Is skin care the new self-care? Or has there always been as much excitement around the next skin fix?
Pimple patches are one of the hottest products right now for the blemish challenged. These little bandages are made to be stuck directly onto pimples to dry them up more quickly.
While many pimple patches are small translucent stickers, others are look-at-me loud yellow stars and jewel-adorned flower shapes. They’re meant to be seen, with companies saying they’re aiming to fight the stigma associated with acne.
While stigma remains, up to 50 million people a year experience acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Acne doesn’t just impact people going through puberty. Up to 15 percent of adult women experience acne, according to the AAD (though other surveys place that number even higher — more than 50 percent).
Clearing up acne isn’t only about achieving glowing skin. Acne can impact mental health too. For example, one 2016 study found that 45 percent of people with acne experience social phobia, compared to 18 percent of people without.
Pimple stickers promise to alleviate some the blow to self-esteem that comes from going to work with a too-big-to-ignore zit on your face. Dermatologists tell us if they live up to this promise.
Dr. Lavanya Krishnan, a board certified dermatologist, told Healthline that it is important for people to understand what type of acne patches can — and don’t — work for.
While meant for surface-level, easier-to-treat acne, also known as superficial acne, Krishnan sees patients who are trying to use them for deeper, cystic types of acne.
“They’re aimed at treating the superficial kind of acne, like pus-filled bumps, blackheads, and whiteheads. It’s unlikely these patches penetrate to the level that will be able to help cystic acne,” Krishnan said.
Pimple patches are made of hydrocolloid, a moisture-absorbing dressing that’s also commonly used to help heal chronic wounds. You can think of pimple patches as mini-dressings for the small wound — or zit — on your face.
“Hydrocolloid dressings are meant to soak up liquid to [dry] pimples out,” explained Krishnan.
By adsorbing the toxins trapped under your skin, while protecting the zit from external bacteria, sunlight, or face picking, the pimple patches can accelerate healing.
“Another good thing about the stickers is they act as a cover up and prevent you from picking at your acne,” Krishnan pointed out. Picking can cause scarring, which makes your skin look worse.
“There’s also a benefit to preventing sun exposure on healing acne, and stickers do that,” she added.
Patches solely utilizing hydrocolloid technology are known as non-medicated patches.
Other patches tout added microneedling abilities, but according to Krishnan, “These microneedles aren’t quite deep enough to penetrate to the level of what someone needs” to heal deeper acne.
“Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are always good ingredients to look for. They’re staples for acne treatment,” Krishnan recommends.
Deeper acne, like large, painful pimples trapped under the skin, will likely require cortisol injections or other treatment that pimple patches just can’t deliver.
Board certified dermatologist Dr. Caren Campbell prefers the non-medicated versions of pimple patches.
Experts recommend you apply patches to a clean, dry face as the first step in your skin routine.
That feeling of heightened self-consciousness over a growing zit is a universal experience. One way pimple patches help fight this is by treating those problem spots discreetly.
Other products, like Starface’s Hydro-Stars — bright yellow star-shaped stickers, aren’t for hiding acne. They’re about acceptance.
“They don’t only work to treat the pimples themselves, but reprogram the negative connotation around breakouts by giving spots a gold star. Just the simple act of putting on a star always makes me feel a bit better — it’s not about hiding, it’s about acceptance,” Julie Schott, the co-founder of Starface told British Vogue.
Ultimately, Campbell said, “Confidence destigmatizes acne. Wearing a patch can instill confidence, but an unapologetic attitude toward imperfection is best.”
A dermatologist can help you look your best — and therefore bolster your confidence.
“If your acne bothers you or is scarring, I advise a visit or two with a dermatologist to get you on track. Acne requires a long-term treatment plan as anything that works for acne takes 6 to 12 weeks to really start working,” Campbell told Healthline.
Krishnan also recommends a visit to the dermatologist for people dealing with more than the occasional surface-level pimple.
“A lot of patients with cystic acne also get superficial acne, so there is place for people with deeper acne to use [pimple stickers]. It’s still a good idea to see the dermatologist to help with deeper acne, but also to highlight what acne patches are useful for,” she said.
For those who just need a spot treatment for a pesky whitehead? Krishnan thinks pimple patches are definitely worth a try.
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