We’ve all been there. You’ve been looking forward to an important meeting or hot date and you wake up the day of and you see it--a giant pimple staring back at you. Although popping the pimple will make it smaller, it will leave a long-lasting scar and other issues that you will probably regret later on. If you are well-prepared with pimple patches then you can help minimize the appearance of pimples. Read on to learn more about pimple patches and why you should always keep them around.
What are Pimple Patches?
Pimple patches are actually a variation or offshoot of hydrocolloid patches, a type of medical dressing that is clinically used to treat and protect burns, scratches, and other open wounds. These hydrocolloid patches comprise an external layer and an internal layer. The external layer is composed of a flexible polyurethane, while the internal layer is made up of gelatin, pectin, or carboxymethyl cellulose.1
The polyurethane external layer helps to physically protect the wound from any dirt and debris in the environment along with any external microorganisms. The internal layer provides further protection, but it also performs the important function of controlling fluid levels within the wound, essentially soaking up any excess fluids to expedite the healing process.
These patches also create an ideal humidity in the wound bed and maintain a slightly acidic pH level, which inhibits bacterial growth and maintains an ideal temperature. Ultimately, hydrocolloid patches maintain a safe environment that supports wound healing without the risk of infection.1
Modern dermatology, particularly practices in the East, has begun to treat pimples and acne cysts as wounds, which has led to the growth of pimple patches as a means of addressing acne. Pimple patches work much in the same way as hydrocolloid patches: they protect your skin and open acne cysts from external bacteria while absorbing any sebum and other excess fluids within an open cyst.
The Benefits of Pimple Patches
When used properly, pimple patches can provide a variety of different benefits that may help to speed up the healing process while preventing a zit from getting worse.
Preventing Picking and Popping
If you have a problem with popping zits or mindlessly picking at your skin, pimple patches may act as an effective aid. They can physically prevent scratching, picking, and maybe even popping your pimple. Popping your zits can seem satisfying, and with the right technique, popping a pimple can be necessary to expedite healing. However, in almost every case, pimple extractions are better left to professionals.2
The average person lacks the proper tools and technique to pop zits, which can lead to some real problems. Using your bare fingers to pop a zit is more likely to introduce more bacteria into your acne cyst. At worst, this may result in a potential infection. At best, you may just be multiplying the number of zits later on.2
The wrong technique can also cause damage to deeper tissues and push bacteria and fluids further down into the skin. This can result in bigger zits, or turn a manageable whitehead into a larger, more painful cyst. Constantly squeezing and picking at your zits can also result in scarring, which is much harder to fix than a wayward whitehead.2
As unsightly and uncomfortable as acne can be, it’s also important to think of a pimple as a type of healing. A zit is your body’s response to invasive bacteria and clogged pores. Popping a pimple disrupts the healing process and requires you to actually tear the skin. This results in an open wound instead of a closed bump, which leaves your body more vulnerable to infection while making it much harder for your skin to heal itself.2
Protecting Your Pimple
Along with protecting your pimple from your own fingers, pimple patches can protect your zits from any contaminants in the environment. Patches can keep out bacteria, dirt, and debris out of opens cysts and popped zits, preventing potential infection and allowing the zit to heal without interruption. Some patches also protect against UV rays, which may help to prevent inflammation and hyperpigmentation.
Hiding the Actual Pimple
Seeing visible whiteheads and cysts on your face can be discouraging, but pimple patches can help. Pimple patches are generally opaque, which can help to hide whiteheads and inflamed red pimples, reducing the physical appearance of pimples and potentially boosting your confidence and self-esteem. It should be noted that, as a pimple patch soaks up sebum and other fluids, it will turn more opaque or white. This means that, while the pimple will be invisible, you’ll still be able to see the patch.
The internal layer of a pimple patch is designed to soak up excess fluids trapped in a pimple, including pus, sebum, and other fluids. Aside from making cleanup easier for you, extracting these excess fluids without actually drying up the skin may help acne cysts heal faster. Some pimple patches also feature common topical treatments, like salicylic acid, that may help to reduce signs of acne. Others feature microscopic needles that can help to puncture and drain zits.
Pimple patches also have the potential to improve overall skin around the acne lesion. In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers evaluated the effects of a hydroactive polyurethane dressing (similar to pimple patches and hydrocolloid patches) on 60 patients with acute facial lacerations. Following the treatment and closure of these lacerations, the patients were dressed with either a dry gauze or the hydrocolloid dressing. Along with clinical assessments, the dressings were studied for microbiological cultures every five days. Following the end of the study, patients who used the polyurethane dressing had wounds with improved contour and comfort, less reddening, and a reduced risk of scarring.3 This suggests that pimple patches may also reduce redness and prevent scarring while improving comfort and contour.
How to Use Pimple Patches
If you have a zit that has come to a head, it’s time to reach for that pimple patch. It’s generally recommended to use your pimple patch during your nightly skincare regimen. This allows you to leave the patch on while you sleep, allowing it to soak up any impurities so that you hopefully wake up with a smaller, less noticeable zit. Here are the steps for properly using a patch.4
Start by washing your face with your usual gentle cleanser and lukewarm water. You don’t want to apply the patch to an unclean zit as you may just be trapping dirt, sweat, and bacteria under the patch. Thoroughly air dry or pat dry your face with a clean towel. Even the slightest bit of moisture can prevent the patch from sticking to your skin properly.
2. Apply the patch.
Some pimple patches come in varying sizes. Choose a patch that is slightly larger than the zit you want to cover. Apply the patch by gently pressing it onto your skin.
3. Continue with the rest of your regimen.
Continue as you usually would with the rest of your regimen, making sure to avoid the patch as you apply your serums, moisturizer, and other topical treatments.
4. Remove the patch.
The exact amount of time to keep a pimple patch on can vary from person to person. You will know that the pimple patch has done its job once the patch turns white or completely opaque, but barring that, don’t leave a patch on for longer than 12 hours. Some people have reported keeping a pimple patch on for upwards of 24 hours. At best, leaving a pimple patch on for that long won’t have any effect on your pimple. At worst, the adhesive on the patch can potentially irritate the skin, while any fluid trapped in the patch may begin to fester.5
Using Pimple Patches Properly
While pimple patches are versatile and useful, they are best used on whiteheads with a clearly visible amount of pus. They won't do much of anything for blackheads, cystic acne, or whiteheads that are not ready to pop, though the patches may still help as a protection from wayward picking and environmental irritants.6
It’s also important to know that pimple patches are not necessarily designed as a cure for your acne, particularly if you have more severe forms of acne. Acne can be caused by a variety of underlying issues, usually hormonal imbalances, which are not a thing you can treat with a pimple patch. For many, diet may contribute to acne, so we recommend reading our article on the anti-acne diet, which may help to reduce signs of acne. Along with dietary changes, it’s a good idea to consult your dermatologist to determine other options for treating your acne.
While pimple patches aren’t a complete acne solution, everyone should carry a set of pimple patches handy to help with the occasional pimple or zit. However, those with more pervasive acne should consider small changes to diet and lifestyle, alter their daily skincare routine, and consult a dermatologist.