There can be nothing more frustrating than dealing with stubborn acne. You think you have a breakout cleared up, and you're on your way to better skin — and then another breakout, or just a single pimple pops up.
Even if you don't normally have a lot of trouble with your skin, with the proliferation of face masks, a lot of people are suffering from the dreaded "maskne" — pimples that appear around the nose, mouth and cheeks.
If you've tried every face wash, face mask, cleanser, toner and cream out there and you still are seeing intermittent spots pop up when you least want them, and you want them gone fast when they do appear, you might want to try acne patches.
What are Acne Patches?
Acne patches are a relatively new form of skincare (to most users, at least), so they're not as widely touted as some other acne treatments. Although, they are beginning to gain a following in the acne-prevention community.
Acne patches are small little stickers that contain medication, and you just place them on a zit anytime you have one. The idea is that you're putting a concentrated dose of acne medication right where you need it, at the root of the problem and nowhere else. Acne patches come in an array of designs, from clear or skin tone to more colorful, fun designs.
People use these patches on a range of different types of acne. Still, they generally work best with what dermatologists call "superficial" acne — surface-level zits like the small, pus-filled nodules that might be caused by stress or hormones, as well as whiteheads.
Often, acne patches contain the medication hydrocolloid, which in other settings is used for chronic wounds. The hydrocolloid dries the zit and gunk out of your skin while trapping the zit's bacteria in one spot, so it doesn't spread to the rest of your face.
Other acne patch ingredients include the same ingredients you might spot in other skincare products designed for acne-prone skin, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
If you've struggled with acne over the course of your life, you likely already know that acne is not just acne. Different types of acne exist, and each type must be treated differently.
Dr. Yoram Hath, Board Certified Dermatologist and Medical Director of MDacne, summarizes this new trend, “These patches can reduce the size of 1-2 big pimples but are not a solution for any type of acne as they could not prevent the next breakout.”
Different Acne Patches for Different Skin
While the most popular acne patches treat superficial acne, other acne patches are labeled as "medicated" patches. They're designed to be a bit stronger and fight off more serious acne, such as cystic acne, papules and pustules. In addition to healing a pimple, they can also reduce pain and redness.
Popular ingredients include salicylic acid and tea tree oil. Microneedle acne patches are similarly designed for deep or cystic acne, but there are conflicting reports regarding their effectiveness. These patches contain dissolving microneedles that penetrate the skin to deliver medication on a deeper level.
15 Acne Patches to Try on Stubborn Skin
Ready to try the best acne patches for yourself? Here are fifteen recommended patches you can start using today.
For $15, you can zap your next zits fast. This option from Korean beauty brand CosRx comes with 24 patches in 3 different sizes; each size intended to heal active pimples and seal away your blemish, so it stops spreading its bacteria.
The hydrocolloid patches are lightweight and stay on your skin quite well, standing up to long usage, sweat and even showers. They're also dermatologist tested and hypoallergenic, which is a plus for people with sensitive skin.
While these patches from Australian beauty brand ZitSticka are on the pricier side ($29), they receive rave reviews for their effectiveness.
They feature what are called “microdarts” — mini needles that allow the ingredients to better penetrate the skin. While that may sound a little intimidating, the needles aren't sharp or long enough to cause breaks in the skin and are perfectly safe and easy to use.
The KILLA Kit from Amazon combines a swathe of ingredients and treatment styles to hit your zit where it hurts.
You start with a priming swab that preps the zit for patch application and then apply the microneedle patch, which contains a range of acne-fighting ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide and oligopeptide-76.
Salicylic acid reduces inflammation while niacinamide improves your skin's tone and texture. Meanwhile, hyaluronic acid helps to moisturize the area and balances out the more drying effects of the beta-hydroxy salicylic acid.
The patches are best used for new zits that have yet to reach their full potential, as well as zits that live further below the surface level of the skin.
If you struggle with deep acne, Dr. Hath recommends using a full-face acne treatment plan as well, “Although some of these compounds are used to treat acne (salicylic acid), using them on a sticker seems to be much less effective than applying them all over the area with acne in a proper amount.”
With each $29 kit, you get eight patches and eight swabs, all vegan and cruelty-free, to help with the acne healing process.
For just $8, you can be stocked up on acne patches for your worst blemishes. The pack of spot patches from brand Mighty Patch is the OG award winner, shrinking zits in as little as six hours.
These hydrocolloid patches draw out fluids from your acne and turn the patch white. They're best for superficial pimples and are meant to be used overnight. Just apply before bed and wake up with a smaller zit and no more redness or pain.
These patches are good for all skin types, are non-toxic and UV sterilized. The Mighty Patches come on perforated sheets for a simple and quick application process.
For under $5, Peach Slices gives you 30 translucent acne patches in three different sizes. If you're into clean beauty, these hydrocolloid stickers may be the option you're looking for as they are alcohol-free, contain no harmful chemicals and are vegan plus cruelty-free.
For a clean face and a clean conscience!
Other key ingredients include vitamin B3 to fade discoloration and turmeric that is rich in antioxidants and helps to soothe redness when your skin is inflamed.
A tad pricey compared to other brands, you'll get six patches for about $18.
These hydrocolloid patches in the form of bright yellow stars not only make treating acne more fun, but the unique shape also helps them to stick to the contours of your face.
In addition to being cute and effective, they're also vegan, cruelty-free and totally Instagram-worthy.
For about $15, you'll get 32 patches, all packaged in a smiley face case with a mirror inside (there's also a small discount if you order by subscription). Now you'll feel happier while you're healing, and you can look good doing it!
Most acne patches are safe to use on any type of skin, but if you're prone to irritation, you may want to give these soothing patches from Avarelle a try.
In addition to hydrocolloid, they contain calendula and tea tree oil — an anti-inflammatory oil that helps heal your blemish. Another special ingredient is an herb called cica, which is often used to treat wounds.
The pack of 40 comes with three different size patches and costs under $9, making them easy on your wallet.
If you want to try medicated acne patches for a more powerful treatment without the microneedles, you may prefer this option from Peter Thomas Roth ($32).
Active ingredients include salicylic acid, tea tree oil and hyaluronic acid. You get 72 blemish dots in one pack, and they work in as little as eight hours.
And because they're invisible, you hardly notice them. Just be sure not to apply any makeup or sunscreen over them!
Another medicated acne patch option, these acne healing dots from Peace Out contain salicylic and acid and hydrocolloid to clean your pores. They also feature aloe vera to soothe the skin and calm redness and vitamin A to improve texture and tone.
The idea with these last two ingredients is to not just heal your acne but also prevent any scarring.
Twenty dots come in a $44 pack.
If you have oily skin, you may want to try these acne patches from Skyn Iceland that contain salicylic acid and tea tree oil to absorb excess sebum and prevent the spread of bacteria on your face.
Other important ingredients include vitamin C to lighten skin discoloration and moisturizing superhero hyaluronic acid. It's also nice to know that they're vegan, cruelty-free and contain no sulfates or parabens.
The pack of 48 costs $22.
The active ingredients include hydrocolloid, tea tree and witch hazel. What you won't find in these patches are any parabens, phthalates or synthetic fragrances.
Reviewers give them high marks for acting quickly and for sticking well to the skin. And at only $6 for 40 patches, they're also a super deal!
This transparent, hydrocolloid patch gets good marks for extracting impurities from whiteheads in as little as 4 hours. They're also hypoallergenic, vegan and cruelty-free and specialize in sustainable feminine products. They also contain no latex if you have a sensitivity.
This pack of 48 costs $12. Be sure to check out their Cica Spot Corrector Cream to reduce the look of dark spots.
These clear hydrocolloid patches from IG famous bandage brand Welly get high marks for helping blemishes heal faster and reduce puffiness and redness.
The 36 patches come in a cute, reusable tin for $9, which is a decent amount of blemish busting power for your buck.
Dreamy Skin is a Korean brand that's having a little fun while busting blemishes with cute shapes like clouds, stars and hearts.
The hydrocolloid helps to extract impurities and heal the skin, while witch hazel also helps with healing and inflammation. Plus, they boast salicylic acid for extra acne-fighting power.
The pack of 72 costs less than $15 and will definitely bring a little whimsy to your healing process.
Where do you turn when you need expert advice? The experts, of course. And as a winner of the Wall Street Journal Europe award for innovations in acne treatment, Dr. Hath is one to trust. His go-to recommendation is the MDAcne pimple master patch. These patches are ultra thin and transparent, giving you a conspicuous way to attack a pimple.
This hypoallergenic option is great for sensitive skin, day or night. As a bonus, each patch is breathable, waterproof and invisible.
Get 36 patches in three different sizes for $14.
Best Ways to Use Acne Patches
Whatever type of acne patch you buy and try, you'll always want to use your pimple patch on clean, dry skin before you apply any other products (like moisturizers or toners) to your face.
Additionally, make sure that you purchase acne patches that are large enough to fit your zit. Going with a size that's too small can further irritate the area. They are really only intended for spot treatments, not your entire face.
Allow your acne patch to remain in place for no more than 24 hours before you remove it and/or switch it out for a new one. If you have sensitive skin, try an acne patch on a small area first.
Still Frustrated by Stubborn Skin?
While acne patches are certainly a nice little tool to have in your medicine cabinet for quickly dealing with a surprise zit, they aren't a fix-all. You'll want to dig deeper into the root cause of your acne and talk to your dermatologist if you're looking for long-term acne treatment.
But if a pimple pops up at an inopportune moment and you need a quick fix, wearing an acne patch overnight (or even during the day if you dare) could stave off a pressing beauty emergency and save you a world of pain and swelling.
You might also be interested in: Everything You Need To Know About A Men's Skincare Routine
15 Best Acne Patches for Stubborn Skin:
- CosRx Acne Pimple Master Patch
- Killa Kit by ZitSticka
- Original Mighty Patch
- Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots
- Dr. Jart + Focusspot Micro Tip Patches
- Starface Hydro Stars
- Avarelle Acne Cover Patches
- Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clear Invisible Dots
- Peace Out Acne Healing Dots
- Skyn Iceland Blemish Dots
- Alba Botanica Anecdote Pimple Patches
- Rael Miracle Patch
- Welly Face Saver Bandages
- Dreamy Skin Hydrocolloid Dark Spot Acne Patches
- MDAcne Pimple Master Patch