Acne Patches: Do They Work?
You may be wondering what an acne patch is - I certainly was when I first heard of them. No, they're not like a nicotine patch you put on your arm and suddenly all of your acne disappears. They're much simpler than that (although that might be a neat method of medication delivery for future acne therapies).
Acne patches are an acne treatment that is popular in Asia, but they're just starting to make their waves in my neck of the woods. There are two types of acne patches - one is medicated, the other is not. For this article, I'm going to be talking about the non-medicated, oil-absorbing acne patches you can get from your local Wal-Mart, because those are the ones I tried, and mostly anything medicated will work in some respect. Medicated patches usually contain something like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which would work potentially better than a cream/liquid application because the patch helps keep the treatment in place and covered. Keep in mind, though, that this is not the case for everyone.
Regardless, we're here to talk about the non-medicated kind, because frankly my skin doesn't like benzoyl peroxide, which is the only other local option I have. Anyway, I received these non-medicated oil-absorbing patches as a sample in the mail one day. I was going to throw them away because I don't know if they're vegan, and I didn't want nor need them, but then I realized what a waste it would be to just throw them away, and it gave me the opportunity to try something I probably otherwise wouldn't have tried. I suppose I could have donated them, but in hindsight I am at least glad I tried them so I could report back to you all.
After a couple of days sitting on my shelf and a couple pimples came to the party, I decided to look into acne patches a little more, and give them a try. This is a photo I got from the blog referenced on the photo - the results looked promising! Two flattened, noticeably less-inflamed pimples as a result of the patches. These patches clearly hold some promise!
The non-medicated patches come on a little sheet of clear plastic, and they come in a variety of sizes. They're made from a flexible hydrocolloid material that is intended to 1) protect the acne from trauma (such as picking), and 2) absorb excess fluid from the pimple to allow it to heal faster.
My first impression upon application was a little bit of excitement to try something new, and the hope that it would be revolutionary. I expected them to do wonders for reducing inflammation in a pimple, as well as draw out all the pus and leave me with nary a pimple in sight, just like the above photo.
I tried it on two of my pimples, one was more of a nodule without a visible "head", and one was a pustule with a visible "head". I didn't expect it to do anything for the nodule, but I wanted to try it as a little experiment, anyway.
According to the package, I was to leave it on until the patch became "white" from absorbing all the fluids. According to the package these patches can also be worn under makeup. Bonus!
First things first, these patches aren't comfortable to wear. It feels like you're wearing a small band aid, which easily irritated me because all I wanted to do after applying it was itch and pick at it. Anyone who has skin issues as well as a predisposition to picking, knows that this is a bad combination. However, I didn't let this sully my experience just yet. I tried to control the urge to rip it off my skin, in hopes that it would get rid of the pimple.
I was eager to try applying makeup over it, as well - the thought of treating my pimples all day long, hidden by my makeup, was too exciting to express. Unfortunately, it did not cover AT ALL. You could clearly see the lines defined around the patch which was even more noticeable under makeup than without makeup. So, scratch that idea. Makeup + acne patches = no bueno.
OK, I thought, no big deal, I can use them at night or when I'm just bopping around the house.
Well, after trying the whole sheet periodically over the course of a few days, you can imagine my disappointment when neither the pustule nor the nodule had changed much at all. They were still there; the nodule was the same size, the pustule was the same size, maybe even a little bigger, and on top of it all, still full of pus. Had I been using my regular spot treatment, the pustule would've been gone, or at least completely flattened out by now.
How could this be, I wondered? I had done everything according to instruction, and clearly the person in the blog post I mentioned had experienced some kind of benefit from it. I realized, though, that any number of variables could have been in play. For example, the patches I got in the mail could very well have been old or expired, which could have led to them not working as well.
There are many possibilities. But another likely possibility is that the person in the blog post saw such a great improvement only because they had popped their pimples, or pierced them at least, prior to applying the patch, giving the pus an easy path out. This seems plausible, considering both pimples look as though the "head" had been removed. This is typically how a popped pimple looks, and not at all how my pimples looked after sleeping with the patches on.
Boo! Disappointed. But not surprised.
A Nasty, Unexpected Surprise
What did surprise me, however, was the fact that after several days of using these patches, other small pimples began to form around the pustule and nodule I had "treated". Irritated, I realized this was likely due to whatever adhesive was on the patch that probably suffocated my pores and trapped whatever dead skin/sebum/debris was in the pores.
This shouldn't have surprised me, though, because in the past I had treated a pimple and covered it with a band aid only to have the same issue occur under the adhesive parts. By trying to treat one problem, I created several more.
Clearly these acne patches have the potential to do more harm than good.
The Bottom Line
So, logically-speaking, if your acne tends to form in clusters it's probably not wise to waste your money on acne patches, and instead opt for an all-over facial treatment like a medicated moisturizer, a prescription, a good face mask like Banish's Pumpkin Enzyme Masque, or even a spot treatment like tea tree oil.
If you have a lone pimple pop up with a lot of pus in it and it looks all yellow and nasty, you can definitely try it out. I'm sure they've actually worked for some people. Just be aware of the fact that the adhesive could trap and clog your pores, so ensure to keep the area around the pimple clean prior to and after application of the adhesive patch.