The 14 Best Pimple Patches of 2023 to Take Down Breakouts

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There’s a sticker for every type of spot.

<p>InStyle / Marcus Millan</p>

InStyle / Marcus Millan

First, there were spot treatments, which involved dabbing a gel or cream onto a zit and letting it work its magic. But in recent years, pimple patches have overtaken them: Not only do the latest versions come infused with acne-fighting ingredients, such as salicylic acid, but they’re also formulated to target breakouts without causing dryness.

And even at their most basic, most are small hydrocolloid bandages and nothing more. These spot treatments work by drawing out gunk from whiteheads, giving you results that you can actually see — your former mountain of a pimple will look flatter and far less red than it did just a few hours ago.

However, not all are created equal. Some patches are intended for daytime use, with their super thin and transparent material, while others are bedazzled with bright colors or playful designs (which also can be worn during the day, if that’s your vibe) or contain a stronger concentration of ingredients that get to work while you sleep.

Related: The 16 Best Acne Serums of 2023 for Clearer, Brighter Skin

Best Overall: Peace Out Salicylic Acid Acne Healing Dots

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What We Love: They work faster than the competition — without causing dryness.

What We Don’t Love: It won't do much for a deep, cystic zit.

There’s a reason these acne dots are loved by dermatologists. For starters, “these patches contain salicylic acid, a well known ingredient to treat acne,” says Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, a dermatologist in Miami. “In a study, users reported their acne was less red in six hours.”

And, not only do they help clear blemishes fast, says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, but their strategic combination of aloe vera and salicylic acid “helps with the quick healing process without causing irritation.”

Also contributing to the gentle nature of these dots: The salicylic acid is encapsulated, which offers twofold benefits. For one, the salicylic acid is better able to sink into skin and work its magic; at the same time, the encapsulation protects the skin barrier to minimize dryness. Last but not least, you'll also get the benefits of retinol, which helps speed up skin cell turnover to keep skin clear in the long term.

Price at time of publish: $19

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, retinol, aloe vera | Amount: 20 patches | Good for: Inflammatory acne

Best Budget: Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots

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What We Love: They’re practically invisible for daytime wear.

What We Don’t Love: They don’t offer any zit-clearing ingredients.

For a basic hydrocolloid patch, it's hard to go wrong with these hydrocolloid patches. Although they lack the frills and targeted ingredients of other iterations, they offer protection against picking as well as wound-healing properties, thanks to their ability to quell inflammation. Plus, you can wear them daytime or nighttime, since the patches are translucent, and they blend into skin seamlessly beneath makeup. Another bonus: They're available in three sizes to accommodate every size of zit.

Price at time of publish: $5

Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Amount: 30 patches | Good for: Acne, blackheads

Best Drugstore: Neutrogena Stubborn Acne Blemish Patches

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What We Love: The small and large triangles offer added versatility for large areas.

What We Don’t Love: They can stick too well, making them hard to peel off.

Available as dots or triangles, these hydrocolloid patches can flatten whiteheads quickly. “They come in a variety of sizes that can be used for larger breakout areas, or for a single pimple,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. “They have been shown to make pimples appear smaller within just one day.”

Although the patches are thin, they're best used for overnight use (since it takes at least eight hours for them to work their fluid-absorbing magic) and need to be applied to clean skin. While they're un-medicated — meaning no active ingredients besides the hydrocolloid material — they still create a healthy environment for speeding healing, helping a swollen zit resolve more quickly.

Price at time of publish: $10

Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Amount: 12 dots, 4 triangles | Good for: Inflammatory acne

Best Splurge: Dr. Jart+ Focuspot Blemish Micro Tip Patch

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What We Love: They can target deeper zits, like hormonal pimples.

What We Don’t Love: The box only has one week’s worth of patches.

Designed to replicate the effects of microneedling — which, for the uninitiated, involves poking microscopic holes into skin to trigger collagen production and allow for better product absorption — these patches are embedded with micro-tips (which, we should add, are much smaller and far less powerful than the in-office treatment).

The tips, which are made of hyaluronic acid and infused with a combination of niacinamide and peptides, dissolve into skin, where they help reduce blemish size and minimize the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. In using these ingredients, the patches make for an outside-the-box approach to zits that isn’t drying or irritating.

Price at time of publish: $20

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, peptides | Amount: 6 patches | Good for: Cystic acne

Best for Cystic Acne: PanOxyl PM Overnight Spot Patches

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What We Love: They won't budge once they're on.

What We Don’t Love: They can take longer to work than other patches.

Not into super-thin patches? No problem: These are designed to be thicker than your average patch, which allows for better protection and increased absorption of pus from the zit in question. The protection from picking is especially helpful when you're dealing with cystic acne, which is more prone to scarring than other types. The patches, which come in two sizes, are also free or parabens, fragrance, and latex, minimizing any chance of irritation.

Price at time of publish: $11

Active ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Amount: 40 patches | Good for: Cystic and hormonal acne

Best for Hormonal Acne: ZitSticka Killa Kit

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What We Love: They’re packed with proven skincare actives.

What We Don’t Love: Each sticker is individually wrapped, which feels wasteful.

Ideal for tackling deeper zits, which include hormonal acne, “these patches have a tiny microneedling mechanism to help the formula of hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, and oligopeptide-76 reach the root and prevent the lesion from reaching full potential — while aiding in its healing,” says Dr. Deanne Robinson, a dermatologist in Westport, CT.

Plus, they come with swabs to cleanse and exfoliate the area, which allow the ingredients within the micro darts to better penetrate the targeted zit. The downside is that they only come with four patches to a box, so you may need to ration them if you’re working with a big breakout.

Price at time of publish: $29

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide | Amount: 8 patches | Good for: Early-stage zits

Best for Blackheads: Hanhoo T-Zone Pore Patch

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What We Love: The patches fit your forehead, nose, and chin.

What We Don’t Love: If your skin is very oily, it may not adhere as well.

Part pore strip, part pimple patch, this sticker is designed to draw excess oil out of pores. And since sebum is one of the primary components of blackheads (along with dead skin cells and general grime), doing this can clear things up and keep new ones from forming. The shape is intended to fit across the nose (where blackheads are most common), and, as with pimple patches, they work overnight.

Price at time of publish: $4

Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Amount: 8 patches | Good for: Blackheads and clogged pores

Best for Oily Skin: Good Light Luna Pimple Patches

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What We Love: The plastic backing is recyclable.

What We Don’t Love: They won’t do much for cystic acne.

Since these are translucent, they work for daytime and overnight alike. What’s more, they'll stay put even after you apply skin-care products, under makeup, and if you're a stomach-sleeper. They're available in two sizes to fit any zit, and are designed to be used in tandem with the brand's New Moon Balm, which helps nourish. While it won’t make your zit totally disappear, it’ll shorten their lifespan, allowing them to resolve — and skin to clear — more quickly.

Price at time of publish: $9

Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Amount: 24 patches | Good for: Whiteheads

Best Korean Beauty: COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch

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What We Love: They’re available in bulk to handle multiple breakouts.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not as secure as other patches.

CosRx is one of the best known K-beauty brands, so it's little surprise that it would offer an excellent option for pimple patches. They come in three sizes and are designed to create a moist environment, which expedites your zit's healing process and reduces the risk of scarring. They're also sheer, so you could wear them during the daytime depending on your schedule. (A Zoom call is probably fine; a date likely isn't.) It also doesn’t have as much staying power as other options, so you need to apply it after cleansing and before the rest of your skincare routine to max out its lifespan.

Price at time of publish: $10

Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Amount: 96 patches | Good for: Acne that’s come to a head

Best for Sensitive Skin: Athena Club Zit Delete Healing Dots

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What We Love: The ingredients target the redness and swelling of your average zit.

What We Don’t Love: At $2 per patch, they don’t offer a lot of value.

A combo of sensitive skin and acne can be tricky, since many anti-acne ingredients can be harsh. “These patches are unique because they have small micro-darts that help deliver anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide and ferulic acid,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. “They have been clinically shown to help reduce existing breakouts — and they also have hyaluronic acid to help soothe skin.”

In fact, they've been shown to improve acne in just six hours, making them a winner for overnight improvement. And while they adhere well to skin, they don’t feel overly sticking — thus avoiding potential for additional irritation. If you love them, you have the option to subscribe to them to keep your skin clear over time.

Price at time of publish: $12

Active Ingredients: Niacinamide, ferulic acid, sodium hyaluronate | Amount: 6 patches | Good for: Early-stage, deep-set zits

Best for Dry Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Invisible Dots

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What We Love: You get a lot of bang — and patches — for your buck.

What We Don’t Love: They can be irritating when used repeatedly.

For some, the requisite ingredients in spot treatments, such as up to 2% salicylic acid, can be drying to the point of irritation — and could even make inflammation worse. So, “for dry, sensitive skin, I like the Peter Thomas Roth patches, which contain a gentler ingredient profile, including pimple powerhouse salicylic acid — alongside soothing tea tree oil and hydrating hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Robinson.

These patches come in two sizes and take as fast as eight hours to work, delivering results you can both see and believe. Keep in mind, however, that they’re better for active acne than a popped pimple — so if you’re expecting white gunk when you remove it, this won’t do it.

Price at time of publish: $32

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, tea tree oil | Amount: 72 patches | Good for: Inflammatory acne and blackheads

Best for Dark Spots: ZitSticka Hyperfade Patches

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What We Love: It’s a unique riff on the pimple patch category.

What We Don’t Love: Again, ZitSticka’s packaging is excessive, with each patch individually wrapped.

Most people who’ve experienced a zit have also experienced the dark spot that often follows, a.k.a. post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. To tackle it, ZitSticka’s Hyperfade patches go above and beyond, offering a blend of vitamin C, niacinamide, arbutin, and licorice roots, which target melanin (the pigment in skin) at different points in the pigment production process to slow its roll. The cocktail also works on sun spots and age spots.

Keep in mind that unlike pimples, hyperpigmentation  can take much longer to fade — think weeks, not days (and definitely not overnight). So this might not be the ideal long-term solution if you're hoping for a daily treatment — in which case a dark-spot correcting serum might be a better choice.

Price at time of publish: $34

Active ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin C, arbutin | Amount: 12 patches | Good for: Deflated zits

Best for Inflammation: Starface Hydro-Stars

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What We Love: The carrying case can be upcycled or reused.

What We Don’t Love: They may not cover a big blemish entirely.

Keeping in line with the acne positivity movement, these stickers are made to be noticed. “They’re shaped like stars so it makes wearing a pimple patch fun and cute,” says Dr. Engelman. Plus, the arms of the stars have a functional advantage, too, anchoring the patch so it better adheres to skin over time.

They come in a bright yellow compact for easy portability and, of course, they protect against picking, bacteria, and other environmental stressors that could interfere with proper healing of your zit. Bonus: They're vegan, cruelty-free, and hypoallergenic — meaning they won't stress out sensitive skin types.

Price at time of publish: $15

Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Amount: 32 | Good for: Zits that have come to a head

Best for Scars: Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch The Original

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What We Love: The 12 mm size accommodates most blemish sizes.

What We Don’t Love: It won’t do much for inflammatory breakouts.

The Mighty Patch was one of the first to break ground in this category, using medical-grade hydrocolloid to suction gunk out of pimples.“The Hero Mighty Patch is great for quickly reducing the appearance of whiteheads and other acne blemishes,” says Dr. Engelman. “I also love that it’s made with non-irritating ingredients and medical-grade hydrocolloid, and it’s tested to be safe for sensitive skin.”

The Mighty Patch is especially helpful if you’re prone to acne scarring, which can be tough to treat without the help of a dermatologist. “A bonus of this patch is that it helps to reduce acne scarring as well as getting rid of pimples,” says Dr. Engelman. Finally, they also have a matte finish, so they’re barely noticeable if you accidentally (or intentionally) wear them out.

Price at time of publish: $12

Active Ingredients: Hydrocolloid | Amount: 36 patches | Good for: Pimples that have come to a head

What to Keep in Mind

Acne Type

First, certain types of pimple patches work best for different types of acne. Most of the time, “acne patches work best on papules,” says Dr. Engelman. (Papules, for the unfamiliar, are red, inflamed bumps at the surface of the skin.)

The ingredients will also come into play here. “If you are dealing with a deep, cystic lesion, focus on patches with heavier-hitting anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Dr. Robinson. “This type of lesion would also benefit most from a patch with ‘microneedles’ in it to aid in the ingredients reaching the deeper skin layers.”

Active Ingredients

This is where those active ingredients count. For starters, “hydrocolloid is commonly used in wound healing to promote healing,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. “It works by absorbing excess fluid in open acne lesions.” She’s also a fan of those that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients, which can promote healing.

Meanwhile, “some patches also contain salicylic acid which can be beneficial in exfoliating and keeping pores clean,” says Dr. Engelman. While there aren’t any ingredients that are off-limits, she adds, “just be mindful of not keeping any patch on for more than 12 hours, as doing so can over-dry and irritate the skin.”


Pimple patches now go beyond the usual dots you may be familiar with. These days, you can find them not only in a variety of dot sizes, but in different shapes, too — such as triangles and wings. If you’re looking to cover multiple zits in a breakout or tack a wide swatch of blackheads, these can be helpful. You can even find star-shaped stickers, which can help anchor the dots in areas commonly used in expressions (like around the mouth, for instance).

Your Questions, Answered

Do dermatologists recommend pimple patches?

Yes, dermatologists are big fans of pimple patches. “These are one of my favorite additions to skincare over the past few years,” says Dr. Robinson. “I love them because they are therapeutic and have real impact on speeding up the healing of pimples.”

Plus, dermatologists recommend not picking your acne. So, she says, “these also minimize picking and touching of the lesions, which most often is what leads to scarring — some of which can be long-term or even permanent.”

Do acne pimple patches work?

Acne pimple patches do work, but “they all function a little bit differently based on their active ingredients,” says Dr. Robinson. “Overall, they contain a combination of inflammation-reducing properties, such as hydrocolloid and niacinamide, alongside bacteria-reducing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil.” She’s also a fan of exfoliating actives, like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, which can dissolve the gunk clogging pores.

What do pimple patches pull out?

Contrary to popular belief, the white stuff you find on a used pimple patch isn’t necessarily pus. Instead, “it’s hydrated hydrocolloid, which absorbs moisture surrounding the pimple to form this gel that creates an optimal healing environment,” says Dr. Robinson. “It’s smothering the lesion with ingredients that target the inflammation and bacteria — helping it to ‘dry out’ and heal faster.”

Can I use a pimple patch on a popped pimple?

Ideally, you shouldn’t pop a pimple — and “pimple patches are a great way to help treat pimples quickly, so you are less tempted to pop them,” says Dr. Engelman. “Pimple patches should only be applied to a pimple before it’s popped, and never to open or broken skin.”

In fact, they can replace the work (and risk) of popping a pimple that has come to a head. “One of the benefits of pimple patches is that they work by absorbing moisture, oil, and bacteria from deep within the pimple, while keeping the area clean and preventing bacteria from entering the blemish with a protective layer,” she explains. That’s a better alternative to using your fingers and possibly introducing bacteria to the mix.

Why Shop With Us

Deanna Pai is a freelance writer and editor who has been covering beauty, health, and wellness for more than a decade. Since she has acne-prone skin, she’s used pimple patches in her own routine to address breakouts. For this story, she interviewed three board-certified dermatologists, including Dr. Deanne Robinson, Dr. Dendy Engelman, and Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd.

Related: The 13 Best Face Masks for Acne of 2023

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