For years, medical professionals (and consumers) have used hydrocolloid dressings to treat all kinds of uninfected, superficial wounds — think cuts, scrapes, light burns, and blisters. The same principle that applies to healing these wounds with hydrocolloid dressings can apply to treating pimples, too: For the most part, pimple patches are actually hydrocolloid bandages masquerading as spot treatments. Ahead, I'll get into the best pimple patches you can buy to heal your spots faster, but first, a few key insights from Dr. Morgan Rabach, a board-certified dermatologist and the co-founder of LM Medical NYC.
Basically, pimple patches “contain ingredients that use osmosis to absorb fluid from the pimple,” Dr. Rabach tells Elite Daily. That also relieves the swelling, redness, and inflammation around the spot. At the same time, the adhesive creates an enclosed environment that protects the pimple from external bacteria. The sticker also protects the pimple from your fingers, which will almost always do more harm than good — a concept that we all know intellectually, but which, for some reason, almost never stops us from picking at spots.
Pimple patches work best at drawing out bacteria from whiteheads, and flattening and reducing “red and inflamed” pimples, Dr. Rabach says. So most won’t work on blackheads, and they probably won’t work on cystic acne or underground pimples, either. Dr. Rabach also pointed out that acne patches are hard to use if you’re prone to widespread breakouts rather than one-off spots. In that case, Dr. Rabach recommends a topical acne treatment to more effectively remedy existing breakouts, plus something like a retinoid to prevent future breakouts.
It’s also worth noting that not all of the best pimple patches are hydrocolloid bandages. Rather than containing hydrocolloid ingredients — like gelatin, pectin, and carboxymethyl cellulose — some of the patches on this list are powered by traditional acne-fighting ingredients, like salicylic acid. Either way, these six great pimple patches are gentle, unfussy, and oddly satisfying ways to heal and calm unwanted spots. Scroll on to shop them now.
We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.
1. The Best Korean Pimple Patches
As the hydrocolloid patch first made a name for itself in Korea, it’s only right to include an OG Korean pimple patch on this list. The Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch is probably the best; it's certainly the most popular. These patches have a similar feel to a hydrogel mask and adhere really well to your skin, so they’ll stay put while they work their magic (ideally overnight). Use these to heal whiteheads or to purify an already-popped zit. Each pouch contains stickers of a few different sizes, so you can treat pimples large and small alike.
2. The Best Drugstore Pimple Patches
Other than Cosrx, these Nexcare acne patches have perhaps the biggest and most vocal fanbase online. One Amazon reviewer said these “magic” patches managed to extract and heal a blemish so stubborn that “I assumed it and I would be cremated together when that time came.” Yet another reviewer compared these patches to “black magic sorcery.” Magic or not, fans almost unanimously confirm these Nexcare patches work all kinds of wonders, from zapping whiteheads to soothing and flattening painful, inflamed spots. And since they’re manufactured by a literal adhesive bandage company, they truly don’t budge.
3. The Most Translucent Pimple Patches
When in public, go for a Rael Acne Healing Patch. These influencer favorites have ultra thin edges and a non-reflective finish, so you can wear them inconspicuously during the day. One Amazon reviewer said they wore a Rael patch at their “corporate, business professional job,” and didn't report receiving any side-eyes. More importantly, these Rael patches work well, and quickly: One reviewer wrote that the patch drew out their pimple in just four hours.
4. The Best Pimple Patches For Underground Pimples
Most hydrocolloid patches work at a surface level, so they can’t always get at underground pimples or cystic acne. But these ZitSticka pimple patches aren’t actually hydrocolloid patches. Instead, they use microdarts — teeny-tiny, painless needles composed of hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, and oligopeptide-76 — that can penetrate deep-seated, not-yet-sprouted pimples. Two hours after you apply the patch, the microneedles dissolve and release all those bacteria-killing ingredients to prevent the pimple from returning. These are a little pricier than the other pimple patches on this list, but they’re worth a shot if traditional hydrocolloid patches aren't working for deeper-seated spots.
5. The Best "Natural" Pimple Patches
Another thing most hydrocolloid patches have in common is that they usually contain ingredients that do not exist in nature. To clarify, lab-made ingredients are not strictly a bad thing — unless you have a known allergy to an artificial ingredient, “natural” vs. “unnatural” is mostly a matter of preference. If you’re in the former camp, consider these Alba Botanica Acnedote Pimple Patches. Like ZitStickas, they’re not hydrocolloid patches, but acne patches containing bacteria-fighting ingredients. These work just as well as their hydrocolloid cousins for drawing out gunk (not a technical term), but they’re composed almost entirely of botanically sourced ingredients, like tea tree, witch hazel, safflower oil, and salicylic acid. They also rank high on the adhesive and transparency scales.
6. The Best Pimple Patches For Large Spots
If you’re contending with an XL pimple, try a Mighty Patch Surface, the biggest iteration of Hero Cosmetics’ cult-favorite hydrocolloid patches. At just about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide, these patches are by far the biggest acne patches I’ve come across. They’re perfect for a single, large spot, but you can also use one patch to target an entire cluster of pimples at once. These are also ideal for chest acne, back acne, or anywhere else on your body where breakouts tend to take up more real estate.