How having spots became trendy for Gen Z

how having spots became trendy for gen z

For today's teens a pimple is a badge of honour

There’s a spot on my teenage daughter’s chin, and it’s the attention-seeking variety you can’t ignore. It’s nothing a quick, practised squeeze can’t dispatch but when I point out the uninvited guest living rent-free on her lovely face (haha, mum jokes), she immediately flares up, gets angry, defensive and accuses me of “spot shaming”. She then stomps out of the room, chin held proudly aloft. I gingerly knock on her bedroom door an hour later and she’s pouting for a selfie with a shiny star covering the spot. And that’s when I got it.

The spot breakout gives her permission to wear the trending spot sticker (aka pimple patch). The sticker is cool, the brand is trending on TikTok, and the iridescent star design fits the “cute girl” aesthetic she and her friends subscribe to.

When I was a teenager, a breakout was a badge of shame and embarrassment. The eruption would be popped with super speed, slathered in spot cream (that would draw every drop of moisture from my skin and leave it dry, flaky, and uncomfortable, but needs must) and then layered with Rimmel concealer to hide the inflammation, redness, and general soreness. If it was a particularly bad breakout, you kept your head down, used your hair as a mode of disguise, or stayed indoors until it disappeared. Not so for today’s teens because the spot is a badge of honour, the gateway to the zit sticker and gold social content currency.

how having spots became trendy for gen z

The stickers come in different shapes and sizes and are made from a hydrocolloid dressing that adheres to the skin

The cynic in me suspects these stickers are nothing more than a flex: they look cute, sure, but are they effective? Consultant dermatologist Dr. Emma Craythorne is a fan. “I think zit stickers are great,” she says. “They isolate the spot, protect it, and create the best healing environment. They also prevent people from picking at their pimples. Picking spots can trigger additional breakouts in the same area and lead to hyperpigmentation and scarring,” she adds.

Spot stickers come in different shapes and sizes but the common factor is the sticker material itself – a hydrocolloid dressing that adheres to the skin, creating a shield over the spot, keeping moisture locked in and bacteria out, while absorbing impurities from the spot and speeding up the healing process. Bye-bye zit – and the redness, inflammation or scarring that can otherwise result from spot squeezing.

how having spots became trendy for gen z

The trend is about normalising something that is completely normal – a teenager with spots

“We use similar coverings for spots in dermatology – although ours look medical, not as fun as the ones available now,” Dr Craythorne adds. Indeed, savvy brands in the zit-stick space have smartly tapped into Gen Z’s borderline obsession with “the aesthetic” of things as well as their desire for spot-free skin. Having a product that works is great if – big if – it also looks good on them and on their bedroom shelves.

As great as they sound, I’m presuming teens think they’re less fun and cute if they need to wear a whole pack to treat a bigger breakout than the odd spot or two? “They are brilliant for treating isolated spots or two or three in one area,” Dr Craythorne agrees. “They are not useful if you have lots of spots and more continuing to come. They can be used in this situation but only alongside systemic or prescribed topical treatments.”

While spot stickers have been used in medical settings for years, what’s new is the shift in mindset. It’s about normalising something that is completely normal – a teenager with spots, it’s just a part of life. I love that my daughter doesn’t feel the need to hide like I did or see her breakouts as something to be ashamed of. What she was ashamed of, however, was me wearing a smiley face spot zapper on the school run this morning to hide a menopausal breakout on my own chin. Unfortunately, normalising embarrassing parents might never be a thing.

Our top three zit-zappers

For whiteheads and yellow heads

how having spots became trendy for gen z

spots

Goo Getter, £8.65, ZitSticka

These patches extract surface-level zits while treating the skin with pore clearing Niacinamide, and Salicylic Acid.

For Emerging Zits

how having spots became trendy for gen z

spot

Mighty Patch Original, £7.99, Hero

Targets, shrinks and heals emerging spots in just four hours.

For Social Status

how having spots became trendy for gen z

spot patch

Party Pack Pimple Poppers, £9, Starface

Star-shaped hydrocolloid stickers in four bright colours that shrink, shield and stop the picking while still looking cute.

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