TikTok users are using gel bandages to shrink their pimples. Dermatologists said the patches work.

pimple chin

  • In the app's latest skincare trend, TikTok users are applying large hydrocolloid bandages to their faces to shrink pimples overnight.
  • Dermatologists told Insider these patches are great for absorbing fluid from "red, angry pimples."
  • The patches can also stop people from picking their skin, or protect pimples that have been previously picked.
  • However, smaller pimple patches provide the same benefits without the risk of irritating unblemished skin.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

TikTokers have been known to try out questionable health and beauty trends, from filing their teeth down to attempting to remove moles with at-home chemical peels.

But the latest skincare hack popularized on the app — using hydrocolloid bandages to shrink pimples — has gotten some dermatologists' approvals.

Videos show people placing extra-large Hydro Seal Band-Aids on their cheeks, chins, and foreheads. Most users leave the bandages on overnight, and many have filmed themselves peeling the saturated stickers off in the morning.

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Hydrocolloid bandages are designed to absorb fluid from wounds while creating a protective barrier, dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, told Insider. The patches can do the same thing for pimples, pulling out oil and pus until the bandage turns white with all it's absorbed.

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Garshick said these bandages shouldn't replace acne medications for preventing breakouts, but they can shrink nasty-looking blemishes in a pinch.

"These are not going to be your first line treatment for acne," Garshick said. "But if you're somebody who has the occasional pimple that comes up, you might use this to help in a time of desperation, or if you're going to have a big event and you just need something to go down quickly."

Hydrocolloid patches work best for shrinking red, angry pimples

Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, told Insider that hydrocolloid bandages may not be suited for all kinds of acne. While they won't do much to blackheads or whiteheads, he said they're perfect for drawing out fluid from "red, angry pimples," or cystic acne.

He added that the absorbent patches can also help heal pimples you've previously picked, as they were originally designed for wound care.

For blackheads and whiteheads, Garshick recommended seeking out pimple stickers — smaller hydrocolloid patches specifically designed for acne — that contain an active ingredient such as salicylic acid, which helps unclog pores.

Not all pimple stickers contain salicylic acid, she said. Some formulations are basically identical to hydrocolloid bandages, while others contain micro-darts for additional penetration.

Whether you're using a bandage or a pimple sticker, avoid applying it to unaffected areas

Even though hydrocolloid products are designed for healing, Garshick said the stickiness of these patches could irritate sensitive skin.

"If you're applying it to an area which includes unaffected skin, then it does run the risk of potentially irritating the skin, and certainly not being particularly effective," she said.

The extra large bandages trending on TikTok are big enough to cover most of someone's cheek, which usually includes some unblemished skin around the breakout. Zeichner recommended cutting the bandages down to the size of the pimple you're looking to treat rather than using them whole.

Pimple stickers come pre-sized for zits big and small, and they're often sold in multi-packs of various sizes. Some brands also offer invisible" patches, which are thinner, more transparent, and overall less conspicuous than the giant Band-Aids.

Pimple patches also can help prevent skin picking and "maskne"

Experts have previously recommended hydrocolloid bandages as a physical barrier to picking at pimples. For people who are prone to popping anything that resembles a blemish, the stickers not only shrink red spots but also prevent pickers from making their skin worse.

"Once we pop a pimple, we actually make it worse and it can lead to more scarring," Garshick said. "For individuals who really are very tempted to touch it, it's helpful to actually protect the skin that way."

Garshick also said she's seen an increase in the popularity of pimple stickers during the pandemic, likely because people are experiencing mask-induced acne. Wearing a hydrocolloid patch under your mask can reduce the risk of irritation or breakouts — and you could wear a sticker on the lower half of your face all day without anyone noticing.

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