The best hydrocolloid patches of 2023:
- Best overall: Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original
- Best invisible: COSRX Clear Fit Master Patch
- Best micro dart: ZitSticka KILLA Kit
- Best for blackheads: Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clear Invisible Dots
- Best for inflamed acne: Starface Hydro-Star + Tea Tree
- Best variety: Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots
- Best for dark spots: Peace Out Microneedling Dark Spot Brightening Dots
- Best for active lifestyles: Curology Emergency Spot Patches
No lie, I have about 12 boxes of hydrocolloid patches on my bathroom shelf. As someone who deals with pesky hormonal breakouts that come around like clockwork, the trusty material is, hands down, the only treatment that actually keeps my blemishes (and finicky fingers) at bay.
But not all hydrocolloid patches are created equal, which is why I keep an array of acne dots at my disposal (and, well, because I go through them at breakneck speed). Some are best suited for blackheads, others layer seamlessly under makeup, and some do their best work on dark spots.
You'll find them all below, along with expert tips to rid breakouts, stat.
What do hydrocolloid patches do?
See, the hydrocolloid material absorbs excess fluid, like oil and pus, without drying out the skin. That's why the spot tends to turn white underneath the covering—it's from all the pus and gunk accumulating under the patch without any air.
Not to mention, the covering can keep you from picking and prodding at your pimples, which can speed up healing time.
As hydrocolloid patches become more popular, brands have even infused them with extra acne-fighting ingredients, like tea tree or salicylic acid. "Most pimple patches are made with a hydrocolloid material, and sometimes another active ingredient such as salicylic acid will be added to the material to help speed the treatment and healing of pimples," notes board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, M.D., founder of MaeiMD.
Different patches will be best suited for different types of acne; below, you'll find the best of the best for every type of spot.
mbg's picks for the best hydrocolloid patches of 2023
Best overall: Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original
- Doesn’t slide on the skin
- Absorbs the most gunk (IMO)
- No size variety or added ingredients
These are the best patches for any kind of zit, in my opinion. I’m guessing it has to do with the material’s thickness, but these medical-grade hydrocolloid patches somehow suck up the most gunk. They adhere firmly onto the skin without sliding throughout the night (whereas other patches end up stuck on my pillow in the a.m.), and they blend seamlessly into the skin for daytime wear.
Hero Cosmetics features other versions of pimple patches, like invisible and extra large dressings, but I always come back to their O.G. stickers. I have about seven boxes in my bathroom cabinet (not exaggerating) for acne emergencies.
- Thin enough to wear under makeup
- Contains liquid paraffin, which is petroleum-derived
Ingredient highlights:Red ginseng water
These ultra-slim patches are so thin, you could even wear them under makeup. Simply slap on the patch to clean, dry skin, tap your favorite concealer over the spot, and voilá—a quick and easy blemish disguise. Not to mention, providing a barrier between your breakout and makeup can encourage healing and keep the product from further clogging pores. The additional red ginseng water helps soothe inflamed acne and dial down swelling, so you can treat those spots as you cover them up.
- Comes with salicylic acid- and tea tree oil-soaked cleansing wipes
- Great for under-the-skin pimples
Ingredient highlights:Salicylic acidPeptidesNiacinamideHyaluronic acid
Micro dart patches typically contain additional acne-fighting ingredients that directly penetrate the skin, as opposed to a standard pimple patch, which generally just sits on top. The points themselves are made from dissolvable hyaluronic acid, says Marcus, and all you notice is a mild prickling sensation when you press on the patch; it goes away as the micro darts start to dissolve, then it functions just like your regular hydrocolloid patch.
Micro dart patches “help active ingredients penetrate more deeply into the epidermis,” adds Marcus, which may make them better for early-stage, under-the-skin pimples. For example, these KILLA stickers come infused with peptides, salicylic acid, and niacinamide to unclog pores, balance oil production, and strengthen the skin barrier; with sharp, stable spikes, those ingredients are sure to target the zit with precision.
Best for blackheads: Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clear Invisible Dots
- 72 patches give you bigger bang for your buck
- Multiple sizes
- Contains butylene glycol, which can be irritating for sensitive skin
Ingredient highlights:Salicylic acidHyaluronic acidTea tree oil
Treating blackheads can be tricky, and just any ol’ hydrocolloid patch won’t exactly clear them entirely. “They may help to draw oil out of the skin, but likely will not completely resolve a blackhead,” says Marcus. “A pimple patch with salicylic acid may be more effective for blackheads as this ingredient breaks up sebum within the pores.”
Enter these invisible acne dots: Infused with 0.5% salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and hyaluronic acid, the super-thin patches help unclog blackheads at the sources and soothe any lingering inflammation. The kit comes with six sheets of 12 dots (so 72 patches, for those who don’t care for mental math) in two custom sizes for zits of all kinds.
- Soothes inflammation
- Star shape is cute & functional
- Not as sticky as other options
Ingredient highlights:Tea tree oil
Most hydrocolloid patches are meant to disguise blemishes, but these star-shaped cuties put them front and center in the best way. Just leave it to Starface to make pimples look edgy and cool.
I’m a fan of their original, no-frills hydrocolloid patches, but these tea tree oil-infused stickers are fabulous for balancing and soothing skin. I slapped one on a particularly inflamed, angry zit, and it practically shrunk in size overnight, thanks to the essential oil’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The star shape looks cute, but it’s functional, too: The tiny arms can grip difficult-to-reach contours of your face (think: the corners of your nose, sides of your lips, etc).
- Multiple sizes
- Thicker surface doesn’t layer as well under makeup
In terms of size variety, these Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots take the cake. You’ll find multiple different circles to cover every kind of zit, from inflamed mounds to tiny closed comedones. I like to use the smaller dots during the day to disguise the appearance of a specific zit; it covers a much tinier surface area, so it doesn’t create as much of a shadow. I’d also be remiss not to mention the budget-friendly $4.99 price tag.
Best for dark spots: Peace Out Microneedling Dark Spot Brightening Dots
- 87% of participants said their dark spots were less noticeable
- 430 dissolvable microneedles in each patch
- Pricey for 12 dots
Ingredient highlights:NiacinamideTranexamic acidFerulic acid
Acne can be difficult to treat, but targeting the subsequent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can be even more time-consuming—after all, these dark spots often take months (sometimes years) to completely fade.
Speed up the healing process with these micro dart patches, which come infused with niacinamide, tranexamic acid, and ferulic acid to brighten the complexion, soothe inflammation, and even skin tone. And again, because those micro darts help ingredients better penetrate the dermis, those actives can shuffle through the skin barrier and get to work on hyperpigmented skin cells.
Best for active lifestyles: Curology Emergency Spot Patches
- Waterproof & sweat-resistant
- No additional acne-targeting ingredients
These Curology patches are somehow ultra-thin yet sturdy—they don’t slide off easily. They’re also waterproof and sweat-resistant, making them the perfect option for all-day wear. I’ve worn one of these to a sweaty Pilates class, and let me tell you, they don’t dare budge. Not for nothing, they’re practically invisible on the skin; I personally don’t have a problem sporting a pimple patch during a workout class, but for those who prefer some discretion, this is a great invisible option to snag.
How we picked
- Thickness & size: Some people prefer a snug, sturdy hydrocolloid patch with more staying power (these tend to be larger and thicker), whereas others want a thinner patch to layer under makeup. You'll find options of all shapes and sizes here.
- Smart ingredients: Some brands infuse extra skin care ingredients (think niacinamide, tea tree oil, and salicylic acid) into the hydrocolloid material to help speed the treatment and healing of pimples. We made sure to include a variety of those elevated options, as well as the no-fuss dots.
- Medical-grade: All of these patches contain medical-grade hydrocolloid, and some are even dermatologist-tested.
Comparing the best hydrocolloid patches of 2023
|Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original||$12||36||N/A|
|COSRX Clear Fit Master Patch||$6||18||Red ginseng water|
|ZitSticka KILLA Kit||$60||20||Peptides / Salicylic acid / Niacinamide|
|Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clear Invisible Dots||$32||72||Salicylic acid / Tea tree oil / Hyaluronic acid|
|Starface Hydro-Star + Tea Tree||$12.99||32||Tea tree oil|
|Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots||$4.99||30||N/A|
|Peace Out Microneedling Dark Spot Brightening Dots||$28||12||Niacinamide / Tranexamic acid / Ferulic acid|
|Curology Emergency Spot Patches||$9.99||40||N/A|
Benefits of hydrocolloid patches
We've covered the basics, but let's review the benefits, shall we?
- Draws out excess oil: "Hydrocolloid patches help to protect and heal the skin," says Marcus. "They can also help to draw oil and sebum out of the skin." As the hydrocolloid dressing sucks out all the oil and gunk, the patch will turn white.
- Speeds healing time: Absorbing excess fluid speeds up healing time without drying out the surrounding skin. Bonus points if your patch also includes anti-inflammatory, acne-fighting ingredients (like salicylic acid or tea tree oil), which can further accelerate healing.
- Keeps you from picking pimples: By covering up the pimple, you also inherently protect the face from finicky fingers—which is half the battle when it comes to clearing zits.
- Protects pimples from pore-clogging makeup: You may want to cover up zits, but caking on oil-based makeup can be a recipe for clogged pores. By layering a hydrocolloid patch underneath, you can provide a barrier between your zit and the makeup. A bunch of options are thin enough that they read practically invisible under concealer.
- Great for whiteheads: While hydrocolloid patches can work for most types of acne, "They work well for smaller inflammatory lesions and closed comedones (whiteheads)," says Marcus.
Any risks or side effects?
Placing stickers on your face and waking up with clearer skin sounds like a dream, no? But make no mistake: There is a right and a wrong way to use hydrocolloid patches.
First: "[Do not use a hydrocolloid patch] if you have experienced an allergy or sensitivity to any of the ingredients in the patch," says Marcus. For instance, those with latex allergies might want to steer clear; and even if your patch reads latex-free, those with pectin or rubber sensitivities might still face irritation from the adhesive.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but if you have any allergies or sensitivities to other potentially irritating skin care ingredients—like salicylic acid, tea tree oil—make sure you find a patch without those added players.
Finally, Marcus advises against placing a patch on open or infected lesions. If you do wish to cover up a freshly popped zit (hey, it happens!), just make sure you gently cleanse and dry the area completely to ensure you don't trap in any bacteria.
Why do the patches turn white?
"Oil and sebum is drawn out of the skin and into the patch, causing it to turn white after use," says Marcus.
Is there a difference between pimple patches and hydrocolloid patches?
Yes, albeit a slight one: Hydrocolloid patches are simply made with, you guessed it, hydrocolloid. Whereas "Most pimple patches are made with a hydrocolloid material, and sometimes another active ingredient, such as salicylic acid, will be added to the material to help speed the treatment and healing of pimples," Marcus explains.
Do hydrocolloid patches work on cystic pimples?
"Hydrocolloid patches work well for most types of acne, but of course if acne lesions are cystic and very inflamed, a hydrocolloid patch is unlikely to provide adequate treatment," says Marcus. You'll need to head to the derm to treat cystic acne, but if covering the spots with a pimple patch keeps you from picking (and further irritating) the acne, then by all means, patch away.
When should you not use a hydrocolloid patch?
"Do not use a hydrocolloid patch if you have an open or infected lesion, or if you have experienced an allergy or sensitivity to any of the ingredients in the patch," says Marcus. "Those with sensitive skin may find the adhesive properties of pimple patches irritating."
Can I put a hydrocolloid patch on a popped pimple?
You technically can, if you're gentle. If you wish to cover up a freshly popped zit, just make sure you gently cleanse and dry the area completely to ensure you don't trap in any bacteria.
Hydrocolloid patches have become increasingly popular over the years, and I fully recommend you snag a box of your own. Whether you use them to heal pimples overnight or create a thin, invisible barrier under makeup, you'll be happy you added them to your arsenal. Looking for more acne treatments? Check out our full roundup to clear every kind of blemish.