Do Pimple Patches Work? – The New York Times

In a video on TikTok, a woman sprays a clear solution onto tweezers as she prepares to remove a small circular bandage from the side of her nose. “I don’t know what that skin will look like,” she says, “but I’m pretty sure it will.” juicy.”

After removing the patch, it reveals its underside – white, swollen and filled with fluid from a pimple. She brings the patch closer to the camera, proudly showing off the goop.

This is just one of many videos online of people claiming that pimples have healed or reduced their blemishes. But you don’t need to go online to see them. Patches are easily found in pharmacies in different shapes, sizes, colors and formulations. And you might even spot a person or two wearing them in public.

But before you try an anti-pimple patch yourself, dermatologists say, know that some types may be more helpful than others.

Pimple patches are simply bandages meant to be placed over pimples. They are typically lined with hydrocolloid, an absorbent, gel-forming material that medical professionals have used as a dressing for decades.

When applied to a wound, the hydrocolloid absorbs excess fluid, forming a gel and creating an environment that promotes healing. The patch itself prevents infection by protecting the skin from debris and bacteria.

In doctor’s offices and hospitals, larger versions of these patches are commonly applied to surgical wounds, minor burns, or bedsores. These are also popular treatments for blisters and eczema.

If you apply a patch to a pus-filled pimple, “it can protect it, create a healing environment and help remove that dirt and oil,” said Dr. John Barbieri, a dermatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Many people think “wounds need air,” said Dr. Zakia Rahman, clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford Medicine. But “it’s not scientifically sound,” she said, adding that covering any type of wound, including a pimple, will help treat it.

Dressings used in the medical field are typically made with just hydrocolloid, but some pimple patches are medicated, meaning they also contain acne-treating ingredients like benzoyl peroxide (which fights bacteria responsible for acne) and salicylic acid (which reduces swelling and unclogs pores). Some patches also contain skin-soothing ingredients like tea tree oil and aloe vera, or skin-drying ingredients like hemp seed oil.

Other versions even contain microneedles, tiny tips that pierce the skin to deliver these ingredients directly into the pimple.

Experts say hydrocolloid patches can fade blemishes. But dermatologists warn against using drug versions.

Some of their active ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid, can help treat acne, Dr. Barbieri explained, but they can also cause irritation, especially when used. stuck to the skin under a patch.

Even patches containing ingredients marketed as “natural” and “soothing,” such as tea tree oil and aloe, can be irritating when used this way.

Microneedle patches can penetrate the skin and deliver acne-treating ingredients better than other types of patches, said Dr. Leela Athalye, a dermatologist in Orange County, California. But they can also potentially be more irritating.

“There is some literature to support the safety and effectiveness of microneedle patches for pimples, but time will tell how effective they are in the clinic,” Dr. Athalye said.

According to Dr. Barbieri, medicated and microneedle patches are probably no more effective than hydrocolloid-only versions. “The hydrocolloid works great on its own,” he said.

Product instructions usually recommend cleaning and drying the affected area, applying the patch to the pimple, and then leaving it on for about six to eight hours, or even overnight.

As the hydrocolloid absorbs oil, dead skin, and bacteria, the material becomes white and slightly puffy (which can be a satisfactory result).

There are few research studies on the effectiveness of anti-pimple patches. But even without clinical trials, many dermatologists encourage patients to use non-drug versions for acne. Hydrocolloid-only patches are a gentler alternative to traditional spot treatment creams, Dr. Rahman said, which can be irritating for some people due to active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

But patches won’t work on every blemish, Dr. Athalye said. They will not improve cystic or nodular acne, which causes pimples to form deep under the skin. They also won’t do much for blackheads or whiteheads.

“The patches can draw some fluid out of these places, but can only help minimally,” Dr. Athalye said. “The ideal pimple for these patches is a juicy pustule or papule that isn’t too deep.”

Still, it won’t hurt to use these patches on any pimple, Dr. Rahman added. In fact, they can prevent you from scratching your skin, a habit that often delays healing and causes scarring or bacterial contamination.

Just be careful when removing the patch, Dr. Athalye said, because removing it too quickly can cause abrasion that can lead to scarring or discoloration. She recommended removing the patch under a hot shower or removing it only when it loses its adhesive.

Hydrocolloid patches may help pimples heal faster, but they shouldn’t be your only acne treatment tool, experts say. A broader approach to skin care might involve the application of topical over-the-counter or prescription medications in addition to the use of patches, Dr. Barbieri said.

“Is it worth the hype?” Yes and no,” said Dr. Athalye. “They’re a wonderful addition to a good skincare routine, but won’t do everything.”

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