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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.

Pros

  • stays on throughout a shower
  • fragrance-free
  • three patch sizes in each pack

Cons

  • can get expensive
  • not individually wrapped

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% 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.

Pros

  • moisturizing
  • comes with 72 acne patches
  • reports of visible improvement in 8 hours

Cons

  • pricier than other comparable patches
  • some complaints that the dots don’t stay on very well
  • smaller than average

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.

Pros

  • can cut large patches into smaller sizes depending on need
  • designed for sensitive skin
  • strong adhesive

Cons

  • some complaints that it leaves behind sticky tape residue
  • some reviews that the patches are too thin
  • not the best patch for painful, cystic acne

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 where you might see a whitehead forming, as part of your skin care routine to curb the breakout while you can.

Pros

  • UV sterilized
  • easy-peel perforated sheets
  • stays on throughout the night

Cons

  • not recommended for cystic pimples or blackheads

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.

Pros

  • latex-free
  • heavy-duty
  • transparent

Cons

  • does not work for cystic acne
  • some complaints that the patches fall off
  • may be too small for some users

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.

Pros

  • two-step treatment with potent ingredients
  • painless
  • faster than other standard pimple patches

Cons

  • expensive
  • patches may be to be too small
  • may require multiple applications to see results

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.

Pros

  • covers a large surface area
  • reports of drastic reduction in acne spots
  • waterproof

Cons

  • some notes of too much packaging and plastic
  • slightly uncomfortable for some users
  • only part of the patch is medicated

Best splurge

Peace Out Acne Healing Dots

  • Main active ingredients: hydrocolloid, salicylic acid, aloe, retinol
  • Type of acne patch: hydrocolloid bandages
  • Price: $$$

With these patches, hydrocolloid polymer technology and salicylic acid work together to block external pollutants and calm blemishes. Each patch also includes retinol and aloe to soothe irritated skin, tackle redness, and minimize the look of breakouts overnight.

Use overnight for best results.

Pros

  • time-released
  • soothes redness
  • reduces inflammation

Cons

  • only one size
  • pricey


Best for scarring

Dr. Jart+ Focuspot Blemish Micro Tip Patch

  • Main active ingredients: hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, polypeptide
  • Type of acne patch: microneedle
  • Price: $$

Each micro tip patch from Dr. Jart is infused with 65% hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, and peptides to visibly clear blemishes and help prevent scarring. If you have sensitive skin, this is a gentle option to consider.

Bonus? These patches are individually packaged, making them easy (and sanitary) to tote around.

Pros

  • hydrating
  • works for deep pimples
  • helps prevent scarring

Cons

  • may be too small for some users
  • can get expensive


Best for teens

Starface Hydro-Stars

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

No need to be shy when it comes to wearing your pimple patches outside. These hydro-stars are meant to be in the spotlight. Each hydrocolloid patch from Starface can help absorb fluid and reduce inflammation to shrink pimples overnight.

Pros

  • budget-friendly
  • fun to wear
  • helps prevent scarring

Cons

  • not the best patch for painful cystic acne
  • may require multiple applications to see results

PatchMain active ingredientsTypePriceProsCons
COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patchcellulose gum, styrene isoprene styrene block copolymer, polyisobutylenehydrocolloid bandages$stays on throughout a shower,
fragrance-free,
three patch sizes in each pack
can get expensive, not individually wrapped
Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Invisible Dotssalicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, tea tree oilmedicated$$$moisturizing,
comes with 72 acne patches,
reports of visible improvement in 8 hours
pricier than other comparable patches,
some complaints that the dots don’t stay on very well,
smaller than average
Rael Miracle Patch Microcrystal Spot Covertea tree leaf oil, salicylic acidmedicated$$$can cut large patches into smaller sizes depending on need,
designed for sensitive skin,
strong adhesive
some complaints that it leaves behind sticky tape residue,
some reviews that the patches are too thin,
not the best patch for painful, cystic acne
Mighty Patch Originalhydrocolloidhydrocolloid bandages$UV sterilized,
easy-peel perforated sheets,
stays on throughout the night
not recommended for cystic pimples or blackheads
Nexcare Acne Blemish Coverhydrocolloid and ethylene oxidehydrocolloid bandages$latex-free,
heavy-duty,
transparent
does not work for cystic acne,
some complaints that the patches fall off,
may be too small for some users
Acropass Trouble Curehyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, tea tree leaf oil, niacinamidemicroneedle$$two-step treatment with potent ingredients,
painless,
faster than other standard pimple patches
expensive,
patches may be to be too small,
may require multiple applications to see results
ZitSticka KILLA Kitsalicylic acid, hyaluronic acidmicroneedle$$covers a large surface area,
reports of drastic reduction in acne spots,
waterproof
some notes of too much packaging and plastic,
slightly uncomfortable for some users,
only part of the patch is medicated
Peace Out Acne Healing Dotshydrocolloid, salicylic acid, aloe, retinolhydrocolloid bandages$$$time-released, soothes redness, reduces inflammationonly one size, pricey
Dr. Jart+ Focuspot Blemish Micro Tip Patchhyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, polypeptidemicroneedle$$hydrating, works for deep zits, helps prevent scarringmay be too small for some users, can get expensive
Starface Hydro-Starshydrocolloidhydrocolloid bandages$budget-friendly, fun to wear, helps prevent scarringnot the best patch for painful, cystic acne, may require multiple applications to see results

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.

If you don’t notice a difference after a few weeks of using acne patches, book a visit with a primary care doctor or dermatologist. They can help shed light on your particular skin condition or acne, as well as help you treat stubborn to severe acne.

It’s also a good idea to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional if you develop nodules or cysts, or if your acne is deep, inflamed, and painful.

Do dermatologists recommend pimple patches?

While pimple patches aren’t harmful, some dermatologists recommend trying out other things before using pimple patches because they don’t always work for all acne types. Moderate to severe acne likely needs other treatment.

What is the white stuff in pimple patches?

The white stuff is simply the hydrocolloid mixing with your skin’s moisture, as well as any pus and oils.

Can you put a pimple patch on a popped pimple?

Yes, but make sure to cleanse the spot before application. Most pimple patches only work on open pimples.

While acne patches can come in handy, it’s 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.