How Hydrocolloid Bandages aka Pimple Patches Heal Acne

Hydrocolloid bandages are about the closest thing you can get to a vacuum for acne. And people all over TikTok are proving just that. They’re sticking the gel-textured strips all over their faces where they are experiencing breakouts. Over time, the bandages go from clear to speckled with white spots where they’ve sucked the nastiness out of your skin. It’s simultaneously gross and great. After a couple of hours, you peel the bandage off to reveal flat, zit-free skin — no dryness included. They are that effective.

Typically used to protect blisters, “hydrocolloids are a special type of bandages that absorb excess fluid, like oil and pus, which can speed healing time,” says Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. So the TikTok acne trick isn’t just hype — science is actually behind it. 

If you aren’t into the idea of basically making a sheet mask out of hydrocolloid bandages for your whole face, pimple patches are composed of the same material — just a bit thinner and sometimes infused with blemish-busting ingredients, like salicylic acid and tea tree oil. The tiny circles can be placed right over your problem spots in a much more concentrated, low-key manner. 

Personally, I love hydrocolloid bandages because they keep me from picking at my face — a bad habit that I’m slightly ashamed to admit having. However, Elizabeth Tanzi, the founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and associate clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center, backs me up on this. Compared to standard spot treatments, “hydrocolloid bandages have the added benefit of blocking you from picking the pimple… and that’s a good thing,” she tells Allure. Why? “Picking a pimple increases the inflammation and can slow the healing process down,” Tanzi adds.

Because acne stickers are clear for a bit, you can wear them during the day. Allure editors have been known to run errands with one or two on their faces. You can also apply makeup over them and not disturb the magical healing process. Nighttime is the best time for the patches, though. They’re sticky enough to stay in place no matter how much tossing and turning is had while you sleep. When you wake up, just peel them off before washing your face to reveal a clearer complexion. 

Convinced you need hydrocolloid bandages on standby now? My favorite ones are the Best of Beauty Award-winning Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Invisible+, as well as the Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch. Allure editors have also put together an extensive list of so many more on the market in fun shapes and colors. If you prefer to go the TikTok route with strips of hydrocolloid bandages, look in the first aid aisle of your local drugstore for them or try Band-Aid’s Hydro Seal.

All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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