just slap the patch on a clean, hairless part of your skin and leave for eight hours. These supplements are specifically designed to help people after bariatric surgery and those who are otherwise unable to digest vitamins (such as people with GI disorders), but they can also help people with pill fatigue, those who can’t swallow pills, and athletes or bodybuilders who need additional nutrient support.
Fortunately, products like PatchMD can help people maintain their health all the time. PatchMD’s products aim to be more effective because transdermal vitamins don’t have to go through the entire digestive system, where some nutrients are lost, never to be absorbed. Transdermal vitamins go directly into the bloodstream through veins under the skin and then are processed more directly for a higher absorption rate. This is, of course, assuming that issues like finding the right carrier system for each separate vitamin are taken care of.
These patches are composed of three layers.
The contact layer, composed of a natural adhesive, is the sticky part of the patch that makes it adhere to your skin, where it should stay for up to eight hours.
The multi-nutrient layer is where all the good stuff is located – vitamins, minerals, herbal phytochemicals, and more. PatchMD designed this layer to release compounds slowly into your body. This time-release method is thought to be better for your body than pills or injections, which spike your system with a large amount of the nutrient.
The backing layer supplies strength to the patch, ensuring that it doesn’t disintegrate or fall off when you’re wearing it. Note that the patches are not waterproof.
So far, very few studies show that transdermal patches actually work. While there is a healthy dose of skepticism around vitamin supplements in general – since they’re not regulated by the FDA and are often treated like cure-alls – transdermal patches are a particularly new method of getting your daily vitamins and minerals.
It isn’t easy to get things through the skin layer since it is biologically designed to keep foreign objects outside of the body, and transdermal patches are no exception. Most transdermal patches that are clinically successful have microneedles or some other method of piercing or puncturing the skin on an otherwise-unnoticeable level that aids them in getting their product into the bloodstream.
In 2020, PatchMD changed the formulations of their products. In many circumstances, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, PatchMD did not notify their customers clearly – particularly those with recurring auto-shipments – resulting in some disgruntled feedback.
This change wouldn’t be as much of a concern if it weren’t such a significant drop in the amount of each active ingredient. Glucosamine, for example, went from 1500mg per patch to 28.56mg per patch. For reference, the ideal daily intake for glucosamine is between 900mg and 1500mg.
While oral doses are often higher due to how our bodies absorb nutrients and lose a lot of them in the digestive process, these doses still drop out of a useful range. Be aware of the dosages as you shop to ensure that you’re getting the appropriate amount of the vitamins and minerals you’re supplementing.
PatchMD offers a vast assortment of products aimed at a wide variety of health concerns. You can easily browse their catalog based on the vitamin it supplies, health conditions, or other areas of interest. The broad product categories on PatchMD include:
- Vitamins and Minerals
PatchMD also breaks its products down into sections across the following health considerations:
- Injection alternatives
- Bariatric vitamins
- Hair, skin, and nails
- Heart health
- Brain supplements
- Daily health
If you’re new to PatchMD and have no idea where to begin, one of the easiest ways to dive in is to check out their best-selling plans, which address many common health issues. If your concerns are outside of this scope, you’ll likely find them in another category. PatchMD’s best-selling plans include the following:
The Summer Plan
This Summer kit comprises a one-month supply of the B12 Energy Plus, Sleep Starter, Last Call Hangover, Garcinia Cambogia, and Multivitamin patches. It costs $99.75.
The Women's Complete Plan
The Women’s plan includes the Multi Plus, Sleep Starter, CoQ10, and Omega-3 patches in a one-month supply for $71.95.
Formulated for bariatric patients, this Bariatric kit addresses specific issues related to post-bariatric surgery like calcium malabsorption. It contains the Multi Plus, D3/Calcium, and B12 Energy Plus patches in a month’s supply for $59.85.
Bariatric Basics 2
The Bariatric Basics 2 kit adds Iron Plus patches to the Bariatric Basics kit in the form of iron bisglycinate, which is non-constipating. This kit costs $79.80 for a one-month supply.
The best-selling plans page on PatchMD’s website still quotes that they sell a Daily Nutrition Made for Women pack, containing B12 Energy Plus, Multi Plus, and Biotin Plus patches for $64.85. However, when looking at PatchMD’s catalog, the pack is nowhere to be found. The link itself re-routes to the PMS Bundle for Women, which costs $79.80 and includes:
- PMS Day
- PMS Night
- Iron Plus
PatchMD sells three variations of multivitamin patches for men, women, and children. These include:
- Multi Plus, with 25 essential vitamins and minerals
- No Iron Multivitamin Plus, with 24 essential vitamins and minerals (the same as Multivitamin Plus, just without iron for those who can’t take it)
- Kids Multivitamin + Omega-3, with 28 essential vitamins and minerals scaled down for growing bodies
Vitamins and Minerals
These patches contain higher amounts of a specific vitamin or mineral and are useful for fighting deficiencies. If you know that you are deficient in one vitamin (as up to 92% of Americans are), these individual patches could help.
- B12 Energy, with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12
- Biotin Plus, with vitamins A, B7 (biotin), B9, C, and D3
- D3/Calcium, with vitamin D3 and calcium
- Iron Plus, with iron, astaxanthin, and vitamins A, B9, and C
- D3/K2, with vitamins D3 and K2
- C Plus, with vitamin C and zinc
- Collagen Plus, with collagen and vitamins A, B2, B5, B9, and C
PatchMD offers a variety of supplements, including appetite suppressants, among its menu of patches. These have specific purposes, but like all other supplements, they are not FDA approved, nor can they be used to diagnose or treat a disease. Each includes a mix of vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Some of these supplements include:
- Glucosamine & Chondroitin with manganese, glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, curcumin, white willow bark, and vitamin C
- Omega-3 Plus, with total omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, CoQ-10, black currant seed oil, Antarctic krill oil, astaxanthin, Indian gooseberry extract, phosphatidylcholine, and other important minerals
- Garcinia Cambogia Plus for weight loss, with potassium, garcinia cambogia extract, green tree extract, bitter melon, and curcumin
- Happy Hour (formerly Hangover Patch), with taurine, choline, curcumin, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, and E
- Focus Patch, with 29 vitamins, minerals, and herbs from a full list of B vitamins to passionflower and lemon balm
PatchMD produces several brain-healthy products with ingredients that are designed to improve cognitive function, sharpen focus, and lift brain fog. They include:
- B12 Energy Plus
- Sleep Starter
- Glutathione Plus
- Omega-3 Plus
- NAD Total Recovery
- CoQ10 Plus
PatchMD’s specialty patches focus on issues like allergies, athletic endurance, and the immune system. These patches are designed to help specific, but general, concerns. Products in this category include:
- Endurance Max, with 28 vitamins, minerals, and herbs from boron and CoQ-10 to gooseberry extract and green tea extract
- Allergy Plus, with 13 vitamins, minerals, and herbs with a strong focus on herbs like stinging nettle leaves, holy basil leaf extract, and licorice
- Immune Defense Plus, with 21 vitamins, minerals, and herbs from lemon peel and pine bark extract to zinc and vitamin C
- Sun Away, with selenium, polypodium leucotomos, and vitamins B3, C, D3, and E
- L-Lysine/Zinc Plus, with zinc, L-lysine, selenium, green tea extract, and vitamins A, C, D3, and E
PatchMD also offers special formulations on eight different patches, available for a limited time only. These special formulations cannot be put in a subscription box, but are discounted below their wholesale price.
PatchMD’s women’s category features products focused on beauty, aging, and female hormonal balancing. This is the one section where there are different products for day use and night use. The products PatchMD considers for women include:
- Anti-Aging, with antioxidants, polyphenols, and resveratrol alongside biotin and other common vitamins
- Keep Klear Acne, with common vitamins, collagen, selenium, and anti-inflammatory supplements
- Menopause Day, with vitamins B9, B12, D3, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, curcumin, dong quai root extract, licorice root extract, and black cohosh root extract
- Menopause Night, with a doubled list of B-vitamins and herbs from Menopause Day’s formula to prevent night sweats and sleeplessness, including 5-HTP and valerian root
- Monthly Relief Day, with vitamins B6, C, D3, E, calcium, iron, curcumin, zinc, and ginger, evening primrose oil, and chaste tree berry extract
- Monthly Relief Night, a toned-down version of Monthly Relief Day with vitamins D3, E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, curcumin, and chamomile extract
PatchMD’s website regularly implements dozens of discounts, including buy one get two free and free shipping over $50. Even without these discounts, the products themselves are inexpensive for supplements. Most products range from $14.95 to $24.95 for a one-month supply of patches. That said, some of their specialized products – like the Focus patch – contain more potent and hard-to-find ingredients. This can increase their price to as much as $39.95 for 30 patches.
Their most expensive products are their bundles, which combine multiple patches into one package. Though they are expensive at the outset, costing up to $89.82, they’re less expensive than buying each product in the bundle individually.
If you use PatchMD’s subscription service, you can get your favorite products auto-shipped to you monthly. All products will be an extra 40% off when part of a subscription package.
Shipping and returns
All shipping costs $5.99 within the United States and $14.99 internationally via USPS First Class. For the most part, you can expect your package to arrive within four or five days of order confirmation (one to two business days after purchase) within the United States and two weeks internationally. PatchMD frequently offers free shipping over $50, so keep an eye out for those deals.
PatchMD also offers a 100% refund within 30 days of purchase. If you are not satisfied with your order, email PatchMD and explain your dissatisfaction to facilitate your refund. Just be sure that you haven’t opened the box first – they can’t accept previously opened or used packages for health and safety reasons.
PatchMD has several options to get in touch with their customer service:
- Two phone support lines (one for customer service and one for their corporate office)
- An email address
- Their physical corporate office’s address
- An in-browser option to leave them a message, which sends them an email through this customer service form
PatchMD is a small team, so it may take a while for your message to be responded to (or a few calls to get through to them), but once you do, our experience was that they were generally positive and professional.
They have a FAQ, but it is relatively short and superficial. Most of the questions in the FAQ have easy-to-find answers elsewhere on the site.
The biggest customer service problem to our knowledge came from early 2020. The organization changed their product formulas across the board, decreasing the potency of each patch. PatchMD notified none of their customers before this formula change occurred; many only discovered it when the packaging was different, or they weren’t feeling the same effects from the patches as before. PatchMD did not update their website for several weeks after this update came into place, unintentionally misleading customers.
Using a patch is as easy as it sounds. Once your PatchMD order has arrived, you can begin using your patches whenever you’re ready (and you can use as many as is a healthy dose for you at once). To get started, you will need to:
- Remove the liner from the patch
- Place the patch on a hairless or low-hair area of the skin
- Remove the patch after eight hours
Only keep a patch on for up to eight hours at a time, though, and be sure to keep it dry – PatchMD’s patches are not waterproof. If you get a patch wet, it will adhere more permanently to your skin, requiring baby oil or rubbing alcohol to remove from your skin, and may be irritating. Avoid taking a bath or showering while wearing your patch. We also suggest avoiding using creams or lotions near the patch for the same reason.
Like most online retailers, PatchMD collects non-individualized information through cookies and other tracking technologies but does not buy, sell, or trade this information to outside parties. All of your personal information shared on the website is strictly secured.
PatchAid’s website is fun, engaging, and easy to navigate. In a lot of ways, they are PatchMD’s closest competitor. Their wide catalog of patches is priced about the same as PatchMD, which are not only gluten-, lactose-, and latex-free, but also sugar-free and fully hypoallergenic. They also offer clear patches, a particularly unique aspect, in every formula for a slightly higher cost. However, they maximize their autoship discount at a whopping 48% (8% higher than PatchMD), so you can truly get your money’s worth.
Nutri-Patch features a much more limited catalog than PatchMD – with only seven different types of patches in blends like Omega-3s, multivitamins, and antioxidants – but comes with significantly more medical backing. The organization was founded by, and continues to be run by, physicians who design each patch. They have a much stronger medical focus, breaking down the science of how their patches work at every turn. You can get free shipping when you order three or more sets of patches, but patches only come in packs of 30, so ordering in bulk gets expensive fast. If you know you’ll be using them over time, auto-ship discounts max out at 15% off, compared to PatchMD’s 40%.
Vitamin Patch Club
If you’re looking for a vitamin patch but are easily overwhelmed by lots of options, Vitamin Patch Club has something for you. They offer five different patches for the most common American vitamin deficiencies: iron, zinc, vitamin D, and two different combinations of B-vitamins. Their Super8 patch is an incredibly powerful B-vitamin and energy supplement initially designed for professional athletes and research studies. They warn that it is so strong that some people report tasting the vitamin. Vitamin Patch Club sends their vitamins in monthly boxes in a subscription-heavy style, but you can choose from an individual box, a pre-selected bundle, or a DIY box with your favorite patches. Shipping is always free on orders over $50.
Akalo is more of a lifestyle brand than a medical or health company, but still offers two distinct supplement patches: one for hangovers and jet lag with 50mg of vitamin B1, and one for immune health with 50mcg of vitamin D3. You can keep an Akalo patch on for substantially longer than its competitors without issue (up to 24 hours, compared to PatchMD’s eight). These patches are clearly aimed at a younger, Instagram-friendly market, with bright, clean packaging and branding. Shipping is always free for US orders but at a steep cost: these patches are expensive compared to all of their competitors. You can purchase a box of 30 PatchMD Happy Hour patches, which serve the same function as the Hangover & Jet lag patches, for $29.95, but 25 Akalo patches will cost you $100.
GNC, the gargantuan supplement retailer, is an exception to this list because it doesn’t sell supplement patches. None of the major supplement retailers we looked into do; patches are still a relatively niche market, though that may change in the coming years. However, GNC has a vast selection of supplements in other administrative methods, including pills, liquids, powders, and gummies. GNC may have other options for you at equal or lower costs and higher qualities if you’re tired of pills.
You can read more in our full review of GNC’s products.