When you have a breakout, you probably see it as just that—a terribly unfortunate and potentially day-ruining development, but a breakout nonetheless. However, not all acne is the same, meaning you can’t treat small, red papules the same way you’d approach an inflamed pustule. To break down the unique treatment plan required for each type of acne, we called in celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. Keep reading for a complete guide to beating every kind of acne!
Rouleau’s best advice? Do not pick at a cyst. “Despite being sore, it's not meant to come out through the surface and if you attempt to do so, you’ll most certainly have a scar that will linger for months.” Rouleau’s rule is that if a whitehead does not form (which will never happen with a cyst), then keep your hands off. She recommends applying ice to the cyst to reduce swelling and soreness, and using an acne treatment like Renée Rouleau Anti-Cyst Treatment ($40). Need a quick fix? Schedule an appointment with your dermatologist to get a cortisone injection into the cyst, which will knock it out in a day or less. “Also, if you're prone to cysts in the chin and jawline area, consider cutting back on your dairy intake, as for many, this can be the cause.”
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First of all, don’t go straight for your typical drying treatments. “Since whiteheads have no infection (meaning they are not generally sore), using harsh acne products will only make them worse by causing dry skin cell buildup, which traps the oil in the skin longer,” Rouleau says. Instead, her advice is to exfoliate. “Keeping off surface dead skin cell buildup will help them to purge naturally.” She also notes that a deep pore-cleansing facial can be beneficial for removing the impurities within the pores. “Once you get the pores cleaned out, exfoliating products work deep within the skin to keep them clean.”
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The bad news is there isn’t really a cure for blackheads. “Although there is no way to permanently get rid of blackheads, my best advice is to get monthly deep pore-cleansing facials and use well-formulated salicylic acid products at home to keep your pores clean long after the facial,” Rouleau says. She recommends using retinols like prescription Retin-A to keep your pores clean, but you have to use them consistently to see results. Also, Rouleau says to avoid pore-clogging ingredients like isopropyl myristate and isopropyl palmitate in your skincare products because they could be contributing to the formation of blackheads.
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“You must not touch these until you can see a whitehead,” Rouleau says. “Then, you can carefully extract the infected pus and immediately dry it out with a spot treatment like Renée Rouleau Night Time Spot Lotion ($30). Look for spot treatments with antiseptic, antibacterial ingredients like sulfur and zinc oxide, and a drying agent like camphor.
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When dealing with papules, you want to calm your skin, rather than dry it out. “The main symptom of a papule is inflammation and irritation, so the goal is not to dry it out with acne products, but rather to calm down the inflammation by using topical cortisone cream (from the drugstore) and ice compresses,” Rouleau says. “These will all reduce the inflammation until the whitehead reaches the surface and can be gently extracted.” Look for products with soothing ingredients like green tea, white tea, kaolin clay, and sulfur.
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