One patch to rule the world… or, at the very least, the skin! We’re talking about the acne patch: the sidekick and best friend every individual with acne needs within arm’s reach. The industry is new, and pimple patches are only just starting to see recognition for their potential within the skincare world — read on and we’ll tell you all there is to know thus far!
In this article we discuss the following:
- What is an Acne Patch or Pimple Patch?
- Different Kinds of Acne Patches and Pimple Patches
- Best Acne Patch
- Overall Best Pimple Patch
What is an Acne Patch or Pimple Patch?
They creep up through the skin and find refuge right there on our face. They throb, they bleed, they may even scar. They are known, not fondly, by the street names zits, spots, and good old Mount Vesuvius.
They are pimples. And they do not come in peace.
We’re sure we weren’t the only ones who heard the hallelujah chorus when acne patches emerged within the skincare world. An acne patch, or pimple patch, is a sticky piece of medicated paper that can be applied directly over a pimple and left as an overnight treatment.
For individuals who battle active acne, a good skincare routine should involve an acne-fighting cleanser (suited to the individual’s skin), and a targeted spot treatment used to tackle breakouts. Spot treatments, up until now, have been mostly comprised of what are known as ‘zit sticks’: a tube of potent, medicated formulas that work to kill off bacteria and dehydrate problem spots.
Acne patches are small (usually circular) hydrocolloid sheets that stick to the skin. Essentially, these patches detect the pimple beneath them, and begin by creating a vacuum-effect, pulling fluid, dirt and oil away from the infected area.
The patch then seals the pulled impurities in a gel-like substance that resides in the back of the sheet, far away from the now cleaner and purer pimple. If that’s not an acne goal, we don’t know what is!
According to Dr. Yoram Harth, Board Certified Dermatologist, Medical Director of MDacne, “Pimple patches provide a moist, protected environment for pimples that heal more quickly than with standard spot treatments or pimples left on their own. Also called, “hydrocolloid patches”, these small stickers are essentially a miniature version of high-tech bandages used in the hospitals to cure stubborn skin ulcers.”
So, do acne stickers actually work? The general consensus seems to be “yes”. This comes as little surprise, as acne patches were initially an innovation of K-beauty. This industry has not been one to let us down in the past, and they weren’t about to start with zit stickers.
Perhaps some of the effectiveness of pimple patches lies in the fact that they bind to the skin in question, removing all temptation on the part of the user to touch their face, whilst also guaranteeing that the spot treatment is at no risk of being rubbed off by a pillowcase or duvet while we snooze.
Dr. Harth also points out that since hydrocolloid pimple patches work by absorbing fluid (i.e., pus!), they work best on blemishes with a head (a visible white point with pus).
“For early-stage pimples (red or inflamed but without clear fluids under the skin), stick to your active acne treatment creams, which will fight the active bacteria and reduce inflammation. If and when a pimple comes to a head, you can apply a hydrocolloid patch to absorb the pus and speed up the remaining healing process,” says Dr. Harth.
Different Kinds of Acne Patches and Pimple Patches
Ordinary Acne Patch
The acne patch market is diverse, and all brands will have a different formula that they believe works best for the purpose of oil pulling into the hydrocolloid sheets. Some brands opt for active ingredients, while others choose to keep things plant based and ‘natural’.
Even non-medicated acne patches, with just hydrocolloid material on them, retain the ability to pull fluid out of medium-sized whiteheads. It’s really only the larger pimples that need more aggressive patch formulas. That being said, one might prefer the experience of using active ingredient patches on mild acne due to the more potent effects.
Common additions to medicated acne patches are salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These both seep deep into the skin while you sleep and work to treat the affected area, usually resulting in a more even complexion by the time the sun comes up.
The following types of acne call for the following types of patches:
- Papules – Medicated
- Pustules – Medicated
- Pimples – Non-medicated
- Whiteheads – Non-medicated
What we love most about pimple patches is that you can see them working, even though you can’t actually see them working. What we mean is that these patches are so effective in their roles that they actually turn from clear to white, and expand as the job gets done. The patches can only expand as the impurities are sucked backward and form part of the gel; we would be very wary of any patch brands that claim to treat pimples but stay the same color and thickness in the process.
Benefits of Acne Patch
Our main motivation to support the pimple patch movement is due to its ability to help reduce and prevent facial scarring. Active acne that is squeezed and popped by hand is far more likely to scar. Deep acne disrupts the facial tissue with intense inflammation; in the process of attempting to remove the bacteria and inflammation with force, the collagen within the skin can be permanently compromised.
“Pimple patches are a great way to stop those compulsive pickers from touching and trying to pop the pimples,” says Britta Brauer, founder and director of KOJA Beauty.
With acne stickers, there is no physical force administered onto the skin in the process of extracting the bacteria and waste. It is sucked backward very gently in a vacuum-like manner, leaving little to no damage to the collagen or deep tissue. Often, when popping pimples, we end up pushing more dirt and bacteria into the open wound in the process. The patches remove this risk entirely, as there is only an outward suction taking place, and no route back in.
Further, Dr. Harth points out that research has shown that pimples treated with hydrocolloid patches healed faster and with less post-acne hyperpigmentation than pimples that were not treated with pimple patches.
We’ve referred repeatedly to wearing acne patches during slumber. This is the most recommended time to wear a patch as one is somewhat hidden from the outside world. This is preferred by most people, as sporting a sticker on one’s cheek hasn’t been considered cool since Nelly made it a craze in the 2000s.
Zit patches don’t have to be worn overnight. If you’re comfortable walking around with a patch on your face by day, be our guest! This is particularly ideal if you have an event in the evening, and need to get rid of a spot during the morning and afternoon.
Likewise, acne patches can be worn during quite strenuous exercise, including yoga. Most spot treatments would be rubbed off during such extreme activities, but the patches seal onto the skin and are not usually affected by sweat running over them. This also keeps the sweat from further compromising the infected pores.
It goes without saying, then, that pimple patches should not be worn over make up if possible. While the patch will likely consider any present make up as dirt, and pull it from the skin, it is generally just better to not put that added barrier between your pimple and the patch.
Microneedle Pimple Patches
Just when we thought pimple patches couldn’t get more technical, out they come with a version involving the concept of ‘microneedling’.
These aren’t as complicated, or as threatening, as they sound. We have already discussed the types of patches required for whiteheads, papules, pustules, and regular pimples, but we now need to look at methods of treating the more sever forms of acne: namely, deep nodular or cystic acne. This is where microneedling pimple patches come in.
Microneedling acne patches are used when cystic or nodular acne is present on the face or neck. These patches contain dissolving microneedles on one side of the sheet. When applied to the skin, the needles work to penetrate the tough layer of skin that tends to protect cysts and nodules, allowing the necessary mediation to get to where it can be most effective.
Microneedling pimple patches are always made with active ingredients. Non-medicated patches are essentially rendered useless on this kind of acne, as the inflammation and infection is so severe.
There is a very distinct window in which a microneedle acne patch is able to perform effectively. Cystic acne is such that, over time, the cysts embed deeper and deeper into the skin, forming a thick, impenetrable layer between them and the outside world. The protective layer of skin becomes hard and dense, making it difficult for treatment to be applied from the outside without an invasive procedure.
Patches with microneedles embedded within them can target cystic acne so long as the cysts are within a certain depth of the outermost layer of skin. The minute they pass a certain threshold of depth, the needles are no long able to penetrate deep enough to deliver medicine to the cystic source.
Anyone battling cystic or nodular acne will know that anything is worth a try, and so we always encourage our readers to at least attempt to treat their problem areas using these patches before ruling them out entirely. You might think that your cysts qualify as those that are ‘too deep’, but we’ve been surprised by these patches and their ability to reach areas deep within the skin.
In general, unless a user has an allergy, there are no significant risks to using microneedling acne patches; it seems they either work, or they don’t.
The one thing all users need to keep in mind, however, is that the needles penetrate themselves into the skin upon contact. As a result, and if there is any bacteria on said needles, it’s going into the skin as well.
Accordingly, it’s imperative not to accidentally touch, or lay down, the side of the patch containing the needles prior to applying them to the skin. The needles will pick up and hold harmful bacteria from hands and surfaces, and deliver them to your already problematic regions. So, be careful and take care!
Best Acne Patch
Our favorite acne patches come from all over the world. We’ve loved watching the market grow over the past few years. We have also loved seeing some of our most trusted skincare brands hop on the pimple patch bandwagon.
These are the names we know and love. The patches can be purchased at most department stores, directly via the internet, or from certain pharmacies. Take note of the treatment properties of each as you keep your personal skin conditions in mind.
The Might Patch is the brainchild of Hero Cosmetics, which is a Korean line founded by a wonderful woman named Ju. Ju battled her own acne for years, finding no relief in peroxide-formulas or even concealers. She took matters into her own hands and created the Mighty Patch.
Within the Mighty Patch range, you’ll have the choice of five different types of patches targeting five different types of skin. There are ordinary, non-medicated patches, microneedling patches and medicinal patches. There are also invisible patches for daywear, and oversized patches for those visits from Mount Vesuvius.
Hero sells a variety box of patches for individuals who want to own a little of everything. This is especially beneficial to those suffering from different types of acne at once. Their website also contains a bundle offer whereby one can buy full boxes of all of their products at a discounted rate.
Cosrx Pimple Patch
The COSRX master patches are effective, and cheap. What we did to deserve them we’ll never know.
This Korean brand has been critically acclaimed for the stay-power of their hydrocolloid circles. Users report having worn them into saunas and steam rooms, without the patches budging from their place on the skin.
These are non-medicated patches, making them most ideal for use on whiteheads and common pimples. The range offers three different patch sizes (7mm, 10mm, and 12mm) to accommodate all sufferers of this kind of acne. There are also some clear options as COSRX is a popular brand for people to wear by day, rather than by night.
“Since they are see-through you can just stick them on your face even when you’re on the go (I have encountered a lot of Koreans with pimple patches on their faces during the day). While they are not that noticeable, you will still see them when you get up close,” says Brauer.
If there’s any skincare industry that we trust outside of Korea, it’s the industry in Australia. Zitsticka is Australia’s addition to the pimple patch market, and we’ve been nothing short of impressed by their contribution.
The Zitsticka range is now available in the West. They offer two main types of blemish patches, one for “newfound zits” and another for “dark spots”. They call them their KillaKit and their Hyperfade, respectively.
Even the more gentle patch contains microneedles that dissolve within the first two hours of kissing the skin. Two hours is Zitsticka’s minimum time for application, making these the best acne stickers to use on short notice. Unexpected Tinder date find its way to you on the day of? Zitsticka can sort out that mound on your face just in time.
For best results, it’s always great to leave a Zitsticka patch on overnight. As with most products coming from Australia, these babies do not run cheap. Prepare to splurge on a pack of just 8 patches. Beauty is pain, and money.
Hanhoo Blemish Patch
Another brand offering three sides of blemish patches offering hydrocolloid technology. This time, the patches are actually affordable!
For just a few dollars you can become the owner of 36 or 72 blemish patches that come with the added bonus of being completely drug and cruelty free. These sanitary patches were formulated by Hanhoo with the intention of providing active blemishes with an environment that stimulates healing, instead of hindering it.
We particularly love how breathable Hanhoo patches are. One can wear them all day without noticing them much, provided the skin beneath them was properly cleansed and dried prior to application.
You’ll know the patch is working when it begins to turn white from being filled with impurities. These are non-medicated patches and suitable for use on whiteheads and pimples. We do not recommend these for any kind of cystic acne.
Nexcare Acne Patch
For the average person, Nexcare’s acne absorbing covers are the best acne patches money can buy. Overall, they are extremely reasonably priced, and have managed to stay this way by never attempting to break into the niche market.
These are simple patches that do what they say they’re going to do. Nexcare has not wasted time on clever marketing tactics or alluring packaging, and we’re all for it!
We recommend the Nexcare stickers to individuals with particularly sensitive skin. This might seem like a no brainer, because isn’t all skin suffering from active acne naturally sensitive? The answer is no, not really. We’re referring here to the condition of the individual’s non-affected skin and how it tends to react to everyday products.
All we’re saying is this: these Nexcare patches are highly unlikely to disrupt one’s healthy skin in the process of treating the infected skin. A win-win, as they say.
Clearasil Overnight Spot Patches
It was only a matter of time before the leading name in blemish-fighting technology joined the pimple patch game.
Clearasil’s spot patches are designed to work most effectively overnight. They’ve adapted the hydrocolloid technology in order to create patches that create the perfect enclosed environment for pimple healing to take place.
The patches won’t dry out the skin, which is not something that can usually be said about Clearasil products. Inflammation seems to be no match when met by these patches overnight, but if you’re someone who wants the flexibility of wearing acne stickers by day as well, then these are probably not the patches for you.
What is wonderful about Clearasil’s patches is that they are generally available wherever other Clearsil products are sold, making them easily accessible to the average consumer. A short walk to the corner drugstore could have you wearing a Clearasil patch before the clock strikes midnight.
Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots
Random breakouts, of different levels of severity, can be difficult to treat when a skincare brand offers just one size of acne sticker. Peach Slices saw this problem, predicted widespread demand, and developed their own hydrocolloid sheets that come in a pack of 30 size-varied spot dots.
Peach Slices received further praise as their patches are the most easy to wear along with makeup. Individuals who need to target a pimple during the day can almost seamlessly blend these stickers into the rest of their face, leaving little visibility of the patch itself.
That being said, the brand itself does not advertise that individuals should use these patches whilst wearing facial cosmetics. They know that optimum results come from properly cleansed and dried skin, and these patches are most effective when worn for a minimum of 8 hours.
Avarelle Acne Patch
We have a soft spot for Avarelle due to its founder, James Oh, and his selfless quest to cure the acne of his wife. He recounts how she had been suffering from active acne for as long as he had known her, and her condition worsened quite significantly once she began having children and her hormones went in many different directions.
He began experimenting with small patches of material soaking in his own acne-fighting formulas, and encouraged her to wear them as she slept so that he could monitor the results come morning.
Now Avarelle is bringing this acne-fighting technology to the world in a range of different patches suitable for all skin types.
Within the acne cover patch Avarelle range, there are regular spot patches, extra large spot patches, morning spot patches, and evening spot patches. Avarelle uses natural ingredients as much as possible in their formula. They are big on soothing plant oils as a way of fighting inflammation.
Rael Acne Patch
We have an even softer spot for this particular skincare brand. Rael lives by the mantra “nature meets nurture”; it is from this vantage point that they have formulated their entire skincare range.
The brand celebrates women, the Earth and everything conscious. They believe that these elements should be intertwined when it comes to skincare, and if there are any formulas that are going to change the world, they will be found in nature.
Rael’s acne patches are 100% vegan friendly; this is uncommon within the pimple sticker industry as it currently stands (new technology is almost always tested on animals in the initial phases).
Their patches are midrange between affordable and expensive, which is wonderful considering the lengths they have to go to keep everything natural and cruelty free. Their goal is to make their skincare products accessible to every woman (or man) in the world, and at present they are available in 19 countries. Rael also give back significant portions of their profits in an effort to provide impoverished communities with menstrual products.
KoKo Beauty were one of the first brands to offer microneedle patches to the acne-treatment world. Their formula seems to be the perfect balance of active, yet natural, with their key ingredients being that of hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, and oligopeptide-76.
Acropass doesn’t claim to be a one stop shop for rapid acne treatment. They realize the depth and intensity of cystic and nodular acne, and offer noticeable results after two nights of consecutive patch use.
Each pack contains six patches, and six cleansing wipes that should be used to prepare the surface of the skin. We absolutely love that Acropass has opted out of using any fragrances, parabens, mineral oils, and silicones in their formulas, making these some of the most natural acne patches on the market. A true no frills, no nonsense brand — bravo!
Alba Botanica Pimple Patches
Alba are another brand who quietly emerged onto the pimple patch scene without making too much of a fuss about their effective product. You’ll find them in smaller drugstores and certain department stores.
Another product that can be described as no frills and no nonsense, Alba’s pack of patches contains 100 carefully formulated stickers made entirely of vegetarian ingredients. In addition, they are certified cruelty free.
Alba is widely known for their gentle acne-fighting range of skincare products. Alongside these patches, you’ll also find some really effective deep pore cleaners, acne treatment gels, and acne targeting serums.
We imagine that using their entire range throughout a skincare routine will only work to benefit the user over time. These ingredients are highly complementary to one another.
CVS Acne Patch
It has become the goal of all producers of acne patches to find their way into the retail list at local and international pharmacies. It’s not common for commercial pharmacies to carry holistic skincare products that aren’t backed by a big brand name, but the rise in acne patches seems to bring about some exceptions.
CVS is one of the leading pharmacy chains in the West, and has been at the forefront of stocking the majority of the acne-treatment brands mentioned above. Avarelle acne patches, as well as the spot dots by Peach Slices, have been some of the CVS best sellers.
Overall Best Pimple Patch
This is a tough call, and one that needs to keep in mind that the best pimple patch for one individual may be the absolute least effective for another.
Pimple patches work with the skin in question. If you’re suffering from nodular acne, deep within your dermis layer, you’ll likely find all brands of medicated and non-medicated patches totally ineffective. They just can’t get to where your body needs them most. In these cases, microneedling patches will be the best patches for you.
Likewise, if you find yourself with a few active whiteheads on any given day, and attempt to treat them with your leftover microneedling patches from months prior, you’re likely to cause more harm than good. Whiteheads are already as close to the surface of the skin as they could possibly be, and the needles could actually end up pushing the pus and bacteria back into the deep skin layers, creating opportunity for cystic acne to form.
If we have to choose our overall best pimple patches, they would be as follows:
Overall Best Non-Medicated Pimple Patch
A tough call to make, but we remain ever impressed by the COSRX pimple patches and the brand itself. The price is difficult to beat; even their competitor brands remain totally unable to match their low retail rates.
We particularly appreciate the fact that one can wear these patches over a pimple and sit through a sauna, yoga class or HIIT workout without it moving a millimeter. However, do keep in mind that these non-medicated patches are no match for severe pimples and whiteheads.
Affordability, effectiveness and convenience — in our opinion, there are no better non-medicated patches than those by COSRX.
Overall Best Medicated Pimple Patch
If your acne is a bit more complicated and/or you’re suffering from papules and/or pustules, then it’s a medicated pimple patch that you need to look out for.
The Mighty Patch by Hero Cosmetics would be our go-to in those circumstances. We just love how much careful consideration has gone into their formulations of not one but five different types of acne-treatment technology.
Their medicated patches are what finally cured Hero’s founder, Ju, of her persistent acne problems that seemed resistant to all other types of treatments and concealers. We very much respect any woman who makes it out of an experience like that with a positive attitude and a will to help others in the world struggling with the same issues.
We also love that their combo-packs cater to individuals who might need medicated patches on one area of the face, and non-medicated, or even microneedling, patches elsewhere. This is a one stop shop for even the most severe cases of acne.
Overall Best Pimple Patch for Cystic Acne
We believe in giving credit where it is due, and Zitsticka definitely deserves a second mention as the overall best cystic acne patch.
While their KillaKit is a microneedling patch force to be reckoned with, this product is more gentle and actually targeted toward the emergence of new acne still in the formation phase. Deep tissue, cystic acne is best treated with their more potent Hyperfade technology, by which each patch features 24 dissolving needles that shoot deep into the skin in just two hours.
Cystic acne tends to stick around long after the cysts themselves have subsided. This is because of the intense damage that occurs deep inside of the dermis, which can appear to be permanent. The Hyperfade kit by Zitsticka tackles just that, working to regenerative the skin back to its original quality.
As mentioned, the Zitsticka range is not cheap, but the products offer results that far outweigh their competitors. If you’re battling cystic or nodular acne, you’ll likely find this a worthwhile expense to take on as a biweekly treatment. There are 12 patches in each box of Zitsticka.
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