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How Do Hydrocolloid Patches Work?


It's impossible to miss the new skin trend in stores or on social media - hydrocolloid patches. Maybe you've seen it or even tried it yourself - users boast about the seemingly magic ability these patches have in sucking out dirt, oil and puss from a pimple. Sometimes even making acne disappear overnight! Although hydrocolloid patches are a buzzword in today's skincare market, the technology is nothing but new.


Hydrocolloid patches were originally patented in 1967 and used for wound care. The purpose of hydrocolloid patches is to provide amoist environment for wound care that is water resistant and sterile to outside contaminants - thanks to the polyurethane film on the outer skin of the patch [1,2].

The science that happens in the patch is quite simple - and it relies on a process called autolysis. Autolysis is a process performed by the body in which our own cells and tissues are broken down and removed by enzymes - in the case of injury [3]. Hydrocolloid patches enhance this process by providing a moist, sterile environment for expedited autolysis and removal of debris - dirt, oil, puss or other foreign objects. 

For review - hydrocolloid patches [4,5]:

  • Facilitate autolysis (the breakdown of tissues)
  • Encourage wound healing and collagen production
  • Keep the wound in stable conditions (moist and temperature controlled)
  • Reduce bacterial growth and infection risk


So, now that we know what hydrocolloid is and how it works - what does this mean for our skin?

As we know, everyone has certain skin ailments from time to time. So what skin problems do hydrocolloid patches provide the most benefits for? Looking into the history of hydrocolloid patches we can say that these conditions would be appropriate for hydrocolloid use:

  • Acne: especially acne that has a pronounced white head or the pore is already open. It is stated on most hydrocolloid patches that the product is not intended for acne that does not have a pronounced whitehead. 
  • Oily areas: hydrocolloid patches are beneficial to remove excess oil out of pores - so the patches work quite well in the T-zone area of the face or any other region that may produce excess oil. 
  • Open wounds: based on the history of hydrocolloid patches, we know that it is a sterile and moist environment that benefits the expedited healing of open wounds

However, there are already a lot of products on the market touting benefits for these problems - so how do hydrocolloid patches match up to other products?

A 2006 clinical trial looked at the efficacy of hydrocolloid patches versus acne tape. They found that hydrocolloid patches were more effective in reducing inflammation and acne severity compared to the acne tape [6]. In addition, hydrocolloid aids in improving the oil content on the skin and reducing hyperpigmentation post-acne. 

Whether hydrocolloid patches are a true magic product or if they just keep us from picking at our face, the buzz may not just be a fade - hydrocolloid looks like it is here to stay. 

  3. Hyun JJ, Chun HJ, Keum B, Seo YS, Kim YS, Jeen YT, Lee HS, Um SH, Kim CD, Ryu HS, Chae YS. Autolysis: a plausible finding suggestive of long ESD procedure time. Surg Laparosc Endosc Percutan Tech. 2012 Apr;22(2):e115-7. doi: 10.1097/SLE.0b013e318247c347. PMID: 22487637.
  4. Pott FS, Meier MJ, Stocco JG, Crozeta K, Ribas JD. The effectiveness of hydrocolloid dressings versus other dressings in the healing of pressure ulcers in adults and older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Rev Lat Am Enfermagem. 2014 May-Jun;22(3):511-20. doi: 10.1590/0104-1169.3480.2445. PMID: 25029065; PMCID: PMC4292618.
  6. Chao CM, Lai WY, Wu BY, Chang HC, Huang WS, Chen YF. A pilot study on efficacy treatment of acne vulgaris using a new method: results of a randomized double-blind trial with Acne Dressing. J Cosmet Sci. 2006 Mar-Apr;57(2):95-105. PMID: 16688374.