With customized beauty taking over the industry (shout out to multi-masking and personalized serums!) it was only a matter of time until targeted skincare patches became a thing. Think of them like mini treatments—each patch is a tiny sheet mask that delivers high concentrations of skincare actives directly to the skin in a small, specified area no bigger than a blemish or dark spot. “Skincare patches are an interesting beauty concept as they target specific skin concerns at localized sites without affecting the complexion and quality of the surrounding skin” says Dr. Monica Li, a Vancouver-based dermatologist and clinical instructor in the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science at the University of British Columbia. Available in different formulas and materials, from cotton to hydrocolloid—a material that absorbs fluid from the skin it’s treating—according to Li, the trend originated in Korea (no surprise there as it’s the birthplace of pretty much every innovative new beauty trend).
Recently, the patch market has exploded with stickers for an array of skin concerns, from pimples to hyperpigmentation. Before you get patch happy, we asked Li to break down the three main types of patches available and whether they can actually deliver results.
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While there are now patches on the market tackling many different skin concerns, pimple patches made from hydrocolloid were one of the first types to really set the trend in motion. “Hydrocolloid as an ingredient alone works by absorbing fluid from the spot being treated, and can be used on sensitive skin,” explains Li. Many acne patches are made exclusively from the fluid- and oil-absorbing material but some have evolved to contain other zit-zapping ingredients like salicylic acid. Li recommends using patches as a spot treatment to stop a burgeoning blemish—the patch covers a single pimple and draws out its contents, thus minimizing the spot without causing the dryness or irritation that can happen with some harsh topical treatments, like benzoyl peroxide.
If the patch contains acne-fighting ingredients, it will not only absorb the gunk from inside the zit but will also deliver those active ingredients straight to the source of the pimple, breaking down the excess debris that’s plugging the hair follicle attached to the blemish. Bonus: Not only do pimple patches deliver ingredients straight to the inflamed source, but they also help to prevent picking at the skin. “Because the patch creates a physical barrier, individuals are less likely to pick or squeeze the pimple that can then cause further irritation or infection, leading to scarring and unwanted pigmentation,” says Li. We’d call that a win-win.
Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Invisible+, $24 for 39, thedetoxmarket.ca
Suddenly spotted a whitehead? Pop on one of these transparent hydrocolloid patches at night so it can yield its zip-zapping powers while you sleep. You’ll wake up in the A.M. with a deflated blemish, it’s that easy.
Starface Hydro-Stars, $27 for 32, starface.world
Former beauty editor Julie Schott is the co-founder behind these galaxy-inspired hydrocolloid patches. An instant hit in the U.S., the brand recently launched in Canada (yay!) so we can now get our mitts on their star product. According to Schott, she created the brand to change the narrative around acne, making the experience of dealing with a pimple fun and light as opposed to the typical dread that can occur when a zit appears. The cute star patches encourage people to decorate their blemishes instead of trying to hide them while the patch works to treat the pimple underneath.
Zitsticka Killa Kit, $53.60 for 8, zitsticka.com
This little box has everything you need to stop a new blemish in its tracks. Inside lies eight Soaked Cleana Swabs to sanitize your zit pre-patch and eight Microdart Killa Patches that work on stubborn, deeply rooted pimples. The one-two combo delves deep to target the area with uncloggi ng salicylic acid and calming niacinamide.
Acne patches put the trend on the map but more variations are now starting to fill beauty counters, including microneedling patches that help to plump up fine lines and wrinkles. These patches are a spin off of in-office microneedling and at-home dermarolling treatments that help to deliver active ingredients deeper into the skin’s surface. “Microneedling patches contain dissolvable microneedles intended to deliver its ingredients more evenly and deeply into the skin,” says Li. These patches make tiny (painless) microscopic channels into the skin’s surface, pushing the ingredients into the treated area with the goal of faster and better results. A few key ingredients to look for in this style of patch include hyaluronic acid, which can help hydrate and “fill in” lines temporarily and retinol, the gold star ingredient for anti-aging, that can also help target acne flare-ups.
Li notes that with this style of patch, it’s important to manage expectations as the results will be temporary. With hyaluronic acid patches, reapplication and repeated use is typically needed to sustain the effects, she explains. “Deeper lines from muscle use linked with facial expressions (think: frown lines or the ‘11s’ between the brows that deepen from squinting) will need injectable treatments like Botox to improve longer-term.”
NeoStrata Hyaluronic Acid Micro Infusion Patches, $25 for 2, neostrata.ca
Hyaluronic acid is the key ingredient in these overnight patches that can be used on targeted areas of the face to deliver surface hydration and plump up fine lines. Use them before a big event to give your skin an extra dewy glow and to temporarily tighten up a few fine lines.
Oh K! Wrinkle Rewind Sleep Tight Face Patches, $7 for 8, shoppersdrugmart.ca
Another overnight option that will soften fine lines and wrinkles, these patches are developed in the U.K. and made in Korea. Each one contains a cocktail of ingredients, including avocado oil and peppermint extract, to help to relax muscles overnight as well as hydrate and brighten the skin.
Shiseido Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Pure Retinol Express Smoothing Eye Mask, $85 for two sets of 12, shiseido.com
Retinol has long been touted as the holy grail of skincare ingredients so it makes perfect sense to pair it with a patch. These stretchy cotton eye patches use micro-infusion technology to gently penetrate deeper into the skin and deliver retinol and hyaluronic acid for a hit of wrinkle-smoothing action. Fifteen minutes is all these patches need to diminish fine lines.
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Dark spot-fading patches
Microneedling patches with brightening ingredients are a relatively new introduction to the skin patch category but have started popping up at retailers. These patches treat skin in the same way the wrinkle-filling versions do but with a different set of active ingredients to target hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Niacinamide, tranexamic acid and vitamin C are just a few of the tried, tested and true brightening ingredients that are stowed away inside each patch and can help deliver a more glowing, even-toned visage.
While Li states that these ingredients can be effective in treating pesky dark spots, she says that more often than not, removing unwanted hyperpigmentation is a process that takes time, so the patch would have to be applied consistently over a period of time to really see a difference. Essentially, just like all skincare, regular application and compliance is the key to getting results, whether that’s via a patch or another vehicle, like a serum or cream.
Peace Out Microneedling Dark Spot Brightening Dots, $37 for 12, sephora.ca
Packed with skin brightening M.V.P.s like licorice extract and tranexamic acid, these small circular patches pop onto dark spots to help lighten areas of hyperpigmentation. Apply onto clean dry skin, leave on for a minimum of six hours and let the patch do its brightening thing.
Dr. Jart+ Focuspot Dark Spot Microtip Patch, $24 for 6, sephora.ca
Formatted with innovative micro-tip technology that uses small dried hyaluronic acid tips filled with active ingredients that then melt into the skin for a deeper penetration, these patches deliver vitamin C straight to the areas that need it most.
Peach & Lily Peach Slices Dark Spot Microdots, $9 for 9, peachandlily.com
A hefty blend of niacinamide, licorice extract and vitamin C works to hydrate the skin while brightening dark spots. Amino acid-rich centella asiatica is also on the ingredient list to soothe and calm any inflammation. Each patch contains 176 micro-darts that fade not only hyperpigmentation but also work to lessen red marks caused by acne scars.
This article was originally published in July 2020.