So You Used a Pimple Patch—Now What?

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For many, pimple patches feel like the greatest innovation in skin care in ages. They flatten inflamed pimples and draw out white gunk from the center, leaving you with a better-looking, if not totally disappeared, blemish. However, more often than not, pimple patches leave a bit in their wake, whether that be an open pore or a dark spot. So it’s great that the bulging pimple has been subdued, but now you have a new set of issues. Here’s what experts suggest you do post-pimple patch.

Featured experts

  • Linda C. Honet, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Bloomfield Hills, MI in Pittsburg, PA
  • Jennifer Segal, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Houston
  • Lindsey Zubritsky, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Pittsburgh, PA

First of all, do dermatologists recommend using pimple patches?

Experts have a variety of takes on pimple patches, but if you have the right kind of pimple, most say it can help. “I love a pimple patch, and they really work to resolve the pimple faster,” says Bloomfield Hills, MI board-certified dermatologist Linda C. Honet, MD. On the other hand, board-certified Houston dermatologist Jennifer Segal, MD isn’t their biggest fan. She feels they can be more “harmful than helpful because they are irritating to the skin and can aggravate the blemish and the surrounding skin.”

Pittsburgh, PA board-certified dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky, MD is a big proponent of pimple patches—but only in the right situation. “I don’t recommend them as a single-therapy to fix your acne. The best thing you can do is stop acne before it occurs using topical treatments like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and retinoids,” she notes. “However, zits happen! And when they do, I love using a pimple patch to reduce the severity and length of an acne breakout.”

Ultimately, whether pimple patches are right for your skin type and your type of acne is something that might take some trial and error. We recommend talking with a board-certified dermatologist about what they recommend for you personally.

The history of pimple patches

While pimple patches seem innovative, and in some ways they are, the technology is not all that new, says Dr. Honet. The classic hydrocolloid dressing of which many pimple patches are made is an “old, effective wound-care treatment that dermatologists have used for decades…originally created and marketed for open wounds and poorly healing wounds, such as a surgical site, a site of trauma, a pressure wound, or an ulceration,” she explains. This “not only heals the wound faster but also creates a clean environment while the healing is taking place, protecting it from the environment, contamination and further trauma. It draws the excess interstitial fluid away from the wound without drying it out. It also allows a dressing to stay in place without incurring irritation from the trauma of a dressing change, leaving the new, fragile, healing cells undisturbed to do their job.”

The modern-day pimple patch is simply a miniature version of these classic hydrocolloid dressings reimagined and repackaged to treat a tiny wound, often a pimple, says Dr. Honet. “It’s really a genius repurposing of a tried-and-true wound dressing.”

What kind of pimple patch should I use?

Dr. Zubritsky tends to recommend against the use of medicated patches, as it can lead to more irritation in some people. Dr. Honet also doesn’t love a medicated pimple patch “because the ‘occlusion,’ where the patch is trapping the medication against the skin, can potentially cause marked irritation or inflammation or may even cause an allergic reaction.” Instead, they both suggest patches that utilize hydrocolloids. 

Dr. Zubritsky dubs Neutrogena Stubborn Acne Ultra-Thin Blemish Patches ($8) her favorite. “Hydrocolloid works to create an optimal healing environment for inflamed pimples, absorb fluid, and prevent you from picking at your zit,” she explains. “It’s best to apply the patch over the affected area, leave on for eight hours or overnight, then remove. Usually, the pimple will look smaller and flatter with just one use.” Other pimple patches we love include Hero Mighty Patch ($12) and Starface Hydro-Stars ($12)—both beloved by celebs.

What kind of pimples would benefit from a pimple patch, and which would not?

“The most effective way to use a hydrocolloid pimple patch is over zits that are red, inflamed, open and draining, like pustules, papules or cysts,” says Dr. Zubritsky. She notes that anything with a lot of fluid will benefit from a hydrocolloid patch. Dr. Honet says pimples that respond well to patches tend to be relatively small, mildly inflamed, pretty new and undisturbed (aka unsqueezed and unpicked).

“If the pimple seems to be significantly inflamed from having been squeezed, or if it seems to be worsening, becoming progressively bigger, more painful, swollen, red, or draining pus, not only will a pimple patch be ineffective, it may even make it potentially worse,” says Dr. Honet. Additionally, Dr. Zubritsky doesn’t recommend using pimple patches on blackheads, whiteheads or comedonal acne as it’s not very effective.

After the patch has dried up the pimple, you’re often left with a red mark. What should be done post-patch?

“The best way to treat a post-acne mark is with sunscreen and time,” says Dr. Zubritsky. “UV rays can prolong post-acne blemishes, so always choose a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. Usually, time will help to heal the redness.” She recommends products with niacinamide and centella asiatica to help calm the skin, reducing the appearance of redness.

Dr. Honet recommends maintaining one’s skin-care routine as usual after a pimple patch has worked its magic, which should include gentle cleansing, moisturization and maintenance. Dr. Zubritsky notes that it’s important to be gentle with your skin at this time to avoid further irritation, so skip aggressive scrubs and high-potency exfoliators for a bit.

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