Acne patches. You’ve probably seen an ad or article about this different kind of acne treatment. Rather than spot treatments that you dot on, or topical creams you massage in, acne patches are stickers that you place on your zit. They provide a physical barrier to speed recovery so you can spend less time stressing about that painful bump. There’s a lot of buzz around these patches and it seems like new ones are coming out every day. But do they live up to the hype?
Hydrocolloid vs. acne treatment
There are two types of acne patches: unmedicated hydrocolloid patches and medicated treatment patches. Both act to protect your pimple and keep skin moist, but treatment patches work with active ingredients while hydrocolloid patches work by drawing liquid from the spot.
Acne treatment patches typically include salicylic acid or tea tree oil (sometimes both). These ingredients are well-documented to treat acne and decrease inflammation. The patches amplify the effect of these ingredients by keeping the skin moist and keeping the ingredients in place against the skin. Both of these factors allow the medicine to penetrate more deeply and act more effectively than if it was applied as a spot treatment or cream.
Hydrocolloid patches are more commonly known as blister bandages. You may have used one before to protect and treat a blister from breaking in a new pair of shoes, or after a long day of walking. But if hydrocolloid patches don’t contain any medication, how can they treat your zit? These patches typically consist of a water-attracting material attached to a layer of thin plastic. The water-attracting material is placed in contact with your pimple to draw out the liquid inside, and the plastic layer faces out to protect from irritation and outside contaminants. Like the acne treatment patches, hydrocolloid patches also help keep the skin moist which assists in healing. In one small study, using acne specific hydrocolloid patches (versus skin tape) resulted in a significant decrease in redness, oiliness, and dark pigmentation of pimples. Apostrophe's medical director, Dr. Aimee Paik, adds, "Hydrocolloid patches can be helpful if you are someone who can’t keep your hands off your skin and needs to pick at your acne lesions. These dressings can help the skin heal faster and protect the area from self-induced damage."
The advantages of acne patches
There are a few advantages that both hydrocolloid and acne treatment patches provide over more traditional spot treatments.
- They provide a physical barrier between your spot and the outside world. That means germs and irritation stay out and moisture stays in. Plus, they keep you from picking and further irritating your zit.
- They protect your pimple from UV light. UV rays can slow the healing process and exacerbate hyperpigmentation.
- Unlike spot treatments, patches are usually waterproof so there’s no need to reapply after you wash your face.
How do I choose?
Different patches work best on different kinds of spots! Use a hydrocolloid patch on raised bumps with visible pus (they pair perfectly with big whiteheads!). It will suck out the liquid to help flatten the spot and promote healing. Acne treatment patches work well on inflamed spots that don’t seem to have much fluid (think red and sensitive). These patches are thinner than hydrocolloid patches so they are less apparent and easier to cover with makeup if you need to be out and about. With all the different patches on the market now, you’ll always be able to find the perfect one for you! Here are a few of the Apostrophe team’s favorites:
- ZitSticka - This Australian company uses microdart technology to help active ingredients like salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid to penetrate deeply into your pimple. But don’t just take it from us! We reached out for insider info and here’s what they had to say: “We created ZitSticka to resolve the kind of deep, up-and-coming, blind zit that's notoriously hard to access using traditional spot treatments or hydrocolloid patches, which are in fact super great for more superficial zits. The self-dissolving microdarts layering our patches are made using freeze-dried acne-averse ingredients: salicylic acid, niacinamide, oligopeptide-76 and hyaluronic acid. The microdarts dissolve 2 hours after application, delivering the ingredients to the core of the zit, rather than them hovering on top and not being properly absorbed as with many topical creams." One of our own designers loves ZitSticka, saying, “You can really feel the microdarts when you apply it. It makes me feel like the patch is actually working.”
- CosRx Acne Pimple Master Patch - CosRx is famous for their affordable and effective products, and their acne patches are no exception. At $5 for 24 patches you can’t go wrong. Our product designer uses them on her toughest spots. “I mostly wear them overnight. It’s SO satisfying to wake up and see all the pus in the patch, and my blemish looks smaller and less red.”
- Patchology Breakout Box 3-in-1 Acne Treatment Kit - This kit comes with a mix of salicylic acid patches, hydrocolloid patches, and pore strips so you have all your bases covered. Use different patches on different zits throughout the month, or throw on a salicylic acid patch first and follow it with a hydrocolloid patch to draw out any fluid that develops.
- Starface - This cute, Instagram-friendly brand almost make us want zits! For those who want to own their acne, each hydrocolloid patch is a yellow star so you can decorate your face while treating your blemishes. Leave them on for six hours for best results.
If acne patches just aren’t cutting it and your acne doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments, you can always connect with a dermatologist through Apostrophe to get access to prescription medications and a doctor-recommended treatment plan.
Use code ZITSTICKA for $20 off your purchase of any Apostrophe medication! Valid through 11/30.
Use code APOSTROPHE for 20% off your purchase with ZitSticka! Valid through 11/30.
Do acne patches work for you? What are your favorites? Let us know on Twitter @hi_apostrophe or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.