Are Zitsticka Acne Patches Worth It? A KILLA Review

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Zitsticka are you my ex-zit strategy?

Hello. I’m a human, a woman, currently in my twenties and I struggle with acne daily. All the different forms of acne that exist: whiteheads, blackheads, cystic acne, pustules, papules, small breakouts, large breakouts; I’ve experienced each and every one of them. When I tell you nothing compares to the deep, painful, hormonal cysts that are just under the skin, remain buried and never want to see the light of day, I mean it! They are the worst. There, I’ve said it. (My humble and personal opinion.)

When Zitsticka offered to send me their Spot Clarifying Patch Kit*, (yes, I’m laying it all out here because my name means honest and trustworthy and that’s just how I roll) they just wanted to know my thoughts on it. Nothing else. I was nervous yet hopeful because as a long time acne-sufferer, I have tried many products that were supposed to help my acne but ultimately failed. So me being me, I delved into my research, tried the product and along the way this post was born.

Image of Zitsticka Killa Spot Clarifying Acne Patches
Original image by Zitsticka
Who and what is Zitsticka?

Zitsticka is a skincare brand that was born in Australia and made in Korea. (Made in Korea because their ‘secret sauce’ is actually manufactured in Korea, the skincare capital of the world.) The brand has harnessed the latest in dermatological science and cosmetic technology to develop a patch that blends perfectly-picked ingredients with a smart delivery system: a ZitSticka™.

So what is exactly is a ZitSticka™? This is a patch from the future that puts your zit in the past. (Points for brand humor!)

Zitsticka has developed a Spot Clarifying Patch Kit called KILLA™ KIT and it contains two products (8 KILLAs and 8 CLEANAs):

  1. KILLA, a spot clarifying patch, is a tech-meets-skincare patch that uses Zitsticka’s microdart technology to target the early stage or the up-and-coming, below-the-surface acne. It infiltrates, dissolves and flattens those deep, hard to reach zits before they come to a head.
  2. CLEANA, a soaked cleansing swab soaked in exfoliating and de-stressing ingredients, to prime a deep zit before patch application.

The brand is dermatologist backed and is vegan and cruelty-free.

According to Daniel Kaplan, the brand’s co-founder and product development lead, ZitSticka aims to create space for conversation and community, where people can share their experiences with skin-care issues, get answers, and connect with people just like them. (I think this is something that all skincare brands should aspire to so props to them.)

Claims

“Self-dissolving microdarts” are the heroes of our products. These tiny microdarts in each KILLA self-dissolve to flood the epicenter of your early-stage zit/pimple with targeted ingredients, clearing the upcoming drama within 2 hours of application and flattening its angry appearance at the source. Each KILLA covers, protects and improves the appearance of your next unwelcome vi-zit-or (with minimal effort and exceptional speed.)

Priming a deep zit before patch application, CLEANA is the perfect hype-man for KILLA. Elsewhere, CLEANA—soaked in exfoliating, de-stressing ingredients—can be used independently to placate a superficial zit.

The science: How is it different from your standard acne patches?

Generally speaking, standard pimple patches, which are sometimes referred to as acne healing patches, are small, translucent or flesh-coloured stickers you adhere to a pimple or breakout. They are a type of hydrocolloid dressing (an advanced material that has been used as a wound dressing to protect the area and to promote wound healing) and they work by absorbing excess fluid and pulling out the “superficial debris” from inside the breakout. Some are just hydrocolloid patches with no added ingredients, while others have some acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to help with breakouts. A good example of such are COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patches.

I LOVE and have used the COSRX patches for a long time but they are only really good for whiteheads or pimples (pustules and papules) that have come to a head or have just been popped. They draw out all the impurities, and help heal the zit by providing a good environment free from outside contamination. They also help prevent picking which can worsen the breakout and lead to scarring or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

They didn’t really help my hormonal, cystic acne.

The Zitsticka acne patch differs from your standard hydro-colloid acne patches in that it has 3 parts to it. Or STICKATECH™ as the brand calls it. (Fancy!) An outer protective hydro-colloid surface that acts as a shield for your skin from the environment; then a water-resistant adhesive ring that helps the patch stick to your skin; and finally, a central area that’s embedded with 24 tiny (pain free!) self-dissolving microdarts containing a synergistic (meaning they work together harmoniously) potion of salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and oligopeptide-76. 

These microdarts or microneedles are meant to permeate the skin, dissolve and release acne-fighting ingredients directly to the source of acne. It’s meant for blind, subcutaneous, or hard-to-reach pimples that haven’t come to a head. It also targets the deep, cystic hormonal acne that can be quite painful and tend to linger around for a long time. These are the types that topical creams struggle to access sometimes.

Image of Zitsticka Killa Spot Clarifying Acne Patches

The KILLA patch contains just five clean, efficacious, derm-loved ingredients: 

  • Hyaluronic Acid (Sodium hyaluronate): a moisture-magnet naturally found in our bodies, where it binds to water to help retain moisture in our skin, joints, etc. Here, it acts as a conduit for the other synergistic ingredients to be carried into your zit.
  • Salicylic Acid: a BHA (Beta-hydroxy acid) is an efficacious exfoliant that is lipophilic (oil-soluble), meaning it can penetrate deep into the pores of the skin and in-between skin cells to fight acne breakouts. 
  • Niacinamide: (a form of Vitamin B3) is anti-inflammatory so helps to reduce the appearance of redness, and is essential for many skin cellular functions. (Read more about niacinamide benefits here.)
  • Oligopeptide-76: A fierce but gentle peptide that disrupts your zit’s journey. OG-76 is a synthetic peptide (a type of protein fragment) that is anti-microbial, much like benzoyl peroxide, but gentler without the side effects like irritation.
  • Sodium Hydroxide: a non-irritating, inactive pH balancer.

The CLEANA priming swab looks just like a regular alcohol wipe. CLEANA ingredients include: Alcohol, water, melaleuca alternifolia (Tea tree) leaf oil, tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), salicylic acid. Tea tree is anti-bacterial and antifungal so will definitely help kill any microbial that is lurking on the surface while Vitamin E is nourishing to the skin and can help promote healing.

Similar acne patches to Zitsticka include Focuspot Blemish Micro Tip Patch by Dr. Jart (contains 65% hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3 and OG-76) and the Microneedle Technology Acne Healing Patch by Rael (contains tea tree oil, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid and totarol, an extract containing vitamin E).

My experience: Did it work?

I recently have been dealing with the worst hormonal breakout. The cystic acne breakouts are huge, deep, very painful and are taking weeks to disappear if at all. It’s on my cheeks, jaw, even forehead! I know my hormones are to blame but still.. (Help!) Anyway, I took this opportunity as the perfect time to test these acne patches.

The first thing I noticed and liked about the product was the top shelf-worthy, clean packaging. It also comes with a super clear instruction manual in the kit box. Everything is individually wrapped so while it may seem excessive to most, if not all, of us, I’m sure that it is very hygienic.

I didn’t use the CLEANA swabs as I felt my face was already clean enough so I’ll be saving those to have in my purse as they are large enough and super travel-friendly to have with you on the go. (Pro tip for you!) Plus, I think they will be better suited for my whiteheads and pimples that have already formed or come to a head. Remember, these have alcohol so be careful with them on broken skin and dab them only on the breakouts or acne-prone areas.

The KILLA patch itself is translucent and matte so is actually discreet meaning you can actually go about your day wearing it. Think of it as an accessory for your face. At least that’s how I describe my acne patches when I wear them during the day. (It’s like a jewel, but for my pimple.)

After double cleansing my face at night, I put on a KILLA patch before continuing with my normal PM skincare routine. (Read about my skincare routine here.) Upon applying the sticker, I felt a prickly, tingling sensation from the microdarts, but it dissipates in about a minute.

The microdarts take 2 hours to dissolve and after that, you can remove the patches and the ingredients that have already penetrated the skin will continue working; or you can leave it on overnight (which is what I did.)

The first thing I noticed was my breakout was still there. (Sigh… Why was I expecting a miracle?) However, after a couple of seconds, I realized to my genuine surprise that my cystic acne was not painful. I poked and prodded it for scientific reasons aka this blog (something that you should never, ever do!) and it wasn’t painful. Where was that deep, awful, throbbing pain?

Next, I whipped out the mirror and started examining said pimple from all angles. I could tell it had reduced a bit in size but not as much as I was hoping for. After a few minutes of mixed feelings, I decided to go about my day but sporadically kept checking up on the cyst to see how it progressed.

By the end of the day, it had actually decreased to half it’s previous size and was looking much flatter. It still wasn’t painful which, on its own, I would call a success.

Since, the brand says you can use 2 Zitsticka patches in a row, and even encourage it, I put another one on it the second night and when I woke up there was even more positive progress. Since it’s water-proof, I washed my face in the morning and I left it on for the day. However, be careful to not wash your face quite vigorously as these patches do not stay glued to your skin like the COSRX ones.

Even though the results were not miraculous as I was naively hoping (nothing really is for cystic, hormonal acne unless you want a cortisone injection from your dermatologist directly into a monster sized one), these did actually help reduce the size and severity of my breakouts wherever it was applied overnight.

Image of Zitsticka Killa Spot Clarifying Acne Patches
Image by Zitsticka
Should you try them?

I would say yes, definitely. These microdart acne patches did help my cystic acne in terms of reducing the size and severity of pain (especially the pain). My advice would be, use them on NEW under-the-surface breakouts that you can feel are just coming on. If you have a new cystic acne forming, put KILLA on it and leave it overnight, and not just 2 hours, for the best chance of it working more effectively.

However, for the price of the KILLA KIT ($29 USD) and number of patches you get (8), I’m not sure how many kits you can buy if you break out frequently. Maybe something the brand can think about in the future.

You can buy Zitsticka online on their site and on Cultbeauty.

So, do you use pimple or acne patches? Have you tried Zitsticka? Would you? Let’s discuss below!

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