do pimple patches work eight saints

How Do Pimple Patches Work? The Science Behind Hydrocolloid Patches

They started popping up in the U.S. a couple of years ago, and they quickly became cult favorites and “beauty must-haves” on every list: small, round face patches - not unlike band-aids or stickers - that you place onto any pimple before bed so they can suck out all the gunk and leave you blissfully pimple-free. Horrifying? Maybe. Awesome? Definitely. But how do pimple patches work? Is this sorcery or is it something worth trying out?

Here’s what we know about pimple stickers.

How Do Pimple Patches Work?

So, what do pimple patches do?

The idea here is simple: you pick a patch off of its sheet (again, like a sticker) and place it directly on your pimple. You leave it on for at least 8 hours - which is why most people leave them on overnight - and, if it’s done its job, you wake up to a white patch and a smaller, less noticeable pimple. Here are the details behind how pimple patches work:

Hydrocolloid Patches

These semi-transparent, sticky patches (like Cosrx's Acne Pimple Master Patches) are made primarily of hydrocolloid dressing, a wound bandage that was originally designed to draw out moisture from open sores (though now, obviously, it’s from within pores).

The secret in hydrocolloid bandages for acne lies in the product's ability to absorb excess fluid- like oil, dirt, and debris - without overdrying the surrounding skin. And no, the white stuff you see inside in the morning isn’t actually gunk from inside your pores (contrary to popular belief). It’s just hydrated hydrocolloid turned white by the moisture. The more moisture, the whiter the patch.

Many people have used hydrocolloid patches before, yet few know how they actually work. And it's quite simple - these patches are designed to absorb the excess oil and pus from pimples, helping to treat acne in much the same way that they would help heal a wound. The use of hydrocolloid for acne is far from new, with studies showing that these dressings can be effective in treating acne with a whitehead or that has already been popped, intentionally or unintentionally.

Acne Fighting Pimple Patches

Some of these pimple stickers don’t just have hydrocolloid dressing. Many - like ZitSticka’s pimple patches- are also packed with additional good-for-your-skin ingredients like hyaluronic acid (to moisturize), niacinamide (to treat inflammation) and salicylic acid (to break down the pimple. Plus, these particular patches have tiny micro-darts all over their surface to help those ingredients penetrate the skin and do some deep work.

But how do acne patches work in practice? Put simply, colloidal patches deliver benefits by delivering active ingredients like salicylic acid directly into problem areas, effectively drying out excess fluid and removing dead skin cells. Many patches do this with the help of tiny microneedles - tiny, painless darts that penetrate the skin on a deeper level for more effective results. You'll also often find inflammation-soothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid included in patches for an extra soothing effect.

Unlike creams, which can take a while to sink in and may require you to rub the product onto your skin for several minutes before it takes hold, acne patches take seconds to apply. All you need to do is place one directly onto a problem area and it will start doing its job almost immediately - no rubbing or waiting required.

A Physical Barrier to Irritation

Pimple stickers also dissuade you from trying to play Dr. Pimple Popper on yourself, which protects your pores and drastically lowers your risk of infection, inflammation, discoloration, and scarring.

This is particularly useful if you’re someone who tends to pick or frequently touch your face: absent-minded or intentional touching not only aggravates existing pimples but also spreads bacteria to the face and encourages future congestion and breakouts.

How to Use Pimple Patches

Before we go into any further details - how to use and how long to leave pimple patch on will both be covered in the following - it's important we disclose that hydrocolloid patches are designed to work on open lesions, or pimples that have already broken. Products with AHAs and BHAs can still prove effective at drawing out gunk from less-progressed pimples, but if applied when the blemish is still beneath the surface of the skin, may not deliver full results. Not only is it safe to use a pimple patch on a popped pimple, but you're better off doing so rather than using one as soon as you notice a breakout start to form.

Now for a step-by-step breakdown:

    1. Start by applying the sticker to your pimple as directed on the box.
    2. Wear it overnight or for six to eight hours.
    3. When it's time to remove the used hydrocolloid patches, slowly lift one corner or edge and peel away from the skin.

The Caveat: Do Pimple Patches Work on Cystic Acne?

No matter what kind you buy, these pimple stickers are certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution to all of your breakout woes. They’re best suited for superficial whiteheads or pustules - congestion that’s raised, somewhat open and close to the surface.

Hydrocolloid pimple patches don't replace prescription and over-the-counter creams, gels, and lotions. The generic ones that you'll find online aren't effective for cystic acne, so you'll either need a specialized pimple patch for cystic acne or direct help from a dermatologist if that's something you're struggling with.

Do Pimple Patches Work on Blackheads?

Knowing when to use pimple patches is key to attaining their full effects. Some people use pimple patches for blackheads without realizing that they aren't designed for that purpose; know that while pimple patches are effective on open whiteheads and existing breakouts, they are not very useful on closed lesions or deeper pimples such as blackheads. We'll go over some products that are below.

Pimple Patch Alternatives

Eight Saints is proud to offer a suite of pimple patch alternatives that work to both tackle existing blemishes and prevent new ones at the same time. Try our FREE Discovery Kitpacked with A-list acne fighting skincare ingredients like aloe vera, salicylic acid, and tea tree oil today.

Salicylic Acid

If not completely sold on hydrocolloid patches acne sufferers can consider using Salicylic Acidinstead. This is a type of chemical exfoliant that helps to reduce oiliness, unclog pores and remove dead skin cells. It is an active ingredient in many commercial acne treatments and can also be found in over-the-counter products such as gels or lotions.

Quality Control Acne Spot Treatment

Eight Saints' Quality Control Acne Spot Treatment is a great alternative to hydrocolloid for acne, containing a blend of 2% botanical salicylic acid and other natural ingredients that start working to clear up blemishes in seconds.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs, are chemical compounds that are commonly derived from foods like citrus fruits, sugar cane, apples, and grapes. They work by exfoliating the upper layer of skin to reveal smoother, brighter tissue. We've been all over AHA vs BHA and both of their uses in hyperpigmentation treatment before - give those articles a read for more in-depth information!

Soulmate Brightening Treatment

Hydrocolloid bandages for acne are so passe. Our Soulmate Brightening Treatment can achieve just as amazing effects with a simple application of AHAs. This is hands-down the best face moisturizer and brightening cream combo to use when looking to replenish dry, tired skin with deep hydration. Its glycolic acid easily penetrates the skin to exfoliate without abrasion or knock-on irritation.

Bright Side Cream Cleanser

Eight Saints' Bright Side Cream Cleansereffectively removes the outermost layer of dead cells - kind of like a pimple patch used for acne - to unveil healthy, youthful skin.

Witch Hazel

It can be helpful to use a pimple patch on popped pimple blemishes, but doing so won't solve your breakout problems altogether. What you need is products formulated with the best ingredients for acne prone skin, like witch hazel. Here are some of our Eight Saints favorites:

Coast Is Clear Face Toner

Far from the hydrocolloid patches acne sufferers know, Coast Is Clear Face Toner takes a holistic approach to tackling breakouts. Its natural witch hazel tightens pores and soothes inflammation for a healthy, clear complexion that lasts.

Island Time Spray Lotion

Our Island Time Spray Lotion delivers lasting hydration via coconut oil, jojoba oil, Vitamin E, and rose flower water while leaving behind zero sticky residue. Use it regularly to balance oil production, minimize pores, and restore your skin’s pH balance in the face of external aggressors and stressors.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a completely natural, incredibly important element that everyone should have incorporated into their skincare routine in one way or another. Although you likely won't find it in run-of-the-mill hydrocolloid pimple patches, we have plenty of products with Vitamin C worth trying. Check out these best products for acne scars and blemishes:

Night Shift Hydration Gel

Pimple patch not working? Try the next best - scratch that, better - treatment for acne. Our Night Shift Hydration Gel can refresh tissues and reduce breakout sensitivity like nobody's business.

Cloud Whip Face Cream

Eight Saints' Cloud Whip Face Cream comes packed with antioxidants that protect skin while blocking free radicals, fading sun spots, and preventing discoloration across the board.

Seeking C Face Serum

We created Seeking C Face Serum with an obvious emphasis on the value of Vitamin C. One application and you won't help but feel brighter and more comfortable in your own skin.

Down To Earth Gel Cleanser

Down To Earth Gel Cleanser is an excellent alternative to the traditional facial wash. Its gel-to-oil consistency helps unclog pores, and remove dirt and impurities from the skin's surface, all while providing a powerful dose of Vitamin C for extra nourishment.

No Plans Clay Mask

Get acne treatment off of your to-do list with No Plans Clay Mask. We love this mask for its ability to draw out impurities from the skin while toning and hydrating it simultaneously.

High Society Face Oil

High Society Face Oil combines the best plant-based face oils - namely omega-rich marula, hydrating jojoba, and lavish neroli - with many more antioxidant-rich ingredients to deliver radiant, beautiful skin.


Niacinamide is a moisture-binding ingredient that helps to keep skin hydrated. It has been clinically proven to improve the appearance of wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and enlarged pores, as well as combating inflammation caused by acne breakouts.

Up The Anti Anti-Aging Cream

Niacinamide plays a starring role in Eight Saints' Up The Anti Anti-Aging Cream by supporting your skin’s lipid barrier as other important ingredients do their job. Applying it regularly will help your skin retain its natural moisture levels and stay hydrated for much longer - something no pimple patch used alone can do.

Can Pimple Patches Make it Worse?

You obviously want to get rid of your acne, but are pimple patches bad for it? Can pimple patches make it worse? It would be unwise to put a pimple patch on without washing your skin first, as this could trap dirt and bacteria within the pimple. However, if used correctly, these patches will not make your acne worse.

Can You Put Makeup Over a Pimple Patch?

Using makeup over pimple patch products is actually completely safe, and in some cases can actually help protect your pimple from getting irritated and clogged. You might need to practice a few times to get the hang of it, as some brands may stick better than others. It's best to start with a clean face, apply the patch first, and then go in with your normal makeup routine.

The Final Verdict: Do Pimple Patches Work?

Even though colloidal patches don’t work on every kind of pimple under the sun, they are at least moderately effective - and most dermatologists agree that they’re a great choice for the everyday unsightly spot.

This, in part, is due to the fact that they’re so gentle: they won’t leave dry, irritated, or flaky skin like harsher treatments, including benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. This makes them suitable for any skin type, any time of day, and in combination with any skincare products.

The point? These pimple patches are a great addition to your arsenal if you want an effective way to calm inflammation, treat congestion, speed up healing, and be proactive when facing the average breakout.

Not only are pimple patches good, but using them regularly can help reduce the size and prominence of lesions on your face while also stopping bacteria from getting inside to cause further damage. Now that we've answered the question of 'how do acne patches work', it's time for you to decide if you want to incorporate this acne treatment into your skincare routine.