Blister Bandages May Be Even More Effective on Zits Than They Are on Blisters

And they kind of give you an excuse to pop your pimples.
Publish date:
May 23, 2016
acne, zits, multitaskers, blisters, band-aid

As long as people have had faces, parents have told their adolescent children not to pop their pimples, and those children have gone ahead and done it anyway. When I was a teenager, my mum would alternate between "Don't pop your pimples!" and "Come here, let me pop it for you." I'll still pop when I get a nasty one, but now, with the help of some humble blister bandages, I don't have to feel too guilty about it.

Hydrocolloid bandages are growing in popularity as a pimple treatment, to the extent where brands have jumped on board and you can now buy a pack of 72 acne-clearing dots for $30. While I might be willing to pay fifty cents up front to banish a spot as quickly as possible, the simplicity of the bandages means there's got to be a cheaper way.

And there is. This is where blister bandages come in.

They're not always labelled as "hydrocolloid bandages," but they're easy to spot and there are a few acne-sufferer-approved brands: Target's Up & Up Blister Bandages and Band-Aid Tough Pads are popular choices. Given nothing is as easily available in New Zealand as it is overseas, I had a little more trouble tracking some down, but finally found the Compeed Blister Plasters. They're even conveniently packaged in a giant version of what appears to be a Listerine breath strips container.

Naturally, no one's sticking these giant plasters on their face, although, to be honest, if I had a larger area of acne to treat, I would be tempted. Instead, you can cut tiny pieces off the bandages as needed. (Sanitize your scissors with isopropyl alcohol first, please!)

Hydrocolloid bandages are different from regular bandaids. Under the protective outer layer, they're made of carboxymethylcellulose suspended in gelatin and pectin. This hydrocolloid gel attracts water and draws fluid out of the wound — in this case, dirt, pus and oil from the zit. The protective layer keeps the skin moist, though, which can speed up healing and help prevent scarring.

Some people advocate lancing (careful popping with a sterile needle) to allow the pimple to drain properly, but I've found the patches work alright without doing that... and I would never suggest popping in any less sterile way (cough). They're not going to work on pimples that don't have any fluid in them, though, because the draining is their main method of efficacy. All the fluid that gets drained is absorbed by the gel, turning it cloudy white. Yum.

These bandages also lower the pH of the area underneath, helping inhibit bacteria growth and stop you from putting your grubby fingers all over your spots absentmindedly. They also protect from UVB penetration, which can help stop hyperpigmentation scarring, according to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science.

Saving dollars by not buying the specific acne spots does have one downside, and that's that my home-job bandages are much more obvious when they're stuck to my face. Better for wearing overnight than wearing under makeup, which some people apparently do with the acne ones.

  • Have you used hydrocolloid bandages on your pimples?
  • Are you more about the stealth acne spots or the DIY blister jobs?