Cystic breakouts linger the longest and can be very frustrating to treat. Here’s your day-by-day plan from Shari Marchbein, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU and expert in adult female acne.
That familiar throbbing beneath your skin starts. Nothing has come to the surface yet, but you know a big cyst is on its way. Hands off, please!
The cyst has emerged, red and bulging, and you’re ready to go to war. “Blue and red LED light can help decrease inflammation,” Marchbein says.
Buy an at-home device like Neutrogena Visibly ClearTM Light Therapy Spot Treatment, $39.99.
Most derms will tell you to stop by for a cortisone shot ASAP - especially if you’ve got a big event on the cal (talking to you, brides). The steroid deflates your pimple in just 24 to 48 hours. It decreases swelling and redness and helps it heal faster.
Say you just can’t get to the doc’s office and your zit is still hanging around, big as ever. Apply a benzoyl peroxide–based spot treatment, like Paula’s Choice Clear Extra Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 5% Benzoyl Peroxide, $28.
Your zit has died down (finally!) and come to a whitehead. While it’s tempting to do a DIY extraction, resist! Apply an acne patch to protect it. “I like medicated ones that have salicylic acid in them,” Marchbein says. Try ZitSticka KILLA kit, $39.99.
You’re almost in the clear, but the sun isn’t so great for scarring. Make sure you’re applying SPF 50 every day, and introduce a vitamin C formula into your routine, as this will help prevent dark spots. A good option: Biossance Squalene + Vitamin C Rose Oil, $72.
If your cyst left a mark (ugh), Marchbein says to look for brightening ingredients like kojic acid, licorice, or niacinamide. You’ll find niacinamide in The InKey List Niacinamide Face Serum, $12.