Do pimple patches work? Here's how to use them correctly

Pimple patches are a popular and safe pimple-fighting tool that most can benefit from. To understand why, let’s take a peek behind the white gunk and see how they work.

Hydrocolloid 101

Traditional pimple patches are made of 100% hydrocolloid, the same type of material used in medical settings to dress wounds. Hydrocolloid has a number of benefits for wound healing, as it creates a waterproof, breathable seal and moist environment for healing. This is in contrast to a dry dressing, like gauze, which can dry out the wound, surrounding skin and prolong healing. In addition, the adhesive seal creates a physical blocker from bacteria, pollution and other irritants. 

Prior to becoming a popular pimple-fighting tool, hydrocolloid has been used medically for decades for burns, abrasions, ulcers and other types of open wounds. Knowing this, it makes sense that hydrocolloid bandages could be used for acne, which is essentially another type of open wound that needs a healing environment.

The White Gunk

A common misconception about pimple patches is that the oh-so-satisfying white gunk you see on the patch is all of the pus and fluid from your pimple. This is…sort of accurate. Hydrocolloid has gel-forming agents that draw out pus and fluid, and it’s primarily these gel-forming agents and your skin’s own moisture (plus a little bit of pus) that’s creating the white gel on the patch. The gel itself is moist and therefore helps promote healing. 

Types of Pimple Patches

The most common and classic type of pimple patches are just straight hydrocolloids, which are conveniently small, clear and circular to discreetly cover individual pimples. There are also larger pimple patches, meant to cover a larger surface area of the face. Some pimple patches have added acne-fighting and oil-regulating ingredients, such as salicylic acid and tea tree oil. 

Because they are protecting open wounds on the surface, hydrocolloid pimple patches work best on papules and pustules (think: the type of acne you’d be really tempted to squeeze!) 

Another variety of pimple patch is the micro dart. Micro dart patches have tiny, dissolving micro darts infused with acne-fighting ingredients, which are meant to target pimples below the surface and may offer some relief to deeper, cystic acne. They still also form a protective, moisture-retentive seal.

How to Use Pimple Patches

Pimple patches can be used similarly to spot treatments, to treat active acne on the surface. They can be used morning or night and those without added ingredients (which overtime could cause dryness or irritation) can be used multiple days in a row, just change the patch each time you wash your face. 

Because they are thin and nearly invisible, during the day they can help to blur blemishes or even be covered in makeup. At night, they can be used to protect pimples from friction against your pillow. Even if you don’t have the “right” type of pimple that may warrant patching, slapping on a pimple patch can prevent picking, so use with abandon!

To properly adhere to your skin, apply your pimple patch on dry skin. The easiest way is to do your whole skincare routine, then take a clean cotton pad or q tip, gently wash off any residue, pat dry and apply your patch. Happy Patching!