What Are Hydrocolloid Patches for Pimples?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on July 21, 2022

Almost every dermatologist and beauty expert advises people to “not pick” their pimples, whiteheads, or acne, but some people can’t control this urge and pick their pimples anyway. Doing so turns the tiny, harmless bump on their face into an open wound with pus, oil, and sometimes blood. 

Hydrocolloid patches, more commonly called pimple patches, are a popular acne-reliever. These are over-the-counter patches that soothe inflammation in your skin caused due to acne or pimples. Many dermatologists vouch for hydrocolloid patches. 

These patches work as a spot treatment, though, so don’t consider them treatment or cure for your overarching acne issue. 

How Do Hydrocolloid Patches Work?

Hydrocolloid is a gummy-like gel that heals wounds. It is present in pimple patches, which are small stickers about the size of a pimple. You may also find large hydrocolloid patches for bumpier and inflamed pimples or blisters. 

These patches aim to promote skin healing. Amy Kassouf, MD, says that pimple patches absorb the liquid from the pimple and cover the wound adequately. This prevents further swelling or inflammation of the affected area. 

Many people wonder: “Do pimple patches work on aggravated forms of pimples like papules and pustules?” Dr. Kassouf answers this question with a yes. According to her, hydrocolloid pimple patches best heal open wounds, papules, cysts, and pustules. 

You can apply these patches to your pimples if you have acne lesions. You’ll feel less inflammation, irritation, and redness in the affected area. 

Hydrocolloid patches are the best choice for people who are habitual pimple pickers. They cover the pimples, preventing them from scratching their face. 

What Hydrocolloid Patches Can’t Do

Pimple patches can be pretty effective on pimples and lesions, but they can’t work on every bump. Dr. Kassouf explains that pimple patches don’t work on closed wounds, deeper lesions, and comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). 

Hydrocolloid patches are an inexpensive spot treatment method for active wounds and bumps. But they may not be effective if you have not picked or popped your pimple.

She further says that pimple patches can’t prevent acne from returning, cleanse clogged pores, or treat acne flares. These patches also won’t work on cystic acne, worsened breakouts, or any other skin concern other than acne and pimples. 

How to Get Rid of Pimples With Hydrocolloid Patches

Most hydrocolloid pimple patches take a few hours to show their effects, so the best time to apply them to your pimples is before going to bed. This way, the patch will have the entire night to produce results. 

You may also find some pimple patches that are unnoticeable enough to be applied during the day. 

Make sure your skin is dry before applying the pimple patch. Wet skin may adversely impact the adhesiveness of the patch. If your pimple is oozing pus or blood, wipe the drainage with a clean cloth before application. 

Take out the patch from the packaging and apply it directly to your pimple. Leave it for the time mentioned on the product. It’s good to continue wearing pimple patches for 3 to 5 days to get more hydrocolloid benefits. 

You can also cut them according to the size of your pimple or zit. Keep changing the patches when needed. Peel them after a few days, and you’ll see significant improvement in the bumpiness and inflammation of your skin. 

Do Hydrocolloid Patches Have Any Downsides?

Hydrocolloid pimple patches have no side effects on people with normal skin. These waterproof patches allow you to wash your face without removing them. They can easily be left applied on your face for 5 days without causing any harm. 

Pimple patches work wonders in stopping people from picking their pimples. Popping your pimples may lead to aggravated inflammation, scabbing, scarring, and secondary bacterial infections.

If you have sensitive skin, it’s better to avoid using pimple patches, as they contain adhesive glue that can cause irritation. 

You may also come across benzoyl peroxide acne bandages. These patches work on pimples, but they can also irritate your sensitive skin. 

Consult a professional dermatologist before applying any pimple patch on your face.

Do Pimple Patches Make Acne Worse?

Pimple patches may not give similar results to everyone. Many people find these patches ineffective for their pimples and acne

However, that doesn’t mean that pimple patches worsen acne. Instead, in some cases, they just don’t make the inflammation better. 

That being said, people with sensitive skin may experience more irritation and inflammation after applying a pimple patch. According to Dr. Kassouf, these patches have adhesive that enables them to stick to your face. If you’re sensitive to the glue, it can aggravate the skin around your pimples.

Many brands use salicylic acid and tea tree oil in their pimple patches. These ingredients can also irritate or dry out sensitive skin. 

Alternatives for Hydrocolloid Patches

Hydrocolloid pimple patches are harmless dressings for acne spot treatment. They may improve your inflammation or give you no results at all. Many experts believe that these patches work only on a specific type of pimple. 

Pimple patches are helpful, but they are not an overall treatment for acne. If you have cystic acne or want to treat your condition, you must visit a dermatologist to get an expert opinion. 

Your skin expert may suggest over-the-counter medications that work wonders on pimples, acne, and related conditions. You can try these alternatives for hydrocolloid patches if you have sensitive skin:

  • Salicylic Acid. It is available in cleansers and topicals. This beta hydroxy acid helps exfoliate your skin to protect it from pimples. Salicylic acid topicals may also reduce acne inflammation. 
  • Adapalene. It is a vitamin A derivative that reduces the stickiness of skin cells, stopping them from clogging the pores on your face. This can prevent acne from occurring and help in healing. Adapalene comes in topical form.
  • Cleansers. These remove dirt and pollutants from your face, protecting it from inflammation and acne breakouts.

The above alternatives may give you slow but effective results, so you can talk to a dermatologist if you want instant results for an upcoming event. They may recommend you get cortisone or antibiotic injections.

Pimples can also occur due to hormonal imbalance. Your dermatologist will identify the cause of your acne breakout to prescribe you effective and better options. 

Show Sources


Cleveland Clinic: “Amy Kassouf, MD,” “Do Pimple Patches Actually Work?”

Journal of Cosmetic Science: “A pilot study on efficacy treatment of acne vulgaris using a new method: results of a randomized double-blind trial with Acne Dressing.”

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: “This TikTok acne remedy really does work.”

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