“Wear pimple patches under your face mask,” read a cardboard sign held by Dude With Sign in a meme I once spotted on K-beauty site Soko Glam’s Instagram page. First it got a chuckle out of me, but then I started thinking: In the age of maskne, when wearing face coverings has led to skin irritation by way of breakouts and blemishes, how had this entirely sensible strategy not occurred to me yet?
Despite my initial lack of savvy, it’s a practice I immediately began putting in place for the stubborn spots taking shape around my cheeks and chin. “Pimple patches absorb the impurities trapped under skin to flatten breakouts and protect the wound from external bacteria or face-picking,” explains Soko Glam co-founder and K-beauty expert Charlotte Cho of the multiple benefits of employing a pimple patch during this time. New York City dermatologist Rachel Nazarian agrees they’re helpful for addressing a number of pimples, including the flare-ups caused by acne. “What makes them a great option is that they protect the area from some of the same irritating triggers that can create and inflame pimples under your mask,” she explains, noting that many treatments employ hydrocolloid dressing, a method that has long been used for wound healing in skin care. “They act as a barrier against the bacteria and humidity from your breath, and even the chronic rubbing and friction from the mask itself.”
To minimize the inflammation and curtail the length of the time the pimple presents, Nazarian suggests using pimple patches early, when you see or feel a red or tender spot forming. She also stresses the importance of choosing a patch that closely aligns with the size of your pimple, so you’re not covering too much normal skin that can be irritated by certain ingredients. On that note, when in doubt, reach for patches that err on the gentler side in terms of ingredients. Hydrocolloid is largely considered the hallmark ingredient for healing whiteheads, as it is breathable while offering a protective barrier that stimulates healing and can speed up resolution of the pimple. Additionally, easily tolerable and soothing ingredients like tea tree, calendula, and hyaluronic acid can also help to reduce redness and the visible appearance of bumps.
One thing to remember is that pimple patches are for treating acne bumps, as opposed to preventing maskne. “A pimple patch is a backup when acne happens despite our best efforts,” explains Nazarian. “But because they aren’t preventative, using the patches as a your monotherapeutic approach means you’ll never actually stop breaking out.” As such, one must already be following a preventative regimen—cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing—to proactively decrease future breakouts. To round out your skin-care routine for the age of maskne and beyond, here are nine pimple patches to stock up on, from nearly invisible dots to selfie-ready stickers.
The Klog Soft Shield Pimple Patch