The 10 Best Products That Essentially "Dissolve" Cystic Acne

Updated 10/10/18

Getty Images/Graphic by Cristina Cianci

Due to some recent hormonal changes related to switching my birth control, I've started getting cystic acne. I remember when the first one popped up. To the naked eye, it was invisible. But I could feel it brewing underneath my skin, and if I accidentally brushed it with my fingertips, it hurt. Soon it turned into a full-fledged red, raised bump that basically had its own heartbeat and hurt all the time.  

"Cystic acne is severe acne that forms stubborn cysts and that takes forever to go away," she explains. "Cystic acne can be caused by hormonal changes or genetic predisposition," Anna Guanche, MD, explains. 

Meet the Expert

Anna Guanche, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of the Bella Skin Institute in Calabasas, CA. With over ten years of experience, Guanche focuses on minimally invasive cosmetic surgery and laser treatments.

Not knowing what to do but just wanting it to go away, I tried to pop it. Spoiler alert: That is actually probably the last thing you want to do to cystic acne. "The main thing I am concerned of when I see cystic acne is the potential for scarring," Guanche says.

And you know how you make scarring more likely? By trying to pop cystic acne. Don't do that. Instead, try one of these. From cleansers to spot treatments to masks, here are the best products for cystic acne.

Best Cleansers for Cystic Acne

best cleanser for cystic acne
Jan Marini Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% Wash $40
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Try adding a benzoyl peroxide cleanser into your skincare regimen, says Guanche. She recommends this one from Jan Marini. 

Key Ingredients

Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial agent that helps to kill P acnes, the bacteria that have been implicated to play a role in the development of acne. It also helps to prevent small pimples called comedones (comedolytic).

best cleanser for cystic acne
Neutrogena Rapid Clear $9
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I've personally found this creamy benzoyl peroxide cleanser to be effective, but be warned: It is super strong. Start off by using once a day and gradually working up to twice a day. Also, be sure to moisturize afterward, as it can be drying. 

best cleanser for cystic acne
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser for Acne Prone Skin $15
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In addition to being a thing I will never be able to spell correctly on the first try, salicylic acid is also a potent acne-fighting ingredient because it helps exfoliate skin. This cleanser is gentle but effective and leaves skin feeling clean without feeling stripped of moisture. 

Best Spot Treatments for Cystic Acne

best spot treatment for cystic acne
Renee Rouleau Anti Bump Solution $48
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The magical elixir formerly known as the Anti Cyst Treatment, this is a product I personally swear by. With a combination of ethyl lactate, citric acid, and (I assume) witchcraft, it manages to drastically reduce the size of cystic acne overnight and cuts in half the amount of time it takes to go away overall.

 

best spot treatment for cystic acne
Sonya Dakar Blemish Buster $29
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 A blend of salicylic acid, probiotics, and silver ions work actual magic on pimples. Bonus: It also contains zinc and sulfur to help speed up skin's healing. 

EradiKate(TM) Acne Treatment 1 oz
Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment $26
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The formula of this spot treatment is pumped full of the highest amount of sulfur allowed in beauty products. So yes, it smells, but it's also incredibly effective. 

Key Ingredients

Sulfur is keratolytic, which works by softening and thinning the epidermis to prevent clogged pores. Sulfur also reduces the growth of the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria and the blockage of pores.

Glass Bottle Drying Lotion
Mario Badescu Glass Bottle Drying Lotion $17
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This drying lotion has a cult following. The combo of sulfur and salicylic acid is incredibly effective at dissolving gunk stuck underneath the skin. 

Therapeutic Sulfur Mask Acne Treatment Mask 5 oz
Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Mask Acne Treatment Mask $47
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This mask brings in the pore-decongesting heavyweights: sulfur, kaolin clay, and bentonite clay. They work synergistically to reduce inflammation, draw out gunk, and suck up excess oil. 

SUPERMUD(R) Activated Charcoal Treatment 1.7 oz/ 50 g
GlamGlow Supermud Activated Charcoal Treatment $59
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A mask that contains six—count 'em, six!—debris-clearing, pore-unclogging acids, including salicylic and glycolic. It also contains activated charcoal, which is stellar at absorbing excess oil and clearing out pores. 

Yes To Clear Skin Bubbling Paper Mask $4
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This bubbling sheet mask (yes, you read that correctly) helps detox skin with a blend of charcoal and oxygen. It also contains skin-soothing aloe. 

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