Patch up that pimple!


Graphic by Nivi Khatana

Hydrocolloid patches, also known as pimple patches, are a over-the-counter remedy to inflammation and acne – and they’re everywhere. Pimple patches have taken the skincare industry by storm. The sheer amount of skincare brands and products offered can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to picking the perfect pimple patch from the variety of choices.

Almost all pimple patches contain hydrocolloid, a gel-forming substance, that draws moisture to create an absorbent material that is also self-adhesive. Common hydrocolloids are sodium carboxymethylcellulose and gelatin, which are capable of retaining moisture. Hydrocolloids are traditionally used in the form of bandages to cover and draw fluid out of wounds, while allowing the site of the wound to heal properly by creating an insulating barrier. Patches with hydrocolloid pull sebum, or oil, from the skin, as well as dirt and pus. Hydrocolloid patches can also prevent acne scars, due to their ability to help the skin retain moisture. Brands like Mighty Patch and Starface offer promising results through the use of hydrocolloid in their patches.

Some patches, such as the Starface patches, use ingredients in addition to hydrocolloid, such as salicylic acid which helps with reducing swelling and redness by unplugging blocked pores. Salicylic acid is used to exfoliate skin, by allowing dead skin cells to fall away, revealing the new and healthy skin underneath. Non-hydrocolloid patches also exist, usually with the purpose of delivering ingredients into the skin, but are not nearly as effective. Other options contain fine microneedles, which dissolve away into the skin. The needles are microcrystals made up of active ingredients that dissolve into the skin to deliver active ingredients to deeper layers of skin. However, patches that include microneedles can be irritating, particularly to those with sensitive skin, making hydrocolloid a safer and more reliable option. 

When it comes to deciding what brand of pimple patches to buy, it is important to consider how they will play into one’s daily routine. If make up is something that is used daily, clear hydrocolloid patches are the way to go. Of course, they can always add a pop of color to one’s day with brightly colored and uniquely shaped patches as well.