Banish blemishes without damaging your skin with our pick of the best pimple patches
If you’re prone to breakouts, then you’ll be well aware of the constant temptation to pick away at your spots. The best pimple patches can help stop this bad habit once and for all. Not only do they provide an extra layer between your fingers and the spots, but pimple patches also keep out bacteria and environmental stressors so that your spots heal faster.
With so many on the market, from salicylic acid formulas to plain hydrocolloid patches, it can be difficult to know which pimple patches will work for you. Luckily, we’ve tested loads and have picked out the best pimple patches for every kind of blemish. Not sure where to start? Take a look at our buying guide below for some top tips for pimple patch purchasing.
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How to choose the best pimple patch for you
How do pimple patches work?
Pimple patches are in many ways the successful younger sibling of hydrocolloid patches, which were originally used as hygienic, waterproof medical dressings. In their original form, hydrocolloid dressings would be placed over clean wounds to help give them a moist environment to heal faster whilst sapping away excess fluids.
Similarly, hydrocolloid pimple patches work by sucking the oil and gunk out of the spots, whilst protecting them from bacteria and pick-happy hands. Other pimple patches use a hydrocolloid base but are also formulated with spot-busting ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil, niacinamide and glycolic acid. Either way, pimple patches work gradually to flatten the appearance of blemishes and reduce redness.
Don’t expect perfect results overnight — unfortunately, pimple patches aren’t made from magic, so it might take a few applications to banish each blemish for good. However, the benefits of using pimple patches to shrink blemishes faster are that it stops you from picking at the spot and it speeds up the healing process. That means fewer bacteria, so less future breakouts and scarring.
What are the different types of pimple patches?
Plain hydrocolloid patches are the most basic pimple patches on the market. They work to create a waterproof, hygienic barrier over the pimple so that it stays clean throughout the healing process. It also provides an insulated and moist healing environment which speeds up the healing process.
These patches are not formulated with any skin-loving ingredients to actively treat acne, but they cover spots and help to draw out impurities over time. That means you’ll get slower results than with specially formulated pimple patches, but it’s still an effective treatment if you’re hoping to nip picking in the bud and keep your spots clean.
Spot treatment pimple patches also tend to have a hydrocolloid base because of their waterproof, flexible structure, but they’re also formulated with extra spot-busting ingredients such as salicylic acid, tea tree and niacinamide to help shrink spots even faster. Whilst again, you won’t get overnight results, you can tell the difference between a pimple patch that includes skin-loving ingredients and one that doesn’t.
Dissolvable microneedle pimple patches use hundreds of microscopic needles to penetrate deeper into the skin. That means that the active ingredients can get to work faster than if they were plonked right onto the skin’s surface. Don’t worry though, the needles aren’t painful as they’re made using water-soluble materials such as hyaluronic acid so that they dissolve into the skin over time, dispersing any skin-loving products they’re coated in.
Of course, such high-tech skincare comes at a cost — dissolvable microneedle pimple patches tend to be much more expensive than their flat counterparts. However, they’re still super helpful to have around as they banish blemishes far faster.
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How to use pimple patches
Before applying pimple patches, you’ll want to cleanse your face and wash your hands thoroughly. If your patches come in different sizes, make sure you choose the right one to cover the whole spot. Then, carefully lift the patch from its packaging, place it over the offending area and smooth it down, making sure to keep the spot in the middle of the patch.
Remember, you should only apply serums and moisturisers after the pimple patch is on the skin, as they can interfere with the efficacy of the patch. Be careful not to knock the patch out of place during application.
Once the treatment is finished, which will be around 6-10 hours after application or overnight depending on the patch, simply peel it off from the skin and either reapply to continue treatment or admire the results.
How to store pimple patches
Most pimple patches come with their own storage method, whether that’s an airtight box or a ziplock container. This keeps the patches moist, stopping them from drying out before you’ve had the chance to use them. If the patches don’t come with any storage, we recommend storing them in an airtight food bag. Once they’re in an airtight container, it’s best to store them in a cool, dry place.
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How we test pimple patches
For those who haven’t tried pimple patches before, or those who have without much success, rest assured that we’ve tested a huge range of pimple patches to include only the best in this roundup. On our journey, we came across numerous pimple patches that simply didn’t help have any effect on spots, or worse still, simply peeled off prematurely before even having the opportunity to get to work. However, with others we were pleasantly surprised.
Of course, the only way to evaluate pimple patches is to apply them to spots after cleansing and judging the results. We used the patches at night time, to see whether the adhesive would last through a night of tossing and turning. In addition, every patch was tested on spots at different stages in their cycle, from pimples that are just beginning to brew under the skin to full-blown white heads, to figure out which patches brought results for every type of spot.
The best pimple patches to buy in 2023
1. CORSX AC collection acne patch: Best all-round pimple patch
Price: £7 for 26 | Buy now from Beauty Bay
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for sorting out your pimples, then you won’t find pimple patches better than the CORSX AC collection acne patch. The main ingredient aside from the hydrocolloid base is centella asiatica extract, which is typically used topically to heal wounds, repair the skin barrier and treat skin conditions such as psoriasis. The formula is both gentle and effective on the skin, so each patch leaves no trace after application, and is effective at busting breakouts pimples at any stage. During testing, we also found that these patches helped to bring ingrown hairs to the surface.
Each pack of 26 patches includes three different sizes; small for individual spots, medium for larger spots, and large for covering a bigger area of breakouts. The thicker hydrocolloid part in the centre is surrounded by a thinner border that helps the patch seamlessly blend into the skin. It blends so well that, whilst testing a range of patches, I forgot to remove this one before washing my face in the morning.
Key details — Type: Microneedle pimple patch; Ingredients: Mineral oil, Centella Asiatica Extract; Cost/patch: £0.27
2. ESK spotless microneedle patches: Best for emergency treatment
Price: £30 for 8 | Buy now from ESK skin
Picture this: you’re just about to go on holiday and feel a mammoth zit brewing under the skin. Normally there isn’t much you can do aside from waiting it out and, whether you’re religious or not, praying for it to go away. Thankfully, these microneedle patches from ESK are the answer to our prayers, working to quickly flatten and reduce redness on early-stage spots. Each patch has 300 microneedles that penetrate the spot-treating ingredients deeper into the skin, allowing for faster treatment. The microneedles are topped with vitamin B3, salicylic acid, green tea and tea tree oil, all of which are widely recognised as having breakout- and irritation-reducing properties.
Whilst the term ‘needle’ might sound intimidating, the microneedles on this patch are actually made from hyaluronic acid, which dissolves into the skin throughout the 8-hour treatment. That’s why the patches are pain-free – the initial feeling is similar to pushing your finger down on the spiky side of a velcro strip. They’re not exactly like the flat pimple patches, and they’re certainly not as invisible as them, to begin with, so we’d recommend using them overnight.
These patches are by no means cheap, but they are a godsend for staving off big blemishes just before important events.
Key details — Type: Microneedle pimple patch; Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, salicylic acid, green tea, and tea tree oil; Cost/patch: £3.75
3. Starface Hydrostar + Salicylic Acid: Best for gentle treatment
Price: £11 for 28 | Buy now from Boots
Small and gentle, these Starface hydrocolloid stars are a great option for people who can’t help but compulsively squeeze their spots, no matter how hard they try to stop. The blue colour might be off putting to some, but it does completely cover blemishes and when the spots are out of sight, they’re out of mind. Even the best clear pimple patches don’t hide larger pop-worthy spots, so these are a great option if you’re a picker.
We recommend using the salicylic acid patches specifically on early-stage pimples as it’s renowned for being a gently hydrating and effective spot treatment. However, when you buy it’s also a good idea to purchase the original yellow versions too, as they come in a great portable case, which keeps the stars from drying out. Unfortunately, the salicylic acid patches don’t come with this case or any kind of airtight storage bag, so you’ll either want to store them in a separate airtight container or invest in the storage box. The original kit costs £12 and comes with 32 hydrocolloid stars. Original refill packs then cost from £9, and are great for healing later-stage pimples.
Key details — Type: Spot treatment pimple patch; Ingredients: Salicylic Acid; Cost/patch: £0.39
4. CORSX clear fit master patch: Best for daytime use
Price: £6 for 18 | Buy now from AmazonIf you want the most invisible pimple patch on the market, then the clear-fit hydrocolloid patches from CORSX are your best bet. Not only are they paper thin and non-drying, but they also have a semi-matte, skin-like finish so that makeup can be applied over the top. Because they’re thinner than overnight patches, they blend into the face seamlessly.
You may think, why not just apply makeup directly onto the pimple to cover it? Well, Hydrocolloid patches both protect the spot from mildly irritating makeup products, and they stop you from being tempted to pick at your face throughout the day. Whilst they’re by no means invisible if you’re looking for them on your face, the average person won’t notice them at all.
Key details — Type: Hydrocolloid pimple patch; Ingredients: n/a; Cost/patch: £0.39