PanOxyl hydrocolloid overnight spot patch being applied to blemish on cheek

Science has done it again, this time in the form of a plump anti-blemish sticker. Don’t let their size fool you. These tiny patches are the gentle giant of spot treatment when used correctly.

First, you need to know about the types of acne patches. Whether or not they have active ingredients and what those active ingredients are will determine when you should use them. Knowing when to use them is the key to getting the best results and a clearer complexion.

That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for one of the newest acne treatments available. We’ll help you determine if an acne patch is right for your skin and which one you should use.

What Are Acne Patches?

Acne patches (AKA acne stickers, spot patches, and pimple patches) are small stick-on dots used for acne spot treatment. Their overall job is to fast forward your pimple or to do damage control after you take matters into your own hands. (We’re looking at you, pimple poppers…Don’t worry. We get it. And we can help!)

There are essentially three types of acne patches.

  • Hydrocolloid patches
  • Microdart patches
  • Medicated patches

All of these can be called “pimple patches” or “spot patches”, but the difference comes down to the ingredients. So, what are they?

The History of Hydrocolloids

Hydrocolloid acne patches are some of the most popular acne patches out there right now and for good reason. Hydrocolloid bandages go waaaaay back in the history books of medicine and have been used to treat wounds for decades. You may say, “It treats wounds?! But acne isn’t a wound…”

Let’s explore that and geek out for a few paragraphs.

When you have a bleeding cut or scrape, the first thing you may want to reach for is a dry bandage. However, recent studies have shown that may not be the best thing for it. More and more doctors and scientists are siding with studies that show a moist environment can be beneficial and encourage faster healing.

When you have a wet wound, like a nasty burn or bleeding cut, the secretions and blood go into the bandage. With a dry bandage such as gauze, as these secretions dry the bandage can get stuck to the skin and make it quite ouchy to remove.

The idea of using damp bandages for these wounds first cropped up in Ancient Egypt, where they used grease-covered to help protect wounds and to help them heal. Of course, this isn’t an ideal wound-healing method, but it’s better than nothing! It turns out that the Egyptians were on to something.

But it wasn’t until the 1960s that the super-effective method of treating wounds with a wet bandage was created and the term hydrocolloids was born. Hydrocolloid bandages work by using a gel substance to draw out all of the nasty bacteria and pus (ew gross) from wounds while remaining wet enough to not stick to the healing wound. They were first used on things like stomas and ulcers (more gross, we know!) and were found to be extremely effective.

Hydrocolloid Pimple Patches

So, we’ve covered how hydrocolloid bandages work in the medical world, but how does that relate to what’s happening on your face?

Several studies have proven hydrocolloid patches are great at absorbing wound secretions and helping to speed up the healing process. And when you get down to it, pimples are actually a form of wound on your face. A wound is an injury that breaks the skin—which is exactly what that backstabbing pimple did.

A pimple forms when acne-causing bacteria, excess oils and dead skin cells block a pore. This leads to irritation, inflammation and redness and often creates a lesion. This is an area of skin that looks abnormal compared to the skin around it.

Hydrocolloid patches like PanOxyl’s PM Overnight Spot Patches work best for blemishes that have come to a head (think those traditional white, balloon-like blemishes) and those blemishes that have popped. They absorb all of the nastiness that’s just underneath the surface of your skin to help your blemish heal. (Just take a look at your patch after you remove it. It won’t be pretty.) They’re also great because they can be used on all skin types.

These round, cushiony patches contain water-binding groups within their structure to help prevent water loss in your skin. This acts like a protective bubble to keep your blemish or the leftover crater moist which helps to speed and promote proper healing.

You may have been told in the past to keep a wound open and dry. Studies like the one we’ve linked here have actually shown this can slow down the healing process and harm your skin’s barrier. A moist, pillow-like environment is exactly what your blemish wants to help it heal faster.

Hydrocolloid patches also work by creating a protective barrier between your zits and the threats of the outside world—even if that threat is you! The little gel patch protects your blemish from dirt and grime which can aggravate your blemish. A hydrocolloid patch helps keep the blemish clean so it can heal more quickly.

If you’re a sucker for popping and picking spots, you probably already know the damage it can do. Long-term scarring is no joke. But it’s so hard not to squeeze them, right? Luckily, a pimple patch will stop you in your tracks, keeping bacteria-ridden fingers at bay so your skin can do its thing and heal.

Hydrocolloid bandages are favored among medical professionals for healing wounds, so that should tell you a lot about their effectiveness. These aren’t just a silly trend, they’re something that’s been used by doctors around the world for decades, and now they can be used to fight your blemishes, too!

Microdart Acne Patches

The other less common patch on the market is the microdart patch (or microneedle acne patch). These contain different acne treatments, such as salicylic acid and niacinamide, which are delivered into the skin through tiny dissolving darts on the patches. Depending on the ingredients used (and be careful to find a patch that contains spot-fighting ingredients!), they can help reduce redness and help prevent hyperpigmentation after your spot has cleared.

Most dermatologists say the best time to use these types of patches is for those acne bumps that are deep inside the skin that have not yet surfaced.

Medicated Acne Patches

If you want something to help soothe your acne or move the process along a bit faster, you may consider medicated patches. These patches hold active ingredients directly onto the skin.

Depending on the ingredients, these patches can help reduce the inflammation, pain and redness caused by acne. Tea tree oil and salicylic acid are the most common ingredients found in these types of patches.

How to Use Acne Patches in Your Skincare Routine

While you may not need them daily like an acne wash, acne patches are definitely great to have on hand when you have one or two blemishes that you want gone quickly. But where do they fit into your skincare routine?

Since acne patches have to stick to your skin to work, it’s best to apply them when your skin is dry. Wash your face to make sure you’re placing the acne patch on clean skin. Apply the patch after washing your face but before using any other products such as moisturizer or sunscreen.

Spot patches should be replaced often. They’re typically okay to wear up to 24 hours daily for up to 21 days. If the patch has absorbed a bunch of gunk, you may want to replace sooner.

Wave Goodbye to Blemishes

With acne patches, you don’t have to walk around with a large, red mountain on your face ready to erupt. Just pop on a patch and let it do the work.

At PanOxyl, we’ve made overnight spot patches that actually work to help your skin heal faster and to help reduce the risk of scarring. When it comes to acne, we use scientifically proven ingredients to give your skin what it needs to fight off acne.