The Best Pimple Patches For Cystic Acne, According To An Expert

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Cystic acne can be hard to treat, but with the help of the right products — like pimple patches, for example — it is possible to lessen the severity and duration of your breakouts. According to Dr. Rachel Maiman, who spoke to Elite Daily for this article, the the best pimple patches for cystic acne contain pore-clearing and anti-inflammatory ingredients like salicylic acid, niacinamide, and tea tree oil. Additional hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, are an added bonus.

“Pimple patches are small hydrocolloid dressings,” Dr. Maiman explains. “They create a protective seal over the skin and simultaneously absorb excess fluids, like oil and pus, which helps flatten the lesions faster and reduce inflammation.” They also prevent picking you from picking at your blemishes, and the sealed, moist environment can help speed up the healing process. Dr. Maiman says pimple patches are helpful when a lesion needs to be brought down acutely, such as before a big event, and are most useful for blemishes that are early in their development, as it can prevent them from progressing into a lesion that’s fully formed. However, they may not be able to penetrate deeply enough to fully improve cystic acne blemishes, but since acne is best treated with a multi-layered approach, consider them just one tool in your acne-management toolbox.

The doctor says to pick a patch that’s big enough to fit the whole lesion in the center, and to apply the patch to a clean, dry face with clean hands (my editor likes to apply her pimple patches with a pair of tweezers). Keep it on for a minimum of six and maximum of 24 hours, or until the patch turns opaque (an indication it has effectively sucked out all the “gunk”). “If other topical acne medications are being used, these should be applied first and the patches second. However, patches should be applied before moisturizers and serums to ensure efficacy isn’t compromised,” Dr. Maiman explains.

To shop the best pimple patches for hormonal acne, keep scrolling.

1. The Overall Best Pimple Patches For Cystic Acne

These pimple patches from Mario Badescu contain all the greatest-hits ingredients Dr. Maiman suggests seeking out, including salicylic acid, tea tree, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, along with vitamin C to reduce hyperpigmentation. There are an impressive 60 clear, thin patches in this box, and they’re small and subtle enough to keep on during the day.

2. The Best Microdart Patches For Cystic Acne

Dr. Maiman explains that microdarts are dissolving microneedles — or in other words, very fine, tiny needles that helps the patches penetrate deeper and deliver the active ingredients to the source of the inflammation. You can find them in pimple patches like Peach Slices Deep Blemish Microdarts. The patches in here are infused with salicylic acid, tea tree oil, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, and each one has 176 microneedles for maximum impact. You only get nine patches in a box, but the under-$10 price tag feels eminently reasonable.

3. The Best Oval Pimple Patches For Cystic Acne

These COSRX pimple patches are oval-shaped rather than circular, and they have a smooth matte finish, so they both effectively cover larger pimples and disappear imperceptibly into your skin. With your purchase, you get 36 patches total, in two sizes, which are made with salicylic acid and tea tree, two of the ingredients Dr. Maiman recommends.

4. The Best Pimple Patches For Cystic Acne Scarring

Long after a pimple is gone, you may still have unwanted scarring from past breakouts. If that’s the case for you, you can target that concern with this set of Rael Microcrystal Dark Spot Patches, made with tranexamic acid and niacinamide, which together, in a study of 42 people, were shown to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. You get just six patches in a box, and they have a unique, slightly rectangular shape to cover larger surface areas.

5. The Best Pimple Patch Kit

The patches in the “KILLA Kit” by ZitSticka are similar to the Peach Slices microdart pimple patches (both contain salicylic acid, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid and have microneedles), but this kit contains both eight patches and eight priming swabs, which have salicylic acid, tea tree oil, vitamin E, and alcohol, to clean and prep your skin before you cover it with the patch. Rather than the light beige color of the Peach Slices patches, these are completely translucent and clear.

6. The Best Non-Medicated Pimple Patches For Cystic Acne

If you’re already using enough salicylic acid products and want to avoid overdoing it, you can use these Alba Botanica Acnedote Pimple Patches, which contain doctor-approved tea tree oil and witch hazel to dry out and shrink your lesions. For under $10, you get 40 clear patches: 20 small, 20 large. That makes this box of patches an incredibly great value, too.


Dr. Rachel Maiman, Board Certified Dermatologist at Marmur Medical

Studies referenced:

Reduction in facial hyperpigmentation after treatment with a combination of topical niacinamide and tranexamic acid: a randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled trial