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Pimple Patches for Acne – How Effective Are Acne Stickers?

In recent years, in the TikTok universe, pimple patches are becoming popular as acne spot treatments.  These pimple patches are proving handy for tackling pesky breakouts. What’s more, they act as a shield against bacterial infections when your hands touch them.   But are they an effective acne treatment? 

Acne is one of the most common skin problems people face, whether they are teenagers or adults. With face masks becoming the new norm with the Covid pandemic, more and more adults are experiencing breakouts in the covered parts of the face. In this condition known as maskne, acne breakouts appear on the nose, cheeks, and around the mouth. Despite knowing that it’s forbidden to pick at or pop open our pimples, most of us just can’t help doing so. Acne scarring and post-inflammation hyperpigmentation (PIH) are long-term problems that affect your looks and confidence. 

So how effective are these best-selling acne patches? Let’s explore deeper into the use of pimple patches and their pros and cons. 

What are pimple patches? 

Pimple patches are also known as acne stickers. The adhesive bandages are translucent and designed to draw out moisture and sebum from the pimples. The small, round-shaped stickers contain hydrocolloid - a gel having wound-healing properties. When the patches are applied to pimples, the hydrocolloids combine with the sebum and dirt to form a gel. The patches keep your pimples safe from infection as well as prevent them from bursting.  The chances of scarring are significantly reduced because of this protective shield. You can still use the pimple patch even if you pick your pimple, as it acts like a plaster to the wound and prevents more bacteria from entering and worsening your condition. 

Acne Pimple Patches Medical Treatment Spot Cysts

Do pimple patches work?  

Pimple patches work best on surface-level acne breakouts. While they are effective against pus-filled pimples and blackheads, the patches do not work so well against cystic acne. This is because the patches are not too penetrative and therefore useful at the superficial level only. They may be great for treating active bumps, but pimple patches cannot stop the problem from recurring. Even clogged pores can turn out to be a challenge for them. 

Acne outbreaks that include deep and cystic lesions are not be treated by pimple patches. In most cases, the patches simply act as mini dressings for your pimples, preventing them from worsening. These zit stickers wouldn't exactly make your acne better, either. Thus, for individuals with severe acne, it is better to see a doctor for the appropriate treatment.  

Pimple patches may also not be suitable for people having sensitive skin because the adhesive can irritate the skin. If you are allergic to adhesive, it might also aggravate the skin surrounding lesions.  

Types of Pimple Patches 

Broadly speaking, there are three types of pimple patches. These are classified as hydrocolloid, medicated, and microneedle 

#1 Hydrocolloid pimple patches 

These are typically over-the-counter treatments for very mild and superficial blemishes. Patches are coated with gel-forming agents that help to form moistness around the problem area, and draw excess oil and pus out of the pimples. These are also known as non-medicated pimple patches.   

Hydrocolloid pimple patches are useful for blemishes that have come to a head and are ready to pop. The patch works to drain out the infection when it is stuck onto the pimple, coordinated with the body's natural healing process. First-time users of hydrocolloid patches are often surprised that when they remove the patch, pus can be seen. As if the patch had popped your pimple for you, but without leaving your skin angry and inflamed. 

#2 Medicated pimple patches 

These patches are infused with ingredients that have mild medical properties. Such patches are recommended for breakouts comprising of nodular acne. Usually, salicylic acid, tea tree oil, denatured alcohol, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, or other such active ingredients are used in these pimple patches to target bacteria and inflammation. 

Cystic and nodular blemishes are the hard, painful bumps that are deep under the skin surface. Since these bumps don’t come to a head, the skin tries to re-absorb the infection instead of expelling it to the surface.  In such cases, a non-hydrocolloid patch infused with anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as salicylic acid or niacinamide, is delivered straight into the blemish. 

Moreover, it is best to never cause irritation to a cyst. This includes causing the surrounding skin to dry out. In the case of people with darker skin tones, there is the added risk of developing dark marks or hyperpigmentation. Even though medicated pimple patches are small and unlikely to damage the skin, using them in quick succession can end up irritating the skin. For patients with severe acne, the best approach is to take a gentle approach to their treatment. 

#3 Microneedling Patch

Microneedle patches are skincare patches that are equipped with several tiny, fine spikes that help deliver the active ingredients deeper into the skin. The arrangement is relatively more effective due to better delivery of skincare ingredients.  

The microneedles used in these patches are very tiny and therefore cause no pain.  A slight prickly sensation is all that you will feel when the microneedle patch is applied to your skin. Once the micro-needles pierce the skin barrier, enzymes in the body dissolve the outer parts of the needle. Now, the active ingredients are able to more easily reach the site allowing the skin cells to absorb them. 

These microneedle pimple patches are ideal for reddish blind pimples that are still in the formative stages under the skin. It is useful for treating superficial post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or the dark spots that appear after a breakout. As the microneedles target dark spots by injecting the active ingredients present in the patches. 

Although it is safe for most skin types, microneedling patches should be avoided for active breakouts or cystic acne because they could increase irritation or inflammation. For individuals with acne with deep rooted hyperpigmentation, see an aesthetic doctor for lasers or energy-based devices treatment.  

Pros and Cons of Pimple Patches 

Benefits of Pimple Patches 

Disadvantages of Pimple Patches 

  • Prevent you from picking at pimples 
  • Protect pimples from exposure to debris and bacteria  
  • Help dry out a pimple without pressing or squeezing it 
  • Create a healthy environment necessary for proper healing and reducing the risk of scarring 
  • More expensive than conventional spot treatments 
  • It may not be suitable for all acne breakouts, only work on specific individual pimples
  • These patches are not very environment-friendly  
  • May not be suitable for acne patients

The bottom line on pimple patches 

While pimple patches do work on some pimples, the outcomes heavily depend on using the right type of patches for your specific blemishes, and at the right time too. They are also not a permanent solution as the condition may reappear if the underlying conditions persist. Effective treatment of acne is possible only when the root causes are treated. 

Yes, patches do help stop you from popping those pimples and avoid scars.  And although they are effective on individual zits, pimple patches are inadequate for handling acne breakouts. Most importantly, they are effective for surface-level acne breakouts only. Even micro needling pimple patches that have deeper penetration can cause skin damage. So, in case of acute acne breakouts or if the pimple patches do not solve your problem, it’s important that you consult a doctor to quickly treat your acne. There are now many non-invasive medical alternatives that are effective, safe, and convenient. 

When you seek medical advice, you can move quickly and clear your acne. This can significantly reduce the possibility of acne scarring and PIH. Remember, energy-based non-invasive treatments also help unclog pores, control sebum production and slow down acne breakouts. This solution is much more effective in the long run.