Painful, cystic pimples can be real beasts, but here’s the good news: As beauty editors, we’ve had the chance to try some of the best cystic acne products on the market, which means we can, in turn, share them with all of you.
But first, more on cystic acne: Characterized by large, irritated nodules under the skin, cystic breakouts tend to respond less effectively than whiteheads to topical treatments. “Cystic acne is a more inflamed, nodular type of acne that tends to also leave scars,” David Lortscher, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego, California, tells Allure. “However, it’s important to remember that cystic acne varies from patient to patient and the same treatment does not work for everyone.”
In certain cases, dermatologists may administer an in-office cortisone injection or prescribe oral medications (including spironolactone, birth control pills, and isotretinoin, also known as Accutane) to treat the blemish from the inside out. Depending on the severity of your breakouts (and your budget), seeing a dermatologist who can administer an in-office quick fix or prescribe oral or topical medications might be a worthy investment of your time and money.
“A cortisone injection will reduce inflammation and shrink swelling within 6 to 48 hours,” says New York City-based, board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, who also recommends light therapy to target acne-causing bacteria in the pores. “Some oral antibiotics — like tetracycline — are also anti-inflammatory, which helps improve acne.” Prescription topical retinoids, like tretinoin, may also be recommended by your dermatologist.
Thankfully, there are plenty of treatment options at every price point to test out. And as the experts will tell you, gentle, targeted approaches will always work better than harsh products that strip your skin of moisture. Here, we take a closer look at the best skin-care products for targeting cystic acne at home, including cleansers, masks, and spot treatments that help get the job done.