Cystic acne can be painful and can lead to severe cysts. But here’s the good news. As beauty editors, our team has had the opportunity to test some of the most effective cystic acne products available, which allows us to share them with you.
“Cystic acne is characterized by large, irritated, under-the-skin nodules. They tend to be less responsive to topical treatments than whiteheads. Cystic acne is a type of acne that causes more inflammation and nodules under the skin. It can also cause scarring,” David Lortscher MD, a dermatologist board-certified in San Diego, California tells Allure. It’s important to keep in mind that cystic acne is different from person to patient, and that the same treatment may not work for everyone.
Some dermatologists might administer an in-office cortisone shot or prescribe oral medication (spironolactone and birth control pills) to treat the blemish. It all depends on how severe your breakouts are and what your budget is. A dermatologist can help you with an in-office quick fix, or prescription of oral or topical medication.
Dendy Engelman MD, a New York City dermatologist, says that cortisone injections will reduce inflammation and shrink the swelling in 6 to 48 hours. She also recommends light therapy for targeting acne-causing bacteria. Some oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline, are also anti-inflammatory and can help improve acne. Your dermatologist may recommend prescription topical retinoids like tretinoin.
There are many options available at all price points. Experts will tell you that gentle, targeted treatments are better than harsh, drying products. We take a closer look to the top skin-care products that can target cystic acne at home. This includes spot treatments, cleansers and masks.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated gel Acne Cleanser
James Y. Wang MD, a board-certified dermatologist from Los Angeles, says La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Medicated gel acne cleanser is a must-have for treating cystic zits. This wash is ideal for acne-prone skin because it contains a 2-percent mix of exfoliating salicylic acid and lipo-hydroxy acids. These acids help unclog pores and eliminate blemish-causing bacteria. This gentle, yet effective foaming cleanse is part of the Best of Beauty-winning 3-step acne treatment system.
SkinMedica AHA/BHA Cream
SkinMedica’s AHA/BHA cream is such a great exfoliant-based formula that Dr. Wang loves it. The cream treats the skin with an intense mix of alpha hydroxy acids. It includes lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids. The moisturizer also contains skin-conditioning ingredients such as vitamin E and provitamin B5, which are known to prevent dryness.
Paula’s Choice Clear Daily Treatment for Skin Clearing
Cystic breakouts can be painful. However, a gentle approach to your skin will help you avoid irritation and aggravation. Look out for products that contain active ingredients as well as skin-soothing substances, such as bisabolol in Paula’s Choice Clear Daily Serum Clearing Treatment.
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser is the perfect solution for large, inflamed cystic, or stubborn blackheads. This cleanser is infused with salicylic acid, which removes pore-clogging dirt from the skin and excess oil. Ceramides replenish moisture and calm inflammation.
PCA Skin Acne cream
PCA Skin’s Acne cream is able to handle excess oil, pore-clogging bacteria and dead skin cells. This spot treatment contains a dynamic combination of polyhydroxy acids and benzoylperoxide, two ingredients that are well-known for their exfoliating properties.
Many dermatologists will tell that retinols or retinoids can be very effective in treating cystic acne. They increase cell turnover and stop the development of new cells. Differin Gel, which was previously only available via prescription, is an all-over treatment that can be used several times per week depending on the skin’s tolerance. Dr. Engelman says that adapalene, the active ingredient, targets acne by treating flare-ups, reddening and reducing inflammation, as well as unclogging pores. If you don’t have any skin problems, start with one a week.
Cetaphil Derma Control Oil Removing Foam Wash
Dr. Wang also recommends Cetaphil’s Derma Control Oil Removing Faam Wash. It will clear clogged pores and not dry out sensitive skin. This remarkable formula contains zinc which balances oil production and glycerin to give you a soft, plump feeling after each wash.
Neutrogena Stubborn Acne A.M. Neutrogena Stubborn Acne A.M.
Add Neutrogena’s Stubborn Acne A.M. Add Neutrogena’s Stubborn Acne A.M. to your daily skin-care routine to get an oil-free treatment that will address all signs and symptoms of cystic acne. This ingredient is well-known for its exfoliating and antibacterial benefits.
iS Clinical Pro–Heal Serum Advance+
Avoid harsh exfoliants and scrubs if you have a cystic acne problem. They can cause irritation and more damage than good. Dr. Engelman states that cystic acne occurs beneath the skin’s surface. This means that you could dry out the skin and cause irritation to the surrounding skin. To ‘force’ the product into your skin, use a serum such as iS Clinical Proheal Serum Advance+ and then apply a balm.
ZitSticka Killa Pimple Patch
ZitSticka Killa Pimple Patches can be used to treat blemishes in a matter of hours. They have been approved by Robert Finney MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. He says that these patches have salicylic acid that helps to bring the pimple to the surface. They also contain a hydrocolloid dressing which absorbs any debris that may be left. They also contain niacinamide which is an anti-inflammatory component that repairs the skin barrier. Dr. Finney says they are a good option as they can prevent people picking their acne.