This trendy adhesive acne spot treatment is quick, inexpensive, and travel-friendly. Here's why they're all the rage right now, and the best ones to buy.

By Dan Nosowitz
Updated March 13, 2019

Move over, messy spot treatments. There's a new pimple-erasing superpower in town, and it's in the form of a bandage-like patch.

Image courtesy of Zitsticka.

The devotion you find in people who use pimple patches can be startling. “When I think about my life before I discovered the world of pimple patches, I actually shudder,” writes Rio Viera-Newton in the Strategist. So what are they? And how do they work?

Pimple patches, or acne patches, first took off in Korea before making their way to North America in the past couple of years. Proponents swear by their ability to quickly and effectively destroy pimples. But there are actually a few different types, and you’ll want to know which one you’re getting, because they work very differently.

The original pimple patches, $11.99 for 24, and still probably the most popular, are hydrocolloid patches. These are, basically, vacuums: the material used is highly attracted to water, so when you stick it on a pimple (which, really, is an open wound—sorry for the image), it hoovers out fluid. But it also keeps that fluid in place, which keeps the pimple from drying out and cracking or getting flaky.

Some hydrocolloid patches also have other acne treatments on them, like triclosan or salicylic acid—the same stuff in cloths and creams. But because the patch isolates just the area you’re focusing on, and because it’s sucking out all the fluid, it can do a much better job than those products.

The other main type of pimple patch is a simple treatment patch (try Acne-Clear Invisible Dots, $23.96) ; basically, these are just hydrocolloid patches without the hydrocolloid. These are more like bandages with some classic acne-fighting ingredients, like salicylic acid and tea tree oil, on them. They do have some benefits over creams and wipes, though; they protect against rubbing or irritation, they block UV light, and they’re easy to apply. Those are all true of hydrocolloid patches, too, though. Matter of fact, they’d be true of a Band-Aid.

A newer crop of pimple patches are an evolution of those simple treatment patches. Instead of simply sitting on top of the pimple, these products, from companies like Acropass and ZitSticka, use microneedles to drive medication like salicylic acid more deeply into the skin. Those who have used them say they don’t hurt at all, and the microneedles do dissolve, so don’t worry that this’ll feel like you’re tattooing your pimple.

Pimple patches have the stamp of approval from dermatologists, and they’ve been studied as far back as 2006 (in South Korea, of course). The most important thing about them, though? Make sure to clean your face first. Then slap on that sticker and enjoy its blemish-blasting power.


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