At first, I thought I was lucky. I was fortunate enough to go through all of my formative years sans acne. Yep. Aside from the occasional volcanic eruption on my face (and my naturally large pores), I was pretty clear-faced.
Fast forward to 23. All of a sudden, deep, painful bumps started planting themselves all over my face. Not just my face either. I had them in my ears, on my eyebrows, and even just below my jawline. WTF. Had I developed cystic acne now? Turns out, the answer was yes.
After spending hundreds of dollars seeing a dermatologist and getting super painful cortisone shots, I spent even MORE money on a very expensive cocktail of topical prescription medications for the next several years. They definitely helped. When I did get one of these deep, throbbing pimples… these top-notch, doctor-prescribed meds didn’t seem to do all that much. It was almost like, if a pimple bypassed my defenses, the meds threw up their hands and forfeited.
Typically, this insidious bump would stay painful and present for as much as weeks! Ouch. Is this how I would have to spend the rest of my days? Spending hundreds of dollars and cocktailing three different skin creams every morning and night, only to slightly minimize my problem? Nah, fam.
As I am a cheap-ass bitch, I decided to take matters into my own grubby hands. Once my fancy lotions and potions ran out, I decided to be my own skincare mixologist. Using my knowledge of science and skincare, I have found a solution that helps treat my cystic acne better than anything I’ve used before.
Now, let me caveat. Just because this works for me does NOT mean it will work for you. Everyone’s skin chemistry and condition are different. Also, my cocktail can be SUPER irritating to skin and should be adjusted based on how much/little your skin can handle.
Alright. Now to the good stuff. My ingredients!
1) Salicylic Acid
Cystic acne develops when certain bacteria are able to get deep into your pores and cause an infection. So, you need to help keep your pores as clear and clean as possible. Salicylic acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA). BHAs are a the best type of acid for clearing pores because they are oil-soluble.
Soluble means “dissolvable”. So, unlike other acids, BHAs are able to get deep into your oil-filled pores and eat away at the gunk. Noice!
Salicylic acid tends to come in several different concentrations, ranging from 0.5% to 2%. The stronger the concentration, the harsher the formula. Stronger concentrations are good if your acne is particularly stubborn or for a more intense spot treatment. To be safe, start off with a lower concentration and work your way up.
2) Benzoyl Peroxide
Okay, but what if the acne-causing bacteria is ever present on your skin? Benzoyl Peroxide is something you’re probably already familiar with. It’s an antiseptic that helps kill the bacteria that tend to cause pimples.
Retinoids/Retinol are a chemical that helps improve cellular turnover. It helps your skin slough off dead cells, so they won’t clog your pores and make your skin look dull, tired, and rough. Retinoid is the strongest version of the chemical. Retinol is the next strongest. Retinyl Palmitate is a very mild version that really isn’t all that effective for acne. Retinyl Palmitate is best for gently preventing signs of aging for those who have more sensitive skin.
I’ve found that layering or mixing these on a cystic acne bump can be quite effective at reducing it in a matter of a few days, not weeks. It kills the acne-causing bacteria, cleans the pores, and exfoliates away dead skin cells. Now, this can be HIGHLY irritating to skin. If you have sensitive skin. Don’t try this. If you have normal skin, I’d recommend using very small amounts once a day. If you feel stinging or see redness or peeling, stop using it or reduce the time in which you put the treatment on again. Make sure to use a hydrating, soothing, non-comedogenic moisturizer to keep skin healthy while you’re trying to zap that cyst.
This isn’t a silver bullet or panacea for all your skin woes, but I’ve found it’s been able to reduce my painful cystic acne bumps when used cautiously and carefully on cysts when they pop up. Worth a shot, right?