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The Not-So-Awesome Acne Patch

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

Acne patches promise you on-the-spot treatment of nasty zits, but some brands work better than others. Here is a quick review of the best and worst acne patch products.

acne patches
Acne patches which are applied like Bandaids, promise on-the-spot treatment, but don’t always deliver what they promise.

Summary:

  • Acne patches work like Bandaids for pimples and blackheads.
  • Most acne patches don’t deliver what they promise.
  • Acne-Free 1 Hour Pimple Patches don’t do anything you can’t do with a squirt of benzoyl peroxide gel—which kills acne bacteria but does not reduce redness or inflammation.
  • Andrea Face Qs Acne Treatment Patches are a good treatment for small areas of rosacea, but you need to be careful in removing all the adhesive off your face the next morning.
  • Claudia Stevens Hydro-Gel Over Night Patches is not marketed as an acne treatment, but it is the best product on the market for getting the redness out of pimples.
  • Clean & Clear Advantage Invisible Acne Patch is a coverup you cover up with two more layers of makeup to conceal a pimple. It’s supposed to heal pimples—but it can cause “makeup malfunctions” on your face.
  • Dr. Blaine’s ScarCare Gel Pad really is not designed for acne scars.
  • Pond’s Clear Solutions will help loosen blackheads. They may not fall off your skin the first time you use the pads, but they will usually fall off your skin the second time you use the pads.
  • Skin Benefits Blemish Acne Pimple Spot Reducer is not a bad product. It’s just not an especially useful product. Its primary benefit is helping you avoid bleaching hair and fabric.
  • Don’t just treat blemishes. Prevent them with a complete treatment system such as Exposed Skin Care.

What Are Acne Patches?

Acne patches have been in use for over 10 years, mainly in Asia and Korea, but they are starting to become more popular in the US. There are basically two types of patches: medicated and unmedicated. They are usually packaged as thin, vinyl-like sheets of sticky dots. The patches are removed from the sheets and applied on the affected area. They usually have an active ingredient that is meant to get rid of pimples or acne on your face1. The most common medications applied on the sheets include tea tree oil, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid. These patches work by keeping the medication on your skin long enough for the ingredients to work on the pimple2. They also prevent you from touching the affected area, keeping the extra dirt and grime from your fingers out of your skin and preventing bacteria from multiplying on the area.

The downside to these patches is that if you have sensitive skin, you can get skin irritation if the products are left for too long on your face. Also, the adhesive used on the patches can cause skin irritation or cause acne breakouts on the areas where they have been applied. The major advantage of this spot treatment is that you only use the patches on the affected area, sparing the rest of your skin from being treated since treating healthy skin can result in dryness and flakiness.

The unmedicated patches, otherwise known as hydrocolloid patches, work by sucking out water from pimples3. The hydrocolloid material is meant to attract water to a thin plastic film. This material is made out of carboxymethyl cellulose, pectin, and gelatin, while the outer layer of the patch is made out of polyurethane material. This helps lock the moisture in the patch and prevent water from evaporating, so the wound doesn’t become dry, enabling it to heal faster.

The patch you remove from the pimple at the appropriate time should be swelled up with some whitish stuff on it. This is supposed to be evidence that the patch has worked. The pimple may become much flatter and less inflamed. These patches also help to keep you from constantly touching the pimple, which helps keep germs away from the wound4. According to some studies that have been done on the use of 3M dressings on pimples for a week, it has been found that the severity of the pimple decreases, along with the oiliness, redness, and hyperpigmentation. This is in contrast to the use of tapes.

The advantages of using these patches include the fact that they can help your pimples heal faster since they provide a moist environment. They make it possible for active ingredients to penetrate the skin and act on the pimple5. You don’t need to reapply them after washing your face with water, since they are waterproof. They also protect the blemishes from UV light, which can help you maintain an even skin tone by preventing pigmentation.

acne bacteria
One often-overlooked benefit is a patch that will prevent you from picking or touching the skin and adding more germs and problems to your acne.

Realistic Expectations for Acne Patches

Whether you choose to use medicated or unmedicated patches, you need to realize that they will not make your pimples disappear overnight. Yes, the affected area will likely look better than before but the acne will not be cleared, especially if you have severe acne, like cystic acne. Also, even though these patches are essentially made using the same ingredients, they perform differently6, so it is worth checking out reviews about how each patch works before buying it. Unmedicated patches are best used if your pimple is raised and has pus that needs to be sucked out. If the pimple doesn’t have pus, but it is inflamed, then a medicated patch is the best option7. The medicated patches have the advantage of being thin that means that if your pimple is flat, the patch will not be very visible when you wear it on your skin.

When purchasing the patches, you need to be careful to ensure that you buy the right one, since you can easily confuse unmedicated patches with medicated patches, as they look very similar. Just keep in mind that unmedicated patches tend to be slightly more expensive than the medicated patches. They normally have the term “hydrocolloid” written on the packaging and medicated patches usually list the active ingredients. Some of the places where you can buy these patches include online on Amazon and eBay. You can also get them at different pharmacies, such as Priceline. Asian shops also stock the patches, so you will find them in shops like RoseRose Shop, Sasa, and Tester Korea.

If you are looking for round unmedicated patches, there are many options to consider. Check out our brief reviews below to determine which acne patch is best for you.

Claudia Stevens Hydro-Gel Overnight Patches, 30 Patches (US $9.40)

Not really marketed as an acne product, Claudia Stevens Hydro-Gel Overnight Patches are actually one of the few patch products that can really clear up pimples. Unlike the products that are marketed specifically for acne treatment, all of which contain benzoyl peroxide, this skin patch is made with tea tree oil. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne bacteria but does not reduce redness or inflammation. Tea tree oil both kills acne bacteria and reduces redness and inflammation8. You will get much better results from this “overnight patch” than you will from any other “acne patch” for pimples.

acne foundation
This medicated “foundation” might be OK for oily skin, but it will probably make dry skin look worse.

Peter Thomas Roth-Acne Clear Invisible Dots, 72 Patches (US $22)

Peter Thomas Roth-Acne Clear Invisible Dots patches can be bought at Sephora, Ulta, or on Amazon. These patches contain tea tree oil, salicylic acid, and hyaluronic acid that can help prevent the skin from drying out.

Sarah Chapman Spot Patches, 16 Patches ($45)

These are high-end UK medicated patches that can be bought at Net-a-Porter.com. they are made by Sarah Chapman, who is a UK facialist. They contain vitamin A, salicylic acid, and different botanicals and hydrators.

COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch, 24 Patches ($23.90)

These patches can be bought online at Dermstore, Sokoglam, or Amazon. They are packaged in a ziplocked bag to help them stay fresh. They are non-medicated patches, which help suck out pus and decrease the size of pimples and swelling.

Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers, 36 Patches ($4.70)

These are available on Amazon. They are produced by the 3M US Company and they are in high demand in Asian countries. They are the original unmedicated patches.

Ollie Belle Cover Dot Acne Cure, 36 Patches ($11.88)

These non-medicated patches can be bought on Amazon or Ollie Belle’s website. They are very similar to the other non-medicated patches and are probably a better option for those with sensitive skin who may have a reaction to ingredients in the medicated patches.

References:

  1. Yang JH, Yoon JY, Kwon HH, Min S, Moon J, Suh DH. Seeking new acne treatment from natural products, devices and synthetic drug discovery. Dermatoendocrinol. 2017 Oct 4;9(1):e1356520.
  2. Tan AU, Schlosser BJ, Paller AS. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2017 Dec 23;4(2):56-71.
  3. Chao CM, Lai WY, Wu BY, Chang HC, Huang WS, Chen YF. A pilot study on efficacy treatment of acne vulgaris using a new method: results of a randomized double-blind trial with Acne Dressing. J Cosmet Sci. 2006 Mar-Apr;57(2):95-105.
  4. AU – Lowe, Nicholas J.Psoriasis therapy: Comparative studies with a hydrocolloid dressing, plastic film occlusion, and triamcinolone acetonide cream. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 1989/09/01. VL. 21, 511-514.
  5. Ichioka S, Harii K, Nakahara M, Sato Y. An experimental comparison of hydrocolloid and alginate dressings, and the effect of calcium ions on the behaviour of alginate gel. Scand J Plast Reconstr Surg Hand Surg. 1998 Sep;32(3):311-6.
  6. Lee TW1, Kim JC, Hwang SJ. Hydrogel patches containing triclosan for acne treatment. Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2003 Nov;56(3):407-12.
  7. Vyas A, Kumar Sonker A, Gidwani B. Carrier-based drug delivery system for treatment of acne. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014 Feb 9;2014:276260.
  8. Mazzarello V, Donadu MG, Ferrari M, Piga G, Usai D, Zanetti S, Sotgiu MA. Treatment of acne with a combination of propolis, tea tree oil, and Aloe vera compared to erythromycin cream: two double-blind investigations. Clin Pharmacol. 2018 Dec 13;10:175-181.

 

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Lenka Ngo Reply

You should try the "real" pimple patches from Korea. Is the pimple is at it's peak for popping, the pimple patch could do the same thing over a period of time (8 hours or overnight). In the morning I always see that the white cuss from the pimple has been "sucked" out by the patch, which can be seen on the patch. I live in Europe (although) I'm from Asia and when I ran out of the pimple patches that I brought from Korea, I went to a local drugstore and saw similar pimple patches. However they did not work. So, maybe the Western pimple patches are different from the Korean ones?

April 9, 2018 at 6:45 pm Reply

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