Pimple patches are everywhere—popping up overnight just like the breakouts these fun-size spot treatments are designed to fix.
And like all new skin care categories that appear out of nowhere and then seem to be everywhere all at once, we have questions. Most of which we hope to answer right here (useful!) with a non-exhaustive but still rather comprehensive guide to pimple patches (enjoyable!).
What are pimple patches?
Pimple patches take their cues (if they could do such things) from medical-grade, moisture-absorbing hydrocolloid dressings which are designed to heal wounds and keep them from becoming infected. You can think of pimple patches as petite, breakout-safe versions of these, as they too call on hydrocolloid to do their job, doubling as a treatment that (safely) draws out gunk while keeping both bacteria and picky fingers at bay.
“A pimple patch is usually a circular or rectangular hydrocolloid patch,” says esthetician and Content Whiz, Starr Kutchins. “You place them over a blemish that has come to a head or has been ‘popped’ and it works to absorb any drainage from the blemish while also protecting your skin from any further damage or infection.”
Usually, these spot treatments are simply the aforementioned hydrocolloid patches, designed to act as a barrier between you, the world and your pimple but of late more advanced patches, infused with all sorts of pimple-quashing ingredients, have begun popping up too. Brands like Zitsticka and Peach Slices infuse their patches with ingredients designed to clear/calm/heal pimples at every stage of their lifecycle. These guys call on micro-dart technology which is a rather fancy way of saying the patches gently penetrate the skin via teeny, tiny ‘darts’ that help deliver the ingredients deeper into the skin/pimple.
Who should use pimple patches?
Literally anyone can use/enjoy/reap the benefits of pimple patches, though be mindful of following instructions and of extra ingredients that might be lurking in patches to ensure skin/breakouts aren’t irritated.
“I feel like clients don't even realise it's an option,” Starr says of using, adding, “I often encourage them not to extract blemishes themselves [and] I usually recommend patches without any additives like tea tree oil or salicylic acid unless you are 100% sure your skin isn't sensitised to it,” says Starr.
What should you be cautious of when buying pimple patches?
Not all patches are made equal and some may cause more harm than good if you’re not careful about the ingredients you're reaching for or the quality of the patch.
“Always make sure you are buying pimple patches that are made of hydrocolloid,” Starr warns. “There are some out there that are just plastic or other materials that will not help absorb and protect your blemishes.”
What are the benefits of pimple patches?
As mentioned, pimple patches can be a great way to stop picking at breakouts while also treating a pimple before, during and after its formation. Patches impregnated with ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide can help with newly formed, deeper blemishes while patches with Vitamin C, licorice root extract and centella asiatica extract can be used to help with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH/pimple ghosts).
And while some patches are designed with acne or blemish management in mind, others aim to celebrate and bring a joyful, acne-positive slant to breakouts. Case in point: US-based brands Starface (not available in Australia) and Squish Beauty, which sell star and flower-shaped patches, respectively. For these brands, patches are more celebratory and something to be worn out and proudly.
Where do pimple patches sit in your skin care routine?
Instructions may differ slightly from brand to brand, but always ensure the area is freshly cleansed and free of skin care/SPF/chicken salt before applying the patch. Usually, patches need to be worn for multiple hours, so evening is often recommended for application but if you need the help of a patch, there’s no harm in wearing them during the day either, especially if it will stop you from picking.
Just be sure to pair with SPF post-patch, especially if you’re concerned about PIH or using AHAs, BHAs or retinoids to treat breakouts.