How sticker beauty is taking over Instagram

Coming to a feed near you: kooky hydrocolloid patches that will perfect, polish and pimp up your pimples while accelerating healing time. But do they really work?

Julie Schott has been in the squishy belly of the beauty industry for ten years. During this time the New York-based multi-hyphenate has helmed Elle as a beauty director, written viral articles on her infamous no water” morning skincare routine and regularly guest features on Lady Lovin’, a podcast that deep dives into themes of sex, health and wellness each Monday. So when the beauty know-it-all says she has tried everything to combat her acne prone skin, she really means everything.

I’d trawl through pages of Reddit suggestions, try behind-the-counter prescriptions and even saw an acne psychologist,” says Schott on her spot-banishing attempts. But my skin continued to fluctuate. Everyday I’d cake concealer and foundation on which only made my skin feel worse.”

It’s a frustration that many are accustomed to. Whether it’s a stress-induced break out or an untimely, alcohol-fuelled zit-athon, over 95 per cent of Brits experience some minor acne between the age of 11 and 30

Sure, they’re a royal nuisance – but they’re also totally normal. Why, then, are we told spots are something to cover up, conceal, camouflage and be ashamed of?

The acne products I grew up with always referred to pimples as blemishes’ or imperfections’ which reinforces the idea that acne is bad and clear skin is good,” explains Schott, it made me so self-conscious that I used to wear baseball caps to the office.”

The 31-year-old saw this problematic dichotomy exacerbated by the acne treatments being sold to her, each designed to erase the blemishes that make us, well, us. Schott quickly became tired of lifeless drug stores filled with boring” packaging and harmful messaging from the likes of Eucerin and Vichy. Both of who pegged their treatments as correcting” and concealing”.

It was this damaging narrative that led Schott to found Starface: a joyous, acne-positive brand driven by Instagram’s self love movement and reinforced by the TikTok-born E‑Gee and UwUpie aesthetic. 

Self-described as equal parts efficacious and uplifting”, Starface currently sells just one product: a bright yellow hydro-star” sticker that pimps pimples while simultaneously accelerating healing time. Packaged in a smiley-faced, AirPod shaped container, a starter pack of 32 hydrocolloid-lined stickers retails at £18 while refills start from £14.

  • For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.”  For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections.” 

Although hydrocolloid stickers are nothing new – first popularised in 2008 in Korea by brands like COSRX and Nacific – Starface sticks two fingers up at the clinical, paracetamol-esque packaging of the other see-through wonder patches on the market. These cute-as-fuck star stickers aren’t here to hide, in fact, they’re practically begging to be seen. And they’re not the only ones.

British model and body-positive activist Charli Howard launched Squish in 2019 with its hero Flower Power Acne patches (£10). A cartoon-like flower with a pearl studded middle, they work in a similar way to Starface: a positively-branded pimple patch that proudly destigmasies acne. 

For years young people were taught to cover up any imperfections,” says Livvy Houghton, a researcher at trend insight incubator The Future Laboratory, but now they’re approaching the health of their skin with the same attitude as #bodypositivity.”

From Yummy-singer Justin Bieber declaring that pimples are in” to his 118 million Instagram followers, to activist Louisa Northcote’s #FreeThePimple movement that calls for positive acne representation on social media, spots are no longer seen as something to be embarrassed by. Brands are recognising this and offering support by celebrating diversity and beauty quirks,” continues Houghton, who praises those spearheading the sticker beauty trend.

But doesn’t wearing stickers on your face seem a little… silly? Well, not if Instagram is anything to go by. A quick search of #Starface brings up pages and pages of sticker selfies, with both teens and adults alike fan-girling over the hydro-stars. It’s a trend that’s been further accelerated by the aesthetic of cult Gen Z drama Euphoria that’s inspired a boom in self-expression through makeup. See: Maddie (Alexa Demie) wearing rhinestone studded eye makeup and Jules’ (Hunter Schafer) colourful, geometric eyeliner masterpieces.

Starface has been dominating the teen-loved app TikTok, too. Earlier this year, Schott invited popular creators like @brycexacier (2.5 million followers) and @pynklemmusic (3.2 million followers) to a Starface-branded TikTok house. Thanks to a slew of 15-second clips of TikTokers clenching Starface’s distinct yellow pod as they criss-crossed their arms to the sound of JACKBOYS and Travis Scott’s Out West, the brand now has 63.1k followers and nearly one million likes. 

But with these changing attitudes towards beauty also comes changing attitudes towards sustainability. Under a video of Schott applying her hydro-stars, @izzieannlay_​ commented: The plastic waste! like is there at least refills? We are NOT HELPING the planet!”.

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Luckily, both Starface and Squish are two steps ahead. Our Flower Power Acne patches are completely biodegradable and we purposefully opted for glass diamond crystals rather than plastic ones,” says Squish founder Howard. While Starface’s head honcho is quick to point out to @izzieannlay_ that the the pods are designed to keep, save and refill, and refills come in a tiny lil envelope”.

But how effective are these little power patches really?

Created in the 1980s to draw the pus out of wounds, hydrocolloid patches remove pimple-forming fluids while forming a barrier to block out bacteria and stopping the wearer from poking, touching, or, worse still, squeezing their spots. 

There could be some benefits to spots by drawing out the sebaceous material,” says Dr Mervyn Patterson, a cosmetic dermatologist at Woodford Medical, but you’re not putting anything beneficial into the skin.” Instead, the skin expert recommends salicylic acid, an organic acid which has a deep cleansing and anti-inflammatory effect.

I think they are mostly of limited value,” concludes Patterson, I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.” 

  • I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.”  I feel they are more of a gimmick than an actual viable treatment.” 

Still, two days after receiving my Starface stickers, and with three big spots ready to troubleshoot, I’m seeing results. The instructions say to leave the stars on for eight plus hours, so I apply the hydro-stars as soon as I wake up. While the stars are not as visible on my skin as the campaign images make them out to be, the constellation on my chin looks pretty damn adorable. 

At the office two people ask me what’s on my face, and after giving them the Starface spiel one of them asks to try one out. Fellow spot fighter aside, no one seems to notice that I’ve got three yellow stars on my chin, although the barrister at Caffè Nero looked a little bemused.

As for whether they work: the stars stayed put for the whole day, keeping their stickiness even after a 30 minute run and a shower. When I finally get into bed I check on my zits and they’re less red, albeit still there. But then again, no cream – at least not one on my radar – gets rid of spots in 24 hours, and not being able to stick my fingers anywhere near them definitely stopped me irritating further. 

Credit where credit’s due – brands like Starface and Squish are destigmatising problem” skin, and anyone going against the wave of Photoshopped celebs and FaceTuned influencers who’ve long been enforcing impossible beauty standards has our vote.

So don’t have a breakdown over a break-out – sticker beauty has got you, quite literally, covered. 


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