There aren't many people out there who haven't struggled with a pimple every now and again. What do you do? From gels, washes, masks and *sharp intake of breath* popping them, the solution has always seemed unsatisfactory. So, enter pimple patches. A long time Korean beauty staple, these are essentially mini dressings which promote healing of the pimple to leave you with clearer skin sans blemishes or scarring.
Pimples (or zits or spots of you prefer) are caused by excess gland production of sebum which results in oil and dead cells getting trapped in pores. If these pores remain open, then these comedones become black heads. However, if the comedone becomes closed then this gives rise to whiteheads. When inflammation occurs in these blocked pores, the comedone manifests as a papule and if pus forms then it becomes a pustule which can progress to nodules or cysts. These inflamed comedones are known as cystic pimples and differ from whiteheads in that they usually don't come to a head, tend to appear red and diffusely swollen.
What Exactly Are Pimple Patches & Do They Work?
Pimple Patches are made of hydrocolloid. This is the most common type of wound dressing and contains gel-forming agents such as sodium carboxymethylcellulose and gelatin. Hydrocolloid dressings work by absorbing discharge from a wound and can also be designed to discharge healing substances hence they have become an integral part of modern wound healing. Which is precisely why they make an excellent treatment for pimples as they treat them like a wound thus healing them from inside out. Hence pimple patches work best on whiteheads which have already popped or are ripe for popping. They can also clean out blackheads or enlarged pores that haven't already clogged up. After application, the hydrocolloid simply draws out any exudate in order to restore the pore to its normal status. Plain hydrocolloid pimple patches aren't effective on their own on cystic pimples but there are ones which are impregnated with active ingredients that are better.
How To Use Pimple Patches
The best time to apply pimple patches is when you first notice a pimple appearing although they can be used on more advanced spots also. They are best reserved for one or two pimples so if you are suffering from a whole face breakout, its best to modify your skincare regime for the whole face by using products aimed for acne. Start by cleansing your face as normal. Then dry the pimple and surrounding skin with a clean towel. Stick on a pimple patch and leave it to do its magic. You can apply it overnight (we personally like this option best) or even during the day. Once you apply the pimple patch, continue with the rest of your skincare routine and you can even put on your makeup over it as the pimple is sealed underneath!
When you stick a pimple patch, it starts off as being clear. As it draws out the exudate from the pimple, it will change to a cloudy colour and then become white. At this point, you can remove the patch and usually the skin will look clear. Be very careful when removing the patch as they can stick down and if you're too rough, you may damage the healing wound and cause bleeding. If the patch isn't coming off easily, try easing it off with a little water, cleanser, toner or a bit of oil to loosen the edges.
The Most Popular Pimple Patches
There are so many options out there and the best thing is to firstly decide which kind of pimple you need them for. If you have a white head, opt for a simple hydrocolloid pimple patch as that will do the job. By far, the most popular patches on the market are the COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch which you can easily get online from a number of retailers including SOKO GLAM who ship internationally or Beauty & Seoul in the UK.
You can also use these simple hydrocolloid patches on cystic pimples but you will need to perform acne treatments beforehand. After cleansing your face, apply an icepack to the pimple for 5 minutes at a time. This will reduce the inflammation by constricting the blood vessels and hence bring down some of the redness and swelling. After this, treat the area with a benzoyl peroxide gel or cleanser to the pimple and follow up with a salicylic acid toner or gel. Stick on the pimple patch which will initially act as a bandage to keep the area clean and protected then draw out any fluid or exudate. Remove the patches once it turns white and repeat these steps until the pimple heals. Alternatively, you can cut a few steps down and by using more active pimple patches. The skyn ICELAND Blemish Dots contain salicylic acid which kills bacteria and brings down inflammation. They're also very lightweight and translucent enough to wear around without makeup. Apply these by cleansing as normal then applying the patch to your skin and leaving on till the end of the day (or overnight) then repeat if necessary.
Pimples and adult acne are on the rise and if you only suffer from isolated outbreaks, then using pimple patches is a far better solution than changing your entire skincare routine. You can of course also use them on other areas of the body like the neck, chest, limbs or back where pimples can appear. They provide a wound healing environment and hence help treat the pimple without causing scarring or injury to the skin. To begin with, the type of patch isn't important and you can start with a simple hydrocolloid pimple bandage and see what you think. Remember that a good regular skincare routine is essential for reducing the risk of pore blockage. Check out our skincare routine for oily skin if you want to learn how to look after your skin without stripping it off its moisture.