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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • Do Pimple Patches *Actually* Work to Fix Breakouts? We Ask the Expert

Do Pimple Patches *Actually* Work to Fix Breakouts? We Ask the Expert

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We’ve all been there. You’ve got a big event coming up but your skin isn’t playing ball – you’ve broken out in a *huge* pimple that foundation and concealer just. won’t. cover.

The stuff of nightmares.

And while pimple patches might sound like the perfect way to tackle blemishes fast, you might not be completely convinced whether they *actually* work.

That’s why we spoke to leading board-certified dermatologist Dr Leah Ansell to get all the goss on whether they really work and how.


What actually *is* a pimple?

So, what *exactly* is a pimple?

A pimple (AKA the zit, spot or blemish) is a small pustule or papule that can be found as individual breakouts or as part of acne. These are raised spots, often with a white centre, that occur when blocked hair follicles and sebaceous glands become inflamed or infected with bacteria or oils.

When a blockage or deep inflammation occurs deep inside the hair follicles, this creates cyst-like lumps beneath the surface of your skin.


Woman opening a pimple patch packet

Image – Live That Glow


There are 4 main types.

  • Papules are inflamed blemishes. They appear on the skin’s surface. They look like red bumps or lumps on the skin and they don’t have a white head.
  • Pustules are red and inflamed with an obvious head that is often white. The head can also be cream to yellow in colour.
  • Nodules are serious acne pimples that are large, inflamed lesions. They feel like hard, painful lumps under the skin. Ouch!
  • Cysts are very large, inflamed lesions that feel like soft, fluid-filled lumps under the skin. Acne cysts are the most severe form of pimple and can be very painful.


What do pimple patches do?

Pimples, or spots, usually last between 3 and 7 days. Most do go away on their own, but it could take some time. Deep pimples that are under the skin and do not have a head may take a few weeks to go away, possibly even longer.

Waiting for pimples to go down is *definitely* a game of patience, since popping spots is not advisable since this can cause the infection to be pushed further into the skin and can also create scabs or acne scarring. Not what we’re going for.

This is where pimple patches come in.

Generally made up of a translucent patch (although you can also get some pretty cool star-shaped and heart-inspired stickers), they form a protective seal on the zit, preventing further bacteria getting to it.

On the inside of the patch is normally hydrocolloid gel, which works to absorb oil, pus (yes, we know) and bacteria from the pimple.  This combination allows the blemish to heal in a moist, (somewhat) sterile environment.

This does mean the zit stickers aren’t actually using any actives to reduce your breakout, or doing anything to “suck” the dirt out (a common beauty misconception).  But they are working to help the pimple heal with less of a chance of scarring.


How to Use a Pimple Patch (to Speed Up Your Breakout Recovery Time)

Image – @starface/Instagram


Do they actually work?

Dr Ansell tells LTG HQ that these patches can be surprisingly effective, but they have their limitations.

She explains, “I love pimple patches for focal acne spots. It is one of my favourite acne spot treatments (unfortunately nothing works all that great for this except for extraction/injection with cortisone at your dermatologist’s office.)”


Woman removing pimple patch from sheet

Image – Live That Glow


A clinical trial carried out by Johnson & Johnson in 2021 backs this up, showing that using a pimple patch for one week on either popped or unpopped pimples did improve their appearance and helped them heal faster.

So, in short, yes, pimple patches do actually work by creating an atmosphere of healing and protection and covering the wound to prevent further infection.

Their effectiveness will depend largely on the type of blemish you have though, and pimple patches will generally work best on superficial acne. You’ll also want to apply your pimple patch correctly (we have a whole guide to how to use a pimple patch here).

For severe or persistent acne, it’s best to consult a dermatologist for proper treatment.


The takeaway

Pimple patches definitely do work to help breakouts heal quicker (and can look pretty cute while they’re doing it!).

Having said that, for persistent or particularly painful acne, things like prescription skincare or a trip to the dermatologist may be even more effective.


Meet the expert

Dr Leah Ansell, MD, FAAD, is a leading board-certified dermatologist at Treiber Dermatology Associates in New York. Dr Ansell’s expertise includes medical, pediatric, and cosmetic dermatology.


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Senior Beauty Editor

Laura Kemp started her journalism career as a news reporter for one of the largest newspaper groups in Europe before moving into features and editorial writing. Combining her love of hard-hitting journalism with her passion for beauty, she’s now Senior Beauty Editor at Live That Glow. When she’s not writing, researching, or interviewing her favourite experts, you’ll find Laura practicing her downward dog or drifting on her paddleboard.

Expertise: Hair care, nails
Education: University of Salford

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