This post is sponsored by Vice Reversa.
Dissolving microneedle patches are a relatively new technology. They’ve been researched for use in medicine for delivering vaccines, human growth hormone and insulin, but they’ve been showing up in skincare recently too, especially in Asia and K-beauty. Vice Reversa is the first brand with these patented dissolving microneedle patches that you can get widely in store in Australia (they’re distributed through Priceline, and can be purchased online as well).
Dissolving microneedle patches consist of a sticky bandage (in Vice Reversa’s case, a hydrocolloid bandage) with a water-soluble chip on top that’s covered in tiny pyramid-shaped microneedles. Vice Reversa has two types: a bean-shaped anti-wrinkle patch that fits the undereye and smile lines, and a round pimple patch. They look like this:
And if you zoom in:
What Do Microneedles Do?
Microneedling with tools like dermarollers and dermastampers has been popular recently, for both increasing delivery of active skincare ingredients and for skin rejuvenation. What’s the point of poking yourself with tiny needles? It’s to do with your skin’s anatomy.
The outermost layer of your skin is the stratum corneum. It’s made of tightly packed dead skin cells (keratinocytes), with intercellular lipids (fatty molecules) sitting in between them, a bit like bricks and mortar. It’s a thin layer, only about 10 to 15 micrometres thick, but it makes a fantastic barrier.
This barrier is really useful since it stops water and other essential things inside our bodies from leaking out into the environment, and it also stops toxins and irritants from the environment from leaking in. But when it comes to skincare, it’s not as great – we actually want ingredients to penetrate into our skin to where they can work!
Some skincare ingredients with the right properties can penetrate through our skin barrier, but many of them can’t get in. That’s why lots of products are formulated with penetration enhancers to help them get into the skin.
Microneedles are a really clever way of increasing the delivery of skincare actives that can’t be done with conventional skincare products. The needles go through the skin barrier and create little tunnels for the ingredients to get through.
The length of the microneedles makes a huge difference. Longer needles can get into the dermis, which is why you might’ve seen microneedling videos online where there’s a ton of blood. But shorter microneedles can be designed to go deep enough to get past the dead stratum corneum, but not so deep that you can feel any pain or end up with any bleeding.
How do dissolving microneedles work?
There are a few different types of microneedles. There are solid steel microneedles, like the type you see in dermarollers and dermastampers, and there are hollow microneedles, which can be used to inject ingredients. Then there’s dissolving microneedles.
Dissolving microneedles gently penetrate the stratum corneum to reach the living epidermis, then slowly dissolve to deliver the active ingredients inside them. The needles are made of water-soluble ingredients, so they can dissolve when they’re applied and meet the water in your skin. After they dissolve and deliver the active ingredients (around 2 hours), there’s no solid material left in the skin so the risk of irritation is very low.
Vice Reversa’s products use trehalose, a type of sugar, and cellulose gum (also called carboxymethyl cellulose or CMC), in addition to the active ingredients. The needles are each about a third of the width of a human hair, and have a square pyramid shape.
A few studies have found that dissolving microneedle patches worked better than essences with the same ingredients:
- Melatonin, arbutin, niacinamide, and tranexamic acid for skin brightening
- Hyaluronic acid for decreasing crow’s feet
- Adenosine for decreasing crow’s feet wrinkles (there was also 140 times less adenosine in the patch!)
As well as delivering active ingredients, there’s also some evidence that the microneedles themselves can be beneficial, much like how solid microneedles can stimulate the skin to repair itself. For example, another study found that an adenosine-containing wrinkle cream worked around as well as a hyaluronic acid microneedle patch with no other active ingredients.
But unlike dermarollers and dermastampers, there’s no concerns about sterilising equipment or spreading infections. The patches are single use and stay in the one place on your skin.
There’s also an extra benefit: putting active ingredients into microneedles can also help them last longer without degrading.
Vice Reversa’s Patches
Vice Reversa currently have two products: Pimple Patches and Plumping Patches, containing active ingredients targeted for treating acne and decreasing fine lines and wrinkles, respectively.
Vice Reversa Pimple Patches
Vice Reversa Pimple Patches (8 patches for $39.95 AUD) are small circular hydrocolloid stickers with stiff microneedle patches stuck on top.
The microneedles contain ingredients that act to kill acne bacteria and decrease inflammation, two of the main factors that cause acne. The ingredients in the patches include:
- Totarol: an antimicrobial compound that comes from yew and cypress trees and has been found to act against Propionibacterium acnes.
- Salicylic acid: also called beta-hydroxy acid, it’s a chemical exfoliant that can unclog pores, and acts as an anti-inflammatory as well.
- Hyaluronic acid: a humectant, water-holding ingredient that’s already present in your skin. It decreases as you age, which is partly why your skin looks less plump as you get older.
- Green tea extract (EGCG): a popular antioxidant ingredient that has anti-inflammatory effects.
- Madecassoside: a terpenoid ingredient from Centella asiatica, the key botanical ingredient in “cica” products that are super popular in K-beauty products at the moment. It could help skin heal faster and reduce any post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) that hangs around after the pimple heals, and is also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Ingredients: Trehalose, Cellulose Gum, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Aqua, Butylene Glycol, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Madecassoside, Epigallocatechin Gallate, Salicylic Acid, Totarol, Ethoxydiglycol.
The pimple patches are a two-for-one deal – the needles deliver the anti-acne actives deep into the skin, then the hydrocolloid bandage protects the area and draws out gunk.
Vice Reversa Plumping Patches
Vice Reversa Plumping Patches (8 patches for $79.95 AUD) have bean-shaped arrays of microneedles, so they fit nicely around your eye and in the smile lines around the mouth. They contain a bunch of anti-aging ingredients:
- Hyaluronic acid: A humectant moisturiser that’s naturally found in your skin and decreases as you age. Putting it back into skin as a moisturiser can help plump up skin and prevent dehydration, since dehydrated skin is one of the main causes of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Collagen: This is usually just a humectant moisturiser, since it can’t get through the stratum corneum, but because of the microneedles this is much less of an issue. Adding broken (hydrolysed) collagen to the skin can stimulate it to produce more collagen, which is how collagen supplements could potentially work.
- Adenosine: An anti-inflammatory ingredient that could potentially increase collagen, and has been found to decrease wrinkles.
- Madecassoside: also in the Pimple Patches. It’s an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory terpenoid extracted from Centella asiatica (from K-beauty “cica” products) that could help skin heal faster and reduce hyperpigmentation.
- Peptides: There are some peptides that have been found to be beneficial for skin, although there’s very little independent clinical data. This patch contains a few popular ones:
- Acetyl hexapeptide-8 (also known as Argireline): it’s a section of Botox, which could potentially relax wrinkles slightly
- Copper tripeptide-1 (GHK-Cu): thought to increase copper delivery to skin, has been found to increase collagen, elastin, proteoglycan and glycosaminoglycan production
- Palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 (Matrixyl or Pal-KTTKS): increases production of collagen, elastin and glucosaminoglycans, can decrease photoaging and wrinkles
The needles themselves could also act to make the skin regenerate itself, like a mild version of microneedling with dermarollers. The microtrauma caused by the needles stimulates the skin’s regenerative response.
Ingredients: Trehalose, Cellulose Gum, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Aqua, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Butylene Glycol, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Madecassoside, Adenosine, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Copper Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PPG-26 Buteth-26, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
How to use dissolving microneedle patches
Because the microneedles are water soluble, it’s important not to let them get into contact with water before they have a chance to penetrate your skin – otherwise the effectiveness will decrease! This includes humidity in the air, and water on your hands or your skin’s surface.
The Pimple Patches come in a resealable ziplock bag with a dessicant packet inside to keep the needles fresh (the Plumping Patches are sealed in pairs since they’re designed to be used immediately after opening).
- Wash your skin, and dry it thoroughly.
- Making sure your hands are dry, take the patches out of the protective case and remove them from the protective film. Make sure you don’t touch the microneedles in the middle of the patch, since they can break.
- Place the patch with the microneedle side down on the area of skin to be treated.
- Gently press the patch into place to help the needles penetrate. Don’t rub the patch.
- Leave in place for at least two hours, although it’s best to leave it overnight.
- Peel off and you’re done!
It’s recommended that you use the Pimple Patches at the first sign of a pimple, and the Plumping Patches twice a week to begin with.
My experience with microneedling patches
These patches sounded a little intimidating at first, but I shouldn’t have worried! I personally found that there’s a slightly coarse feeling when you first apply the patches, but it goes away quickly. It’s not painful or uncomfortable, and doesn’t feel like a dermaroller at all – it feels more like there’s a slightly stiff piece of fabric touching you.
The plumping patches contain popular and effective actives like peptides and adenosine, which can penetrate deeper into skin than other anti-aging products. The microneedles can also stimulate skin rejuvenation on their own. I don’t really have many fine lines (yay oily skin!), so I couldn’t see much change with the plumping patches. They started off feeling a little stiff, but within a few minutes they warmed and started to soften, and became almost unnoticeable.
Vice Reversa’s pimple patches contain some great science-backed actives that are trending in K-beauty, like green tea extract, centella extract, salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid. I found that they stopped developing pimples in their tracks and calmed them down significantly after a few hours.
The pimple patches didn’t work as quickly on a couple of giant cystic hormonal pimples I tried them on, but those are very deep under the skin, so I didn’t really expect a miracle there. But on shallower pimples, the pimple patches worked really well – they stopped them in their tracks and reversed their progress, calming them down significantly after a few hours. This was much better than watching them get worse like they normally would!
Here’s a before and after of one pimple I had. It was a hard and inflamed bump in the morning. I took the first photo before I put the patch on at 11 am, then took the patch off at 5 pm and waited an hour for the sticker mark to disappear. The pimple area was almost completely flat – it was still a little red, but nowhere near the red angry spot it was in the morning!
I was really surprised when I saw the two photos side by side – while the results were obvious to me (the nasty pressure from the pimple was completely gone), I didn’t expect to see such a huge difference on camera!
Using them overnight is even better – I found that the fact they were attached to a hydrocolloid bandage really nifty, since the hydrocolloid bandage can continue to suck out gunk from the pimple afterwards.
Vice Reversa patches can be purchased in Priceline stores and online through vicereversaskin.com.
Kim YC, Park JH & Prausnitz MR, Microneedles for drug and vaccine delivery (open access), Adv Drug Deliv Rev 2012, 64, 1547-1568. DOI: 10.1016/j.addr.2012.04.005
Park KY, Kwon HJ, Lee C, et al Efficacy and safety of a new microneedle patch for skin brightening: a randomized, split-face, single-blind study, J Cosmet Dermatol 2017, 16, 382–387. DOI: 10.1111/jocd.12354
Hong, JY, Ko, EJ, Choi, SY, et al. Efficacy and safety of a novel, soluble microneedle patch for the improvement of facial wrinkle, J Cosmet Dermatol 2018, 17, 235–241. DOI: 10.1111/jocd.12426
Kang G , Tu TN, Kim S et al., Adenosine‐loaded dissolving microneedle patches to improve skin wrinkles, dermal density, elasticity and hydration, Int J Cosmet Sci 2018, 40: 199–206. DOI: 10.1111/ics.12453
Choi SY, Kwon HJ, Ahn GR et al., Hyaluronic acid microneedle patch for the improvement of crow’s feet wrinkles, Dermatologic Therapy 2017, e12546. DOI: 10.1111/dth.12546
This post is sponsored by Vice Reversa; however, the content is all based on my independent research and my honest experience. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.