Best Acne Patches

Updated April 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best acne patches

Waking up to a red, throbbing pimple is never a good way to start a day, but nearly everyone struggles with acne on occasion. If you’re tired of the same old acne treatment creams that dry out your skin, an acne patch is a good alternative for spot treating pimples.

An acne patch is a small circular sticker that you place directly on a pimple to treat it. All patches work by absorbing excess oil and fluid to help reduce inflammation and redness, but some also contain targeted acne-fighting ingredients to deliver a super dose of treatment right to the spot. Acne patches vary in terms of how deeply they penetrate the skin and provide treatment, but there’s usually an option available for every type of skin and acne breakout.

Check out our buying guide for the tips you need to find the right acne patches for your skin. To make your shopping easier, we highlight our acne patch recommendations in this guide.

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In addition to helping reduce current pimples, acne patches can help deter you from picking or squeezing acne, so you’re less likely to develop scars.

Key considerations

Acne type

Not all acne patches are effective for all types of acne. For the most effective treatment, determine first which type (or types) of acne you have.

Blackheads: Blackheads occur when excess oil gets trapped in the pores. The pore head stays open, and the oil turns black when exposed to air. Acne patches can’t help with blackheads.

Whiteheads: Whiteheads also occur when pores become clogged with oil, bacteria, and dirt, but the top of the pore is closed, which creates a white bump on the skin surface that is filled with pus. These blemishes can respond well to acne patches.

Papules: Papules also form when a pore is blocked by excess oil and bacteria, but they appear as small red bumps because the surrounding skin becomes inflamed. They don’t contain pus, but they also respond well to acne patches.

Pustules: Pustules are small bumps with a white center and red, inflamed skin that surrounds it. They form when a clogged pore becomes infected and contain yellowish pus. Pustules can also be treated with acne patches.

Nodular acne: Nodular acne typically consists of red or flesh-colored bumps below the surface of the skin. It usually results from bacteria causing an infection within the skin, but the bumps don’t contain pus. Nodular acne responds well to some acne patches.

Cystic acne: Cystic acne is a severe form of acne that occurs when infection happens deep beneath the skin surface. The cysts are large, red, and inflamed and contain pus. Cystic acne is extremely difficult to treat, though it can sometimes respond to acne patches.

Patch type

Acne patches are available in three types: non-medicated, medicated, and microneedle.

Non-medicated acne patches are also known as hydrocolloid bandages. Traditionally, these bandages are used in wound healing, but they can also help with acne. That’s because the moist environment that the patch creates helps draw out fluid, oil, and pus from the acne. These patches also keep the area sterile to allow the acne to heal. The majority of acne patches on the market are non-medicated and can help treat whiteheads and other basic pimples.

Medicated acne patches are hydrocolloid bandages that also contain acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil. They work well on inflamed acne, including papules, pustules, and mild nodular or cystic acne.

Microneedle acne patches use a special microneedling technology that allows them to penetrate the skin more deeply. This means the medicated ingredients target the acne more effectively, while the hydrocolloid action draws out more fluid and pus. These patches work best for severe nodular and cystic acne.

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Did You Know?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, as many as 50 million people suffer from some type of acne breakout each year.
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Features

Quantity

Acne patches come in boxes or resealable envelopes with multiple patches. Packages vary in quantity. Some include as few as nine patches; others include up to 120 patches.

If you only get the occasional breakout, a smaller package of patches is usually sufficient. For regular breakouts, it’s best to opt for a larger quantity so you always have a patch when you need one. A larger box of patches typically offers a better value per patch, too, even though the upfront cost may be higher.

Sizes

Not all blemishes are the same size, so you’ll probably need acne patches of various sizes. Whiteheads, papules, and pustules usually only require a small patch, but nodular and cystic acne may require medium to large patches for adequate coverage. To make sure you’re adequately prepared, look for acne packages with several different patch sizes.

Waterproof

Acne patches typically need to be left on for at least a few hours to be effective, so it helps to choose a waterproof formula. That means you don’t have to worry about the patch coming loose if you wear it in the rain or other damp conditions.

Design

The majority of acne patches are clear or skin-colored, so they’re nearly invisible on the skin. However, some patches are available in fun colors. If you only plan to wear the patches at night and prefer a more whimsical look, this might appeal to you.

Most acne patches are round, but some larger patches are rectangular. You can even find some in cute shapes, like flowers.

Severe nodular or cystic acne that occurs deep within the skin may not respond to acne patches. This type of inflamed under-the-skin acne may require a cortisone shot from a dermatologist.

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Accessories

Acne cleaner: Elta MD Foaming Facial Cleanser
To help treat and prevent acne, you’ll want to pair your patches with a good acne cleanser. This formula from Elta MD is free of irritating chemicals and contains enzymes to soothe and exfoliate the skin.

Treatment concealer: IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Breakout Full-Coverage Concealer
When you’re not using an acne patch, you can use a treatment concealer for acne to hide and treat your breakouts. This concealer from IT Cosmetics is a favorite because it contains several acne-fighting ingredients and provides full coverage without creasing.

Scar serum: CLEARstem CELLrenew Collagen Infusion Serum
Even after an acne patch treats a breakout, you may have scars left behind. We like this serum from CLEARstem because it can reduce scars and inflammation in less than a week.

Acne patch prices

Inexpensive: Inexpensive acne patches are usually non-medicated patches. These typically come in larger packages with multiple sizes and include as many as 120 patches per box. Expect to pay between $0.07 and $0.34 per patch.

Mid-range: Mid-range acne patches are typically medicated patches with tea tree oil and/or salicylic acid. They usually come in mid-size packages with as many as 40 patches per box and offer multiple sizes. Some packages contain only large or extra-large patches to treat more severe breakouts. Prices for these patches range from $.10 and $1.20 apiece.

Expensive: The most expensive acne patches are microneedle acne patches that contain salicylic acid and/or tea tree oil. They usually come in smaller packages with as many as 10 patches per box, and usually only one size is offered (medium or large). These tend to cost between $0.54 and $3.60 per patch.

Caution2
Caution
If you have sensitive skin, medicated and microneedle acne patches may irritate your skin due to the concentrated dose of acne-fighting ingredients they deliver.
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

  • Wash your face and hands thoroughly before applying an acne patch. This helps stop the spread of bacteria that may cause additional breakouts.
  • Make sure your skin is completely dry before applying an acne patch. Moisture on the skin can prevent the patch from adhering fully.
  • Center the patch on the lesion. This ensures the most effective treatment.
  • Most acne patches turn opaque once they have removed all excess oil and pus from the acne. This helps you know it’s time to remove the patch.
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Acne patches are often a better option than other acne spot treatments because they don’t dry out the skin and leave a flaky patch behind.

FAQ

Q. Can I use acne patches with other acne treatments?

A. You can incorporate acne patches into your skincare routine with other acne products, but you shouldn’t use them at the same time. Acne patches should be applied to clean, dry skin that doesn't have any toner, serum, moisturizer, or treatment products on it. After you’ve removed an acne patch, you can use any other skincare product you like on your face.

Q. How long should I wear an acne patch?

A. An acne patch can take some time to work, so it’s usually best to wear it overnight or at least for several hours. Avoid wearing a patch for more than 12 hours.

Q. Do microneedle acne patches hurt?

A. Despite how it may sound, microneedle patches do not feature the kind of needles you may be thinking of. Instead, they use dissolving microneedles, which are extremely small, fine needles. As the needles dissolve, they penetrate the skin deeply to help with nodular or cystic acne. Best of all, no pain is involved. You might experience a slight tingling, but that’s typically a sign that the product is working.
 

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