Will the Zit Sticker Solve Your Pesky Pimple Problems?

Why it might be beneficial to stock up on a few boxes of hydrocolloid patches

December 3, 2021 8:51 am
Pimple patches have quickly risen in popularity over the years for their convenience, affordability and effectiveness.
Pimple patches have quickly risen in popularity over the years for their convenience, affordability and effectiveness.
Cult Beauty

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Nothing kills a vibe faster than looking in the mirror and discovering a bright red, pus-filled dot staking a claim on your face.

We’ve all had our bouts with acne, of course, so there’s no need to feel ashamed or self-conscious about yours, especially because most of the time, it’s out of your control. There are steps you can take to minimize breakouts and clear up blemishes, like adopting a comprehensive skincare routine, speaking with your dermatologist or at the very least using a derm-approved facial cleanser morning and night. Still, pimples can slip through the cracks. We forget to cleanse every night or we eat sugary/fatty foods that make us prone to breakouts, while some of us pass out with our makeup still on after a long night of drinking, only to be greeted days later by one or multiple angry pustules.

Whenever this happens to me, I want the little bugger off my face ASAP, but popping them is extremely bad for your skin. The act, while satisfying in the moment, can cause infection and scarring, and even delay the natural healing process. So instead, I typically reach for a handy spot treatment.

Pimple patches, zit stickers, whatever you wanna call them, have quickly risen in popularity over the years for their convenience, affordability and effectiveness. To get more insight on the acne-fighting agent, we spoke with Dr. Annie Gonzalez, a Board Certified Miami Dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology.

What exactly are pimple patches, and how do they work?

“Pimple patches are small stickers made with healing gel called hydrocolloid that dries out the pimple,” says Gonzalez. “They’re designed to help your skin heal faster by absorbing toxins trapped under the skin and protecting the zit from external bacteria or face picking.”

When you purchase a pack of pimple patches, you’ll find a sheet of these semi-transparent circular stickers, often of various sizes, you then apply on top of your pimple, which as Gonzalez explains, will dry out the spot and inflammation while helping to keep your grimy hands from touching it and delaying the healing process.

Zit stickers work best on open, draining or healing pustules, papules and cysts, she adds, and need to be worn for a few hours in order to be effective. It’s why most people slap them on before bed, however, some patches are made for all-day use and even blend into the skin so you can treat your blemish while keeping it concealed.

“Before applying the patch, make sure the area is completely dry and clean to ensure it sticks well onto your skin,” Gonzalez notes. “Apply the patch over the pimple, leaving it on for the recommended time, depending on the product.”

Can zit stickers irritate my skin?

“For most people, the worst that they experience with pimple patches is simply nothing. It may not be better for the acne, but it won’t make it any worse. However, if you have sensitive skin, you may want to steer clear of pimple patches as they use adhesive to stick to your skin,” says Gonzalez. As with any product you’re about to introduce to your skin, it’s always best to consult with your dermatologist.

“If you’re sensitive or allergic to said adhesive, it can aggravate the surrounding skin. Some patches also contain salicylic acid or tea tree oil to dry out the pimples, potentially irritating sensitive skin. It’s also important to note that pimple patches are spot treatments for active bumps and are not meant to prevent acne or clear clogged pores.”

Pimple patches aren’t going to miraculously solve all of your pimple problems, and they’re really intended to be used, as Gonzalez explains, as spot treatments for a specific type of acne.

“Pimple patches only truly work on surface-level, superficial acne, such as pus-filled pimples, whiteheads and blackheads. The zit-drying hydrocolloid patches are intended to soak up the liquid and dry out the pimples while preventing sun exposure and picking at your acne,” she says. “You should consider a different treatment for deeper, larger pimples trapped under the skin, as these patches are unlikely to penetrate to the level needed to help cystic acne.”

All all pimple patches the same?

Whether you have oily, dry or normal skin, the standard patches — non-medicated ones that are strictly filled with hydrocolloid technology — are safe and will work for virtually any skin type, aside from sensitive skin as discussed above. However, if you’re looking for a patch that packs a little more punch, you can try one with dissolvable microneedles that may penetrate the skin. Still, there’s no guarantee they’ll heal deeper acne, stresses Gonzalez.

You can, however, look to the ingredients if you want to treat a specific skincare problem.

For example, ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil, niacinamide and vitamin E can help with redness and inflammation, explains Gonzalez.

“If you suffer from blackheads, a patch with vitamin A, which regulates excessive oil production while promoting cell turnover is what you should look for. Vitamin A rids of dead skin cells that could potentially clog pores and cause breakouts. Salicylic acid can also help by penetrating the hair follicles and oil glands to help treat and dissolve the blackhead. Whiteheads respond well to tea tree oil, which boosts the anti-microbial power of the patch and keeps the pimple from further inflammation,” she adds.

So if you’re susceptible to the occasional annoying, sometimes painful, glaring pimple, it might be beneficial to keep a couple of packs of pimple patches at the ready so you can squash them as soon as they appear. And because there is now an endless stream of zit sticker options, here are a few brands Gonzalez recommends.

Mighty Patch

Mighty Patch

“This patch is a good option for superficial, easy to deal with acne. It is a hydrocolloid option that helps draw out the excess fluid while keeping you from picking at your face.”



“This brand helps target the deeper cystic acne some might want to handle with these patches. These patches use salicylic acid, tea tree oil and more to fade redness and reduce inflammation.”


Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Invisible Dots Blemish Treatment

“Combining hydrocolloid and acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and tea tree oil, these patches help clear acne while providing layers of benefits underneath. “

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