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It’s such an “uh oh!” moment when the night before a big day, your skin starts to itch, tingle, and, finally, produce a raised bump. A new pimple is born.

As you frantically Google a quick and effective overnight treatment, acne patches might be one of the first things you find.

But wait.

Before you jump on the acne patch wagon, it’s important to understand the different types. Each is targeted to treat different types of acne.

Most of these patches work by absorbing any excess fluid and removing any dirt and oil that may be causing surface-level acne. They can easily be added to a skin care routine — just apply an acne patch to clean skin when you notice your pimple is showing a white or yellow head. When used correctly, they may help to speed up the recovery process and even prevent scarring.

However, when used incorrectly, you’ll simply be flushing your money and time down the drain.

If you’re trying to figure out which acne patches are suitable for your acne, this article is for you.

There are a number of benefits to using acne patches, from keeping you from picking your acne and preventing further irritation to providing UV protection and aiding in the healing process.

Just like there are different types of acne, there are different types of acne patches to treat them. Here’s a brief breakdown of the types of acne patches and when to use them:

Types of acneWhich patch to use
• papules
• pustules
• nodular or cystic acne
medicated
• pimples
• whiteheads
nonmedicated
• deep nodular or cystic acnemicroneedle

Patches for active acne

Medicated acne patches are filled with active ingredients that help to kill the acne-causing bacteria and soothe inflammation. The patches enhance the absorption of the active ingredients into the skin.

They help to reduce bumps, pain, and redness and can be effective when treating inflamed acne, like papules. They may also help to reduce the size of lesions caused by nodular or cystic acne. The most common active ingredients of these patches are salicylic acid and tea tree oil.

Patches for healing acne

Nonmedicated acne patches are another name for hydrocolloid bandages, which are most commonly used for postsurgical wounds to help speed up the healing process.

Nonmedicated acne patches differ slightly in that they’ve been cut mostly in a circle shape to fit the size of pimples. They’re also incredibly thin, which means they’re less noticeable if you decide to wear them out in public.

These patches work by:

  • sucking out the moisture from your pores
  • preventing another infection
  • serving as a moisture barrier to help speed up recovery and prevent the formation of acne scars

Patches for cystic acne

Though the word “needle” may cause you some concern, worry not. Microneedle acne patches aren’t as scary as they sound, and they can be totally pain-free.

These patches contain dissolving microneedles — very fine, tiny needles — on one side and should be used to help treat cystic or nodular acne. The patches can help penetrate and deliver active ingredients to a deeper layer of the skin where it’s needed.

While their effectiveness may vary depending on the person and the depth of the acne lesion itself, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.

We chose acne patches based on their active ingredients, affordability, company reputation, and, most importantly, customer reviews.

We did our best to choose products in a budget-friendly price range. The good thing about acne patches is that they are relatively affordable, and often come in value packs that can last a long time.

Pricing guide:

  • $ = under $15
  • $$ = $15–$30
  • $$$ = over $30

Best overall

COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch

  • Main active ingredients: cellulose gum, styrene isoprene styrene block copolymer, polyisobutylene
  • Type of acne patch: hydrocolloid bandages
  • Price: $

A staple in the K-beauty world, these pimple patches target whiteheads, blackheads, and picked zits overnight. The patches are easy to apply, come in three different sizes, and don’t wash off in the shower.

Best for moisturizing

Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Invisible Dots

  • Main active ingredients: salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, tea tree oil
  • Type of acne patch: medicated
  • Price: $$$

With 0.5 percent salicylic acid, these medicated acne patches instantly reduce the look of acne blemishes and blackheads. The best part? They also contain hyaluronic acid, so your skin stays moisturized while fighting the appearance of acne.

Best for soothing

Rael Miracle Patch Microcrystal Spot Cover

  • Main active ingredients: tea tree leaf oil, salicylic acid
  • Type of acne patch: medicated
  • Price: $$$

These hydrogel acne patches contain tea tree oil and herbal extracts to fight acne and protect damaged skin from bacteria and possible infection. It also contains hyaluronic acid to prevent skin from overdrying.

Best for preventing future breakouts

Mighty Patch Original

  • Main active ingredients: hydrocolloid
  • Type of acne patch: hydrocolloid bandages
  • Price: $

These acne patches use the highest grade hydrocolloid to trap pus and impurities, so your acne looks better in just a few hours. Apply to clean skin every night as part of your skin care routine to prevent future breakouts.

Best drugstore buy

Nexcare Acne Blemish Cover

  • Main active ingredients: hydrocolloid and ethylene oxide
  • Type of acne patch: hydrocolloid bandages
  • Price: $

These hydrocolloid bandages are made from a bandage brand, so you can guarantee a durable product. Each nonmedicated patch helps absorb excess oil from the blemish and prevents you from picking at the skin.

Best for stubborn breakouts

Acropass Trouble Cure

  • Main active ingredients: hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, tea tree leaf oil, niacinamide
  • Type of acne patch: microneedle
  • Price: $$

For deep, painful cystic acne, you’re going to need to bring out the big guns (patches). Each pack comes with a pad soaked in salicylic acid and tea tree leaf oil to cleanse the infected area, as well as a microneedle pimple patch infused with hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and prevent dryness.

Best for cystic acne

ZitSticka KILLA Kit

  • Main active ingredients: salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid
  • Type of acne patch: microneedle
  • Price: $$

For occasional flare-ups, these needle spot patches are your best friend. ZitSticka microdarts help give the patch access to the zit’s source, so its ingredients can take better action and curb the zit before it flares up.

Use overnight to flatten and drain the pimple and to reduce swelling and redness.

Ingredients are everything when it comes to selecting an acne patch. We recommend looking out for hyaluronic acid or niacinamide for hydration and acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil.

Not all pimples are created equal so it depends on what you are trying to tackle as well. Medicated patches are great for active acne, whereas nonmedicated patches work to help speed up the healing process. If you have cystic acne, you may want to look for a microneedle patch, which is pain-free and helps get deeper into the skin.

If you have really sensitive skin, you may want to skip the medicated patch and opt for a basic hydrocolloid patch.

  1. Make sure to clean your face and hands before you apply them.
  2. Pick the size that best fits the whole lesion in the center of the patch.
  3. Gently stick them on dry skin as the first step of your routine, especially for hydrocolloid patches.
  4. Let them sit for at most 24 hours or until the patches turn into an opaque color. When they’ve turned opaque, you know they’ve sucked out the debris from the pores.

Tips for how to use patches for active acne

  • For this type of acne patch, you’re not restricted to put it on as the first step of your routine. You can put it on over other products, but just keep in mind that you want the active ingredients to absorb into the skin. So, put them on before an occlusive moisturizer, which helps prevents water loss.
  • Look for words or phrases like “active ingredients,” “salicylic acid,” or “tea tree oil.”

Tips for how to use patches for healing acne

  • It’s best to use these patches when your pimple is showing a white or yellow head.
  • Look for the words “nonmedicated” or “hydrocolloid patches” on the packaging.
  • Don’t apply the patches after toner, essences, or serum. This will reduce their effectiveness, and you’ll waste your products.

Tips for how to use patches for cystic acne

  • Just like nonmedicated acne patches, make sure to use these patches as the first step in your routine.
  • Make sure not to touch the microneedle side while applying the patches. You don’t want more bacteria to get inside your skin.

Although it sounds like a promising and potentially no-pain, risk-free acne treatment, acne patches may not work on all different types of acne. For example, acne patches may not work as effectively on blackheads.

Hydrocolloid patches aren’t comparable to regular pore strips and may not be strong enough to remove the blackheads.

Acne patches also won’t help solve the root cause of the acne itself.

While acne patches can come in handy, it’s so important to use them on the appropriate type of acne. One great method is to use acne patches when you need to quickly reduce the appearance on a special event or big day.

Claudia is a skin care and skin health enthusiast, educator, and writer. She’s currently pursuing her PhD in dermatology in South Korea and runs a skin care-focused blog so she can share her skin care knowledge with the world. Her hope is for more people to be conscious about what they put on their skin. You can also check out her Instagram for more skin-related articles and ideas.