Pimple patches are a staple for beauty influencers, but do they work? We asked experts

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaJun 17, 2023 | 18:00

Pimple patches are a staple for beauty influencers, but do they work? We asked experts

I have always struggled with horrific cystic acne. When I say I've tried everything, I mean everything - from egg whites (I'm vegetarian) to niacinamide serums, but nothing ever really worked. I would blame everything around me, from my unhealthy lifestyle to my mom's genes. So, when I saw influencers and every other girl on Instagram using a weird plastic thing called a pimple patch, I knew I had to try it. Some of them were actually really cute - with glitter and interesting shapes that acted as a catalyst ngl.  



So, I purchased one of those pimple patches that was readily available on Amazon. Despite my reservations, I kept my hopes high this time (my primary search on Google and words from my favourite influencers told my guts that it would actually work). So, I started using one.

However, after a month of consistent use, I find myself feeling confused about its effectiveness. Sometimes it seemed to work, but other times it actually seemed to worsen my acne.

If you're anything like me or are just confused about whether or not pimple patches actually work, this migh be for you.

But exactly what is a pimple patch?

  • A pimple patch, also known as an acne patch or a spot treatment patch, is a small adhesive patch that is specifically designed to target and treat individual pimples or acne blemishes.
  • The primary purpose of a pimple patch is to absorb excess fluid and oil from the pimple while protecting it from external irritants and bacteria.
  • It is believed that by creating a moist environment and preventing the pimple from being exposed to air and bacteria, the healing process can be accelerated.

But did you know that these tiny patches are actually available in 6 types, and not just one? 

The most common ones are made of hydrocolloid (gel-like) material, which creates a protective barrier over the pimple. 

The others are:

  1. Medicated Patches: Some pimple patches are infused with acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil, or benzoyl peroxide. These patches not only absorb excess oil but also deliver active ingredients to the pimple, helping reduce inflammation and killing bacteria.

  2. Microneedle Patches: Microneedle patches have tiny microneedles embedded in them. These microneedles penetrate the skin's surface and deliver acne-fighting ingredients directly into the pimple. They can help unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and promote faster healing.

  3. Clear Patches: Clear pimple patches are transparent and virtually invisible on the skin. They provide a discreet way to treat pimples while going about your daily activities without drawing attention to the blemish.

  4. Anti-inflammatory Patches: Some pimple patches are specially designed to reduce inflammation and redness. They often contain ingredients like centella asiatica or green tea extract, which have soothing properties and help calm irritated skin.

  5. Acne-covering Patches: These patches not only treat the pimple but also provide coverage, acting as a makeup concealer. They are usually thicker and come in flesh-toned or tinted options to camouflage the blemish.

But pimple patches are generally not recommended by experts. Here's why:

DailyO asked various dermatologists if they would actually recommend a pimple patch to their patients. And the answers were -- eeh, no, and very rarely. We asked them why. 

You are applying a pimple patch to settle acne, but that is not the treatment of acne. The treatment of acne is preventing the formation of new ones. A patch is used when you already have acne.
- Dr Sujit Shanshanwal, a dermatologist from Mumbai

He added, "Even though it is not the treatment, a pimple patch can be used if you've gotten a bigger inflamed acne. It will help settle it a bit faster. So, it is not useless, but it is not the treatment." 

Dr Shazia Zaidi, a dermatologist from Noida also said that she rarely prescribes a pimple patch to her patients. 

You can't get a pimple patch by watching it on the internet or YouTube; you need to go to a doctor who can actually tell you the root cause of the acne for the treatment.
- Dr Shazia Zaidi

Now, according to these experts, there can be various side effects of pimple patches if not used properly. 

 If your pimple is bigger, the patch may help you cover it, but if it is small, the rest of the patch can get attached to your normal skin, and can cause dryness, and redness. 
- Dr Sujit Shanshanwal

He added that it can be 'hazardous to use' since pimple patches will make your skin even drier. So, it's better and works more effectively for oily skin. 

'A patch can never prevent a new one from forming' 

Dermats also said that these pimple patches are never the solution to your acne problems, and the pimple patches are at times ineffective on certain kinds of acne. For instance, blackheads, whiteheads, or the most common, hormonal acne. 

So, if you're thinking that the moment you get acne, you would like to pick up your pimple patch packet, pick one of them, and apply it on a random day: you can't do that (we're all guilty). 

If you're getting a suddenly inflamed pimple; it needs to breathe; it's not to be covered. If you apply a patch, it is going to make it worse.
- Dr Sujit Shanshanwal

Another red flag for these pimple patches is that, unlike other products in the market, there is no scientific study available to prove their efficacy, as Dr Shanshanwal pointed out.

A better solution

So, if you are thinking that what can be used instead of pimple patches, here's a simple answer - use gel-based creams prescribed by a consultant for spot treatment and better results. 

Another permanent solution, according to Dr Zaidi, is finding the root cause of your pimple.

For a permanent solution, you need to make certain changes in your lifestyle and finding out the cause of acne is really important, it can be anything from pollution to your diet. 
- Dr Shazia Zaidi

Bottom line: It's always better to consult an expert before using any over-the-counter products, such as pimple patches for your skin, especially when dealing with acne.

Last updated: June 17, 2023 | 18:00
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