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The Best Pimple Patches to Soothe Your Skin and Banish Blemishes

by Katie Muirhead

Jul 4, 2022

Dreaded pimples. They're uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes, they can be a confidence knock. If you suffer from breakouts, you've likely tried countless products and home remedies in an attempt to banish the blemishes. You may have even given pimple patches a go - a small yet mighty zit-fighting product that has gained popularity in recent years.

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Not all pimple patches are the same, however. As pimple stickers have earned their staple status on beauty shelves, many new versions with innovative active ingredients have hit the market.

To help you ease that breakout, we've rounded up the best cruelty-free pimple patches out there.

How do pimple patches work?

Pimple patches are small (usually) round, adhesive patches that you apply directly on top of a blemish. They have three main purposes: to draw bacteria and gunk from deep within the pore, to keep the area moisturized, and to protect the spot from picking or the introduction of more bacteria.

Together, pimple patches help to cut down the life cycle of your zit and support the skin while it heals to prevent any scarring.

There are both medicated and unmedicated pimple patches. Choosing the right one will depend on factors like how early you've caught the pimple, your skin's tolerance to certain actives, and whether the surface of the skin has been punctured.

Rather than being a long-term solution for cystic acne or skin infections, pimple patches are most effective on those big spots that seemingly erupt out of nowhere.

Note that while pimple patches can help soothe breakouts, they don't prevent them. If you are getting large breakouts regularly, it may be worth speaking to your GP or dermatologist about preventative acne care.

What are the best pimple patches to use?

Most pimple patches are made of hydrocolloid, a moisture-retentive dressing originally used in wound care (think those fancy blister band-aids).

Hydrocolloid does a great job of sucking out pus and pollutants from deep pimples, while also keeping the area sealed and moist. You might even notice the patch start to "puff up" after a few hours as it absorbs impurities. (Gross yet satisfying!)

Unmedicated hydrocolloid patches are a great basic option and safe to use on sensitive skin. And while you know you're not supposed to pick a spot, a hydrocolloid patch can help seal the wound after you've given in to the urge to squeeze.

As well as the basic hydrocolloid patches, some pimple patches contain active ingredients such as salicylic acid, tea tree oil, or retinol.

Salicylic helps to turn over dead skin cells and soothe inflammation, tea tree has antimicrobial properties to fight acne-causing bacteria, and retinol can encourage cell renewal. These medicated options are the best choice for when you feel a pimple coming on, as they aim to deliver targetted bacteria-fighting properties deep within the pore.

How to use a pimple patch

Pimple patches can be used at any time of the day, but should always be applied to clean skin. (You don't want to trap any makeup or pollution in there!)

Wash your hands, then choose a patch that is the correct size for the targetted spot. Apply it gently to dry skin and leave it on for 8-12 hours. Hopefully, you will see the gunk-absorption in action, making it all the more satisfying to remove!

Note: If you have popped the pimple, stick to an unmedicated, hydrocolloid-only patch. Punctured skin can be more sensitive, so it is best to stay away from potentially irritating active ingredients. An unmedicated patch will keep the area clean and help it heal.

The most effective pimple patches

Gone are the days of using toothpaste on a pimple. Trust us, this old skincare hack will end up drying out and further irritating that zit! Instead, we've rounded up our favorite pimple patches, both medicated and non-medicated.

Of course, all of our picks are cruelty-free - it's our mission to help you make conscious, ethical consumer choices. Here are our top picks to help zap that zit!

Best Overall:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
Notable ingredientsHydrocolloid
Best forAll pimples

If you've never tried a pimple sticker before, these patches from K-beauty brand COSRX are a great place to start. Made from wound-healing hydrocolloid, they will help minimize a breakout at any stage.

They come in three different sizes to suit a range of blemishes and are most effective when left on clean skin overnight. The subtle translucence, however, will also help conceal a spot, so you can apply one in the morning as a (literal) concealer.

Once you try these cult fave pimple patches, you'll never want to be without them. Make sure to pack a sleeve whenever you're traveling, too - they are suitable for stressed-out, sensitive travel skin.

Best For Stubborn Pimples:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
Notable ingredientsHydrocolloid, salicylic acid, niacinamide
Best forDeep, blind pimples before they erupt

A great option before a special event, the ZitSticka KILLA KIT is a targeted combination of cleaning swabs and micro dart patches. The swabs contain bacteria-fighting tea-tree oil and salicylic acid to prep the area, but the real magic lies in the patches themselves.

When you apply a micro dart patch you will feel a slight prick - this is because the tiny prickles on the surface of the pimple patch are pushed inside the spot. They then dissolve, releasing the anti-inflammatory powers of salicylic acid and niacinamide to soothe the skin.

The result is, well, nothing. Your pimple is hopefully halted before it can ever really show up on your face.

Best Budget:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, clean beauty
Notable ingredientsHydrocolloid
Best forAll pimples

Another hydrocolloid option, these simple acne spot dots keep the skin moisturized and prevent the pimple from scabbing over or scarring while healing.

The subtle translucence makes these pimple patches suitable for daytime wear, and can even be worn under makeup. Instead of a red, angry zit at the end of the day, your pimple will be soothed and on its way out.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, clean beauty
Notable ingredientsHydrocolloid, salicylic acid, retinol
Best forAll pimples

These hydrocolloid patches are infused with extra active ingredients to help banish that blemish even faster. Salicylic acid is anti-inflammatory, while retinol encourages healthy skin cell turnover. These combine to create the perfect environment for skin to push out any impurities and heal ASAP.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, clean beauty
Notable ingredientsHydrocolloid
Best forLarger breakouts or pimple clusters

Pimples are caused by bacteria, so sometimes contamination can cause the skin to break out in a cluster. If you've ever had perfectly clear skin except for three unwelcome guests on your cheek, these larger face patches are for you.

Made from the same wound-healing hydrocolloid as most other pimple patches, the XL size makes them suitable for areas such as your T-zone, cheeks, or chin.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
Notable ingredientsHydrocolloid
Best forSmall pimples

While most pimple patches are designed for subtlety, Starface knows that a breakout is nothing to be ashamed of. Instead of trying to make your blemish disappear, accessorize it with one of these cute star-shaped patches.

Comfortable to wear all day, these ultra-thin hydrocolloid patches are on the smaller side, making them a great option for mild to moderate breakouts.

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