This article originally appeared in the September 11th, 2020 edition of *AEDIT*
Written by Beth Shapouri
If 2020 had a skincare mascot, surely the pimple patch would be in the running. Between the stress of life during the COVID-19 pandemic and the new reality of mask-induced breakouts (a.k.a. maskne), it seems even people who don’t usually have reactive skin are suddenly looking for solutions to cure a pimple in a hurry. Fortunately, beauty brands are answering the call with fast-acting, acne-fighting stickers made to whip pimples into submission faster while protecting the bumps from further irritation.
How Pimple Patches Work
“Acne patches have been a rising trend,” says Marie Hayag, MD, board certified dermatologist and founder of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics in NYC. “Their popularity originated in Asia, and they have now made Amazon’s top 100 best-selling products and for good reason.” When left on from anywhere from two to 24 hours (depending on your tolerance for having a sticker on your face), many people find they help deflate a red, throbbing pimple in no time.
These mini stick-on treatments are moisture-retentive, waterproof hydrocolloid dressings that draw inspiration from the breathable coverings used to speed wound-healing of any kind by keeping the area moist and blocking bacteria. What’s more? They “pull dirt and oil from the problem area, while increasing penetration of acne-curing ingredients like salicylic acid,” says Jason Emer, MD, a board certified cosmetic dermatologist in West Hollywood.
In other words, they treat while absorbing any (brace yourself) oozing gunk coming from a comedone and prevent you from picking at it all at the same time. While not totally invisible, they are usually matte and clear, so they can be worn while out and about if you dare. Otherwise, you can think of them as an overnight fix.
Pimple patches typically work best on blemishes that are either close to or currently at the surface of the skin — though some have now added microdart technology that is better for treating cysts. Hydrocolloid patches alone will help heal pimples, but many of the newer patches contain ingredients like tea tree oil, aloe, and even retinol for additional treatment and skincare benefits.
Pimple Patches to Try Now
If you’re now wondering where these small helpers have been all your life, find the best, newest, and most advanced picks below.
THE SOOTHER: PEACE OUT ACNE HEALING DOTS
Attention anyone dealing with both a breakout and friction-induced irritation after a day of mask-wearing: These salicylic acid- and vitamin A-packed stickers soothe while they treat with cooling aloe vera. $19 for 20, sephora.com
THE ERASER: DR. JART+ FOCUSPOT BLEMISH MICRO TIP PATCH
Employing microdart technology, these coverings distribute peptides and hyaluronic acid deep into a burgeoning zit. Then, niacinamide swoops in to fend off any discoloration that might linger after. $18 for 6 patches, sephora.com
THE HEAVY HITTER: SKYN ICELAND BLEMISH DOTS
The amount of active ingredients inside these small wheels of wonder is truly impressive. Among them: salicylic acid, tea tree oil, anti-inflammatory Canadian willowherb, and bakuchiol, a gentle retinol alternative. $20 for 48, ulta.com
THE EARLY INTERVENER: HERO COSMETICS MIGHTY PATCH MICROPOINT FOR BLEMISHES
Each little circle contains 173 hyaluronic acid ‘micropoints’ meant to deposit acne-fighting actives down into the core of the blemish to hit those day-one hills before they grow into mountains. $12.99 for 6, herocosmetics.com
THE ONE-TWO PUNCH: COSRX PIMPLE PATCH SET
Here, you’ll find two offerings to get at blemishes day and night. The brand’s original Acne Pimple Master Patch offers P.M. bacteria-fighting support, while the ultra-thin (and matte!) Clear Fit Master Patches are unobtrusive enough to blend in under foundation. $19 for 90, ulta.com
THE BUDGET BUY: ALBA BOTANICA ACNEDOTE PIMPLE PATCHES
Dermatologist-tested and under $10 a box, these clear circles of pimple-busting goodness are a great wallet-friendly intro to the category. $8.95 for 40, target.com
THE SENSITIVE SKIN SAVIOR: CUROLOGY EMERGENCY SPOT PATCH
Skin so sensitive even the gentlest acne ingredients leave it parched? These coverings forgo all actives, relying just on the healing powers of the hydrocolloid material to help shorten the lifespan of a bump. $2.49 for 20 per month (as part of subscription service), curology.com
THE CUTIE: SQUISH FLOWER POWER ACNE PATCHES
A darling of the skin-positivity movement, these adorable flower-shaped peel-and-stick options are possibly the most charming way to hide (and treat) a pimple. $14 for 20, urbanoutfitters.com
THE RELIABLE: ZITSTICKA KILLA KIT
These stickers deliver salicylic and hyaluronic acids for a flatter, smoother-looking blemish in hours. While one of the easiest to spot, it’s also one of the longest adhering, thanks to the included cleansing wipes to prep skin. $29 for 8, ulta.com