Gross but true: We have an aging Japanese population’s bedsores to thank for the advent of pimple patches. Really, there’s a direct connection between someone’s homebound grandpa in Shibuya and that inflamed zit threatening to take over your chin at this very moment (Don’t touch it! That’ll just make it worse).
Here’s the thread: In the late 1980s, the medical community in Japan began using hydrocolloid dressings, instead of traditional dry bandages, to treat bedsores and pressure ulcers, cases of which were spiking because of its aging population. Made of gel-forming agents, hydrocolloid creates a moist environment for healing that works by drawing out the fluid and pus inside the wounds, and suspending them on the bandage.
Ten years ago, somebody smart figured out that the same moist healing environment used to treat bedsores would work on acne as well. And so, the pimple patch was born. And since it’s now been a decade since this modern medical advance was introduced to Asian skincare, that means we’re juuust about ready to embrace the technology here in the U.S. today.
Bottom line? If you’re already a fan of skincare imports like sheet masks, then you’ll love pimple patches. They’re just as easy to use and really good for clearing up redness and sucking out gunk. Some are so unobtrusive you could even wear them to work, and no one will be the wiser. Not like those Invisalign retainers that Hunter from marketing always takes out in the break room at lunch. Ugh, Hunter.
Below, the best pimple patches to try the next time you’re breaking out:
These blemish-blasting dots use salicylic acid to penetrate your pores and clear up acne-causing bacteria. Aloe vera reduces the appearance of redness, while Vitamin A helps promote clearer-looking skin.
Using them couldn’t be easier. After washing your face, apply a dot, sticky-side down, directly onto your zit. Leave it on for at least six hours.
The one-two punch of the hydrocolloid bandage with the active anti-acne ingredients is what speeds up healing. Overnight, your zits look less prominent and feel blessedly less painful.
An Australian-based skincare brand, ZitSticka’s extremely ’grammable Killa Kit comes with eight spot-clarifying patches and accompanying cleaning swabs. The kit’s pimple patches are covered with microneedles—literally tiny, self-dissolving spikes—that flood the epicenter of offending acne.
While pimple patches don’t tend to work on cystic acne, ZitSticka does because of these microdarts, which target the appearance of deep early-stage zit at the source (where standard patches can’t reach).
They’re great for big honking underground zits and regular ol’ whiteheads alike.
Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Surface, $18 for 10 strips
This larger-sized pimple patch from Hero Cosmetics is perfect for treating body acne (think: bacne or a breakout on your chest or neck) as well as larger breakouts on your face.
The edges are tapered to easily cover (and stick) to an entire breakout area with just one patch. You can also cut them up to customize the size and shape for a specific problem area.
Starface Hydro-Stars, $22 for a pack of 32
Did you ever take the stickers you got in grade school for turning in an assignment on time or lining up in an orderly fashion and put them on your face? If so, you basically have the idea behind Starface’s Hydro-Stars pimple patches.
A pack of hydrocolloid pimple patches shaped like gold stars that comes in a container that could double as an Airpod case may be more Gen Z than you’re looking for from your skincare, but hey, I don’t know your life!
Founded by a former Elle beauty director, the whole vibe of this brand has a fun, “zits happen” feel, and I for one am all for it. You don’t have to like looking in the mirror only to find a new pimple brewing, but you can at least enjoy the process of getting rid of it a little bit more.