Like many people, I love (and will admit I’m addicted to) coffee. Absorbing caffeine through a patch on my wrist certainly sounds like a more efficient way to wake up.
A new bracelet, called Perk, has adhesive patches that deliver caffeine through your skin. Beyond Nature, the Toronto-based company that created Perk — which racked up $87,000 in funding through an Indiegogo campaign — says it might be the closest thing to a caffeine IV.
Now available in the US online, Perk’s bracelet and a 30-pack of patches sell for $30 (and replacement patches packs cost $30 each). The bracelet, which Beyond Nature says contains about the same amount of caffeine as coffee, sounded too crazy to be true. So I decided to try it.
The morning that I tried the bracelet, my coffee-free subway commute felt rough. By 9 a.m., when I put on the Perk bracelet, I was already experiencing caffeine withdrawal and lacking focus that coffee normally gave me.
To attach the adhesive patch to the wide end of the bracelet, I peeled the paper off the back, stuck it on, and then adjusted the size to make sure the patch touched my wrist. As you can see, like most wearables, the Perk bracelet looks pretty dorky:
The patches are supposed to work much like nicotine patches, administering caffeine gradually over four hours. After 10 minutes of wearing it, I felt a little more awake, but overall, I wondered if the slight pick-me-up was a placebo effect. A half-hour later, I pressed the patch into my wrist, hoping that it would speed up its effectiveness.
After an hour or so, I still felt tired and lacked my normal attention span, but congratulated myself on writing a story. In hindsight, I should have put the bracelet right when I woke up to give the patch a head-start on delivering caffeine before I started the workday.
At 11 a.m., I was still yawning, but noticed I felt a tad more focused and less sluggish. And around noon, I slightly caved and made a cup of English breakfast tea, which has about half the amount of caffeine as coffee.
Since Beyond Nature recommends not wearing the bracelet for longer than four hours, I took it off at 1 p.m.
The verdict: I don’t think I’d try the Perk bracelet again, because the patches didn’t give me an immediate caffeine boost like coffee.
Perk cofounder Adam Paulin tells me that the patches are not designed to provide a jolt like coffee and energy drinks, but rather a consistent feeling of focus and energy. There are also other factors that can affect the wearer’s caffeine absorption rate, like skin moisture and their number of hair follicles, he adds.
As Business Insider’s Melia Robinson reported in early 2016, the adhesive patches are made with guarana extract, which contain twice the caffeine concentration as coffee beans. Guarana can supposedly suppress appetite and reduce mental and physical fatigue, but the US National Library of Medicine says
there’s insufficient evidence to judge its effectiveness. Other ingredients in the patch include flaxseed oil and several amino acids.
Though Beyond Nature makes the patches in an FDA-approved facility, the patches themselves are not FDA-approved. They are made using Current Good Manufacturing Practices, a set of FDA regulations for a product’s monitoring and manufacturing processes and as well as the package design. This distinction allows them to be sold in the US, Paulin says.
The company says there are two main advantages to the Perk bracelet: wearers can get a caffeine fix without bothering with coffee, and they can avoid a crash or jitteriness from said coffee. Beyond Nature isn’t the only company trying to deliver caffeine in creative ways. A startup called Nootrobox makes chewable coffee supplements called Go Cubes. BI’s Lydia Ramsey reviewed them in early 2016, and said she liked that she could control her caffeine consumption, they made for an easier morning routine, and each cube costs less than a latté.
I could see the same benefits applying to the Perk bracelet, but unlike Go Cubes, the caffeine doesn’t kick in immediately.
To be honest, I’ve never considered drinking coffee to be hard or a waste of time. I usually don’t experience crashes or jitters with coffee, either. In my mind, coffee is not something that needs to be disrupted by tech companies, unless they can figure out how to improve the taste of coffee grounds that come in pods.
But if you don’t like the taste of coffee or don’t have enough time to drink it, the Perk bracelet could appeal to you.