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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 what’s the deal behind these acne patches? How does this sorcery actually work and is it really effective?
Here’s what we know.
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 it:
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 here 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.
Second, they 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.
Some of these acne patches 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.
That said, no matter what kind you buy, these patches 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.
They won’t do much for blackheads or deep, cystic acne.
Even though they 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 acne 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.