6 Best Products For Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is an inflammatory skin condition much more severe than typical whiteheads, pustules, and papules.

Usually, it presents itself as deep red, purplish, or brown spots that are often hard and painful. 

This specific condition is usually linked to some underlying health issues, including hormonal imbalances, bad diet, and stressful lifestyle, but it’s not always the case.

Other times, cystic acne occurs because of prolonged use of clogging cosmetic products, including skincare and makeup. 

And most of the time, it’s a combination of many different factors. 

Therefore, in this article, I will give you a list of the six best products for cystic acne.

Keep in mind that you can use these separately or combine some (but not all) of them together.

Besides that, stick around until the end of the article and read my answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding cystic acne. 

Paula’s Choice – BHA 2% Liquid Exfoliant – $30

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

NB: While you’re here, be sure to download my guide showing you the 4 things everyone needs in their skincare routine.

The BHA 2% Liquid Exfoliant by Paula’s Choice is a great exfoliating product.

It is specially formulated for blackheads and whiteheads; however, what’s great about it is that it’s very gentle on the skin, meaning even sensitive skin types can tolerate it well. 

This product contains 2% salicylic acid which can be very efficient in soothing redness caused by acne but also unclogging the pores and dissolving the few things that cause acne – excess sebum and dead skin cells inside the pores. 

The BHA 2% Liquid Exfoliant alone may not fully eliminate cystic acne; however, it will undoubtedly help improve the issue without irritating the skin.

Paula’s Choice – Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution – $30

Paula's Choice Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution 2% Salicylic Acid

The Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution with 2% Salicylic Acid is an extra potent formula that slightly differs from the BHA 2% Liquid Exfoliant mentioned above. 

It still contains 2% salicylic acid; however, in this particular formula, the active ingredient is slightly higher on the list, followed by simpler ingredients that focus on hydration and soothing the skin. 

The extra strength can be a little more drying to the skin compared to the BHA 2% Liquid Exfoliant; therefore, you must use a good, non-clogging moisturizer right after applying it. 

RELATED: Paula’s Choice BHA Exfoliants Comparison Review

Acne.org – 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide – $25

What Does Benzoyl Peroxide Do To Your Face

The 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide by Acne.org has certainly been a lifesaver for me when dealing with cystic breakouts.

I still occasionally use it as a spot treatment, especially when I feel like a huge and deep cyst is forming under the surface of my skin. 

This formula comes in gel-cream consistency, and it can be used daily or a few times a week if your skin is sensitive to it.

It can be a little drying on the skin; therefore, the trick is to use very little of it and leave it for about 10-15 minutes to dry out before applying a good, non-clogging moisturizer. 

RELATED: How Does Benzoyl Peroxide Work?

Benzac AC – 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Gel – $$

The Benzac AC is another great 2.5% benzoyl peroxide gel treatment that is usually found in pharmacies in northern Europe. 

It is incredibly difficult to find it online, which is why I also recommended the Acne.org product as an option. The Benzac AC benzoyl peroxide is essentially the same; it just comes in smaller packaging.

Benzac AC also has a benzoyl peroxide cleanser which the company (Galderma) advises to be used together with the gel; however, this may be too drying on the skin. 

Besides that, they have different strengths of benzoyl peroxide gels; however, it is best to start with the lowest percentage and work your way up, if needed. 

High benzoyl peroxide percentages can cause more dryness and more irritations, which is why you should always opt for the gentlest route.

Differin Gel (US) – $29

Differin Gel For Cystic Acne

Differin gel contains Adapalene, which is a strong over-the-counter retinoid, especially competent in fighting acne and improving hyperpigmentation; however, emerging research also suggests it can give some anti-aging benefits. 

This product is most likely to work on more severe cystic acne, but it comes with some side effects, which include peeling and shedding, as well as dryness and irritation, especially in the areas around the mouth.

However, the most unwanted side effect is purging, which means you may be breaking out more than usual at the beginning before your skin gets better.

Therefore, to avoid these side effects as much as you can, you need to introduce Differin slowly into your routine, follow it up with non-clogging moisturizers and sunscreens, and be extra patient until your skin gets used to it.

Dermatica (Europe) – £20

Dermatica is an online dermatology subscription service that deals with prescription of acne and anti-aging treatments such as tretinoin, prescription-strength azelaic acid, clindamycin, etc. 

The first time you sign up, you will receive a free online consultation where you can list your main skin concerns and provide photos of concern areas. 

Once Dermatica’s medical team assesses your unique skin needs, they will formulate an optimal treatment for you that will be sent out to your door every 28 days. 

You will also be able to cancel your subscription at any time or skip a month if you feel like it. 

RELATED: Best Skincare Routine While On Tretinoin


Cystic Acne FAQs

Below, I will answer a few of Google’s most frequently asked questions about cystic acne:

Can You Pop Cystic Acne?

Cystic acne is very difficult to pop as it is tough on the surface and can be incredibly painful because its root is way below the skin surface. 

Say you endure the pain and manage to pop your cyst; this will result in a massive skin rupture, leaving a hole that will take some time to heal. 

During the healing time, this open hole will invite all sorts of bacteria and foreign invaders into the skin, and needless to say, this is bad news for your health as some of these pathogens can travel to the bloodstream.

Besides that, the blood and gunk that will come out once you pop your cysts is full of bacteria, dead skin cells, sebum, and white blood cells that, as it leaks out, parts of it can enter back inside the pores and infect other areas. 

And lastly, because you are an unskilled “popper,” a.K.a – a dermatologist, you will most likely push some of the debris even deeper into the dermis, which will only prolong your skin’s healing and cause more and more issues. 

How Do You Get Rid Of Cystic Acne?

Sometimes cystic acne occurs because of prolonged use of clogging cosmetic products, including both skincare and makeup. 

If this is the case, stronger acne treatments can help; however, you should consider looking deeper into the issue and, if necessary, making some lifestyle changes that can potentially help you get rid of or at least improve cystic acne.

But besides all this, the crucial thing is to have a good skincare routine that will support your skin’s healing and health. 

You will not fully get rid of cystic acne if you are just on a strict diet but are using poorly formulated and clogging products.

What Diet Helps Cystic Acne?

There isn’t a specifically tailored diet that will help with cystic acne; however, it is well known that nutritious food packed with antioxidants is beneficial for the body as it helps it deal with inflammatory responses such as acne much better.

Your diet may not completely clear up your cystic acne; however, it’s always a good idea to eat healthy food as much as you possibly can as it can potentially help improve the issue.

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