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The $5 Acne Spot Treatment My Teen and I Fight Over

Because pimples don’t care about your age.

Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch
Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch ($5)

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If you’re out of your teens, you’ve probably already realized the bitter truth that acne never really goes away. It’s all a big lie that pimples are the scourge of your teenage years only, and then you’ll be fresh-faced throughout young adulthood, at least until the wrinkles and dark spots come to mar your hard-won beauty once again.

I didn’t have terrible acne as a teen, but it really flared up in my 20s due to stress, especially during grad school when I was also working. I received a bit of a reprieve in my late 20s and early 30s (I credit birth control pills), then it came back with a vengeance when I got pregnant and has never really left in the ten years since my second kid was born. Now my hormones are acting up again in one final act of rebellion before they officially shut down for good: My face is on a rager.

This is probably the only thing my 13-year-old son and I have in common at this particular moment in time. On pretty much everything else, from how much he should be on his phone to how cool and not-embarrassing I am, we are in firm disagreement. But our faces are both sort of a mess, and, in this shared misery, we bond. And we fight over my stash of pimple patches from Cosrx, which I keep in a little box under my vanity. I’ve caught him in there sneaking them almost as many times as I’ve caught him texting his friends when he’s supposed to be doing homework.

Last year Charlotte Cho, the founder of K-beauty e-commerce site Soko Glam, gave me these little patches, and I’d never seen anything like them for acne treatment before, so I did a bit of research.

Pimple patches exist in two forms: plain hydrocolloid patches (which is what the Cosrx ones are) or medicine-soaked stickers. The former are based on wound-healing principles used in hospitals, and basically suck gunk out while also keeping the wound — which is what a pimple is — moist, which is optimal for healing. (I used to be a nurse and have changed many a yucky wet dressing.) The latter just feature a concentrated dose of typical acne meds like salicylic acid on a little sticker and are meant to keep the active ingredient in one specific area, and theoretically help it absorb better. (This is an example.) In my experience, the plain hydrocolloid patches work MUCH better.

The only other example of a hydrocolloid patch for pimples I’ve been able to find is from 3M Nexcare, which you can buy at Amazon. They’re inferior to the Cosrx patches, though, because they’re pretty small and don’t seem to adhere as well. The Cosrx patches come in three different sizes. They’re packaged in a ziplocked pouch so they don’t dry out, and cost a mere $5 for 24 patches.

The patches work best on a whitehead or a blemish that you’ve picked or squeezed (it happens and I would never judge you), thus releasing some gooey stuff. They need moisture to grab on to, so they’re not great for those deep pimples that are still working their way up. But I’ve had near-miraculous results overnight. They take down swelling significantly and also suck out all the junk gently, thus deterring you from attempting to do it yourself and potentially causing scarring.

And since there are no active ingredients in them and they work purely physically, there are no weird side effects like flaking or interacting with the other stuff you put on your face.

I’ve since given my kid his own stash, which he now hides somewhere out of my reach.

Shop It Here Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch, $5 for 24