Can Taping Your Face Actually Reduce Wrinkles?

Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Using adhesive to temporarily smooth, tighten, and lift the skin is one of Hollywood’s oldest secrets. Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford both used surgical tape (deftly hidden under wigs) to pull their faces taut, both on film and in real life. In her autobiography Beyond the Cleavage, Raquel Welch devotes an entire chapter to her extensive skin care regimen, including her nightly application of Frownies — those flesh-toned butterfly-shaped face stickers your grandma may have used at bedtime. Welch’s caveat: “I don’t like to wear them when other people are around and definitely not when Mr. Wonderful is close by.” Wise move since the patches are basically brown latex bandages. Not sexy, even for Raquel. But in an age of scientific cosmetic advances (Botox, lasers, fillers, Retin-A, and stem cell creams) could something as archaic and simple as putting tape on your face help prevent wrinkles?

Frownies were first invented 100 years ago by anti-aging entrepreneur Margaret Kroesen. In a Grey Gardens–esque beginning, she created the “wrinkle eradicators” to treat her concert pianist daughter’s frown lines. Today Kroesen’s granddaughter runs the company and Frownies are still selling online and at drugstores all over the country, although they’ve gotten competition in the last couple years from another face pasty, Furlesse patches. These are basically Frownies rebooted: latex-free, hypoallergenic, transparent stickers that come in different shapes and sizes specialized for areas of the face, like the “elevens” between the brows, crows feet, lines on the forehead, and around the lips.

Dermatologist Ellen Marmur of Marmur Medical in New York City says that using the patches nightly could actually make a difference over time, helping to prevent repetitive motions (like scrunching or raising your eyebrows) that make wrinkles worse. “People do tend to have deeper, pressure-induced lines on the side they sleep on. Wearing these patches overnight smoothes out the skin and holds it in place, even if your face is pressed into a pillow.” Basically, the patches act like a retainer for your face.

Maybe the Furlesse stickers could smooth out my shar-pei-like forehead? And since I’m a side-sleeper, the squishing of my face could surely be making crow’s feet worse? After cleansing and applying my nightly ablutions, I applied the Furlesse Rows to my forehead, and then to the crows on the outside corner of each eye after I relaxed my facial muscles. The patches aren’t supposed to pull the skin tight, just keep it smooth.

My face looked a little like a UPS package, but underneath the clear packing tape, my skin was as lineless as a baby’s. The patches felt a little weird — they’re stiff polyethylene plastic film, which feels nothing like a soft, malleable Bandaid. They stayed in place all night, and were fairly invisible (transparent but a little shiny). But unless he’s lost his sense of sight and touch, or is completely clueless, any guy will notice that you have these on.

Taking off the patches in the morning was painless, and even tickled a little. But the ironing-out effect didn’t last more than a few minutes. My skin went back to normal the moment I peeled off the patches. (Now I understand why Dietrich and Crawford taped up off-camera, too.)

After one week of using them on my forehead and around my eyes, I didn’t notice any significant improvement, but Marmur points out, “adhesive tape won’t stop the muscles from moving, like Botox does, to relax the wrinkles. And you’d have to wear the patches every night for much more than a week to help prevent sleep-induced wrinkling.” They also don’t increase the collagen and elastin that keep your face plump and youthful. “What would be a real game-changer is if these patches were infused with anti-aging ingredients. Then the pressure from the adhesive would physically push those ingredients into the skin.” In that case I’d tape up before bed, whether there was some Mr. Wonderful next to me or not.