Do Pimple Patches Actually Work? - Magic Dots

Do Pimple Patches Actually Work? - Magic Dots

The cardinal rule of dealing with acne is "hands off," but when you're faced with a stubborn whitehead that seems to have its own postal code, sometimes logic goes out the window. If you've disregarded dermatologists' advice and taken matters into your own hands, you may be left with a messy aftermath: an open wound oozing pus, oil, and sometimes blood.

Enter hydrocolloid patches, also known as pimple patches or zit stickers. These unassuming adhesive patches might be your saving grace when your skin needs a quick fix. Dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD, explains what these over-the-counter spot treatments can do – and what they can't – for your skin troubles.

How Do Hydrocolloid Patches Work?

Hydrocolloid patches are small, adhesive stickers infused with a slightly sticky hydrocolloid gel, which aids in wound healing. You might encounter larger versions marketed as "blister bandages," but they all share the same goal: accelerating your skin's healing process.

"Pimple patches work by absorbing any exudate or drainage from the pimple and shielding the wound, preventing further harm, such as picking," Dr. Kassouf explains. "They are most effective on open, draining, healing pustules, papules, and cysts."

While the cardinal rule is to avoid picking at your skin or popping pimples, if you've already committed this skincare sin, hydrocolloid patches can be a helpful remedy.

How to Properly Use Hydrocolloid Patches

Typically, most hydrocolloid patches need to be worn for a few hours to work effectively, making bedtime an ideal application time. Some variants are designed to be discreet enough for daytime use as well.

Before applying a hydrocolloid patch, ensure your skin is completely dry, as these patches adhere best to dry skin. If your freshly picked pimple is still leaking or oozing, make sure to cleanse the area before applying the patch.

Simply place the hydrocolloid patch over the affected area – remember, they only work on open wounds – and leave it on for the recommended duration (which varies depending on the product). When you remove it, your blemish may appear smaller and less inflamed.

Can Hydrocolloid Patches Aggravate Acne?

For most people, hydrocolloid patches are, at worst, simply neutral – they won't worsen your acne, but they won't necessarily improve it either. However, if you have sensitive skin, exercise caution when using hydrocolloid patches.

"They do contain adhesive to adhere to your skin, so if you have allergies or sensitivity to adhesive, this could potentially irritate the skin around the affected area," advises Dr. Kassouf. Additionally, certain brands incorporate ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil to dry out pimples, which might also dry or irritate sensitive skin.

What Hydrocolloid Patches Can and Can't Do

While hydrocolloid patches can work wonders on existing lesions, they do have limitations.

"Hydrocolloid patches do not work on closed or deeper lesions, blackheads, whiteheads (comedones), or preventing future acne," clarifies Dr. Kassouf. They also cannot clear clogged pores or address other factors contributing to acne flare-ups.

In essence, if you're dealing with cystic acne, severe breakouts, or other complex skin concerns, hydrocolloid patches won't provide a comprehensive solution.

Alternatives to Hydrocolloid Patches

Using hydrocolloid patches is generally safe, but they may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for your skin issues. "They are essentially wound healing dressings for a very specific type of lesion," notes Dr. Kassouf. "They can be helpful, but for overall acne treatment, there are more effective options available."

Consider these alternatives:

  1. Adapalene: This topical vitamin A derivative can help prevent acne by making skin cells less sticky, reducing pore clogging, and aiding in healing.
  2. Salicylic acid: Available in cleansers and topical applications, this beta hydroxy acid exfoliates and cleanses the skin while reducing acne inflammation.
  3. Foaming cleansers: These cleansers are effective at removing dirt and pollutants that can exacerbate inflammation and breakouts.
  4. Emergency treatments: If you need to quickly address a major pimple before an important event, consult your dermatologist for options like cortisone or antibiotic injections.

If your acne is related to an underlying issue, such as hormonal imbalances, these treatments may not suffice. "If hormones are the issue, your dermatologist may have more suitable options for you," adds Dr. Kassouf.

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