Best products for Cystic Acne?

Greetings all.   I come before you with hope that someone will have a suggestion as to what over the counter treatment may work well for cystic acne?  I have seen a dermatologist for this, and they prescribed Retin-A as treatment.  However, it dried my skin out so bad that I had to discontinue after a month's use.  To get that prescription was like pulling teeth from the dermatologist, because she flat out told me that I should just go on birth control and that will solve all of my cystic acne issues. However, at this point - birth control as a form of acne treatment is not an option due to the fact that my gynecologist wants me off of it as an experiment to see if I can rid myself of other female symptoms. make a very long story short, I am at my wits end.


I understand the fact that nothing is truly going to rid me of my cystic acne, but I would be so happy to find a product that would at least shrink the ones I have a little faster, that way they aren't as painful for so long.  I spend most of my day on the phone, and nearly 10 times a day, I'm banging the receiver into my jaw and it hits a cyst and it makes me want to cry! 


As it stands now, I'm using Philosophy's Purity Made Simple, and their new On A Clear Day acne face wash.   For moisturizer, I've been using Fresh's Umbrian Clay Oil Free moisturizer.   As for spot treatment, I have PTR Acne Spot Treatment.  However, I don't feel as though this combination is aiding in riding myself of my usual acne, nor aiding in the healing of my cystic acne.


I'd be ever so happy for any suggestions ya'll might have!  Thank you!


- Jessica

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[ Edited ]

Ouch! ok, warning, do NOT ever Google image "cystic acne" because it will give you the super severe cases that are horrifying.


Anyways, I wanted to confirm what it was before giving advice since I'm not sure my acne were that type. First of all, as the other poster said, have you tried retinol? If you haven't and is hesitating to spend the money, Sephora online promo code "ptrserum" will get you a free .4oz sample of PTR retinol PM. A less irritating alternative to retinol would by glycolic acid, so try cleansers or toners with glycolic or AHA/BHA in it. Lastly, do you use any masks? clay/charcoal/mud kind for acne? about once a month, I would get a giant angry pimple with pus inside and it stubbornly stayed there for weeks, and sometimes I get bumps under the skin that you can't see but can feel and when it comes out it's red and it hurts. I use either Murad clarifying mask or Origins Charcoal mask as continuous spot application and it went away in ~3 days. Murad mask dries it up so they become hardened tiny balls of oil that falls out of your pores when I wipe with toner. Origin charcoal mask is less drying and it draws the liquid up to the surface without hardening it so it doesn't stretch the pores and the area looks the same afterward with no scarring (for me). I highly recommend trying either one of those. Murad is a bit drying, but if you want to try it, promo code "forall" have the deluxe sample of Murad mask + acne spot treatment available with your online purchase. On days when you are not using the treatment, I hope you are using a toner?


I searched for "cystic" on Sephora and got these 2 result:

I know you say you already use the Fresh moisturizer, but if you like how it feels, I suggest giving that kit a shot. When I first brought Clinique Moisturizing gel, it was blah and didn't live up to the hype, but when I used it with their 7 day scrub, cleanser and toner 2, the bumps on my skin miraculously disappeared.


Lastly, make sure to clean your phone or anything you put near your face of course. Have you noticed if it's worse when you eat certain food? If it's partly caused by inflammation (junk food or spicy food etc), it might help if you cut those out and eat anti-inflammatory food like blueberries (I think it's similar to what Chinese people do. When I lived in China, or any of your friend who's raised by Chinese parents prob knows too, it's common knowledge that food with "hot properties" like any kind of chili or pepper, lamb, spearmint, lychee and orange will cause acne when eaten in great amount (everybody's tolerance is different), they are best eaten in winter since the cold cancels out the effect, and food with "cooling properties" like duck, watermelon, pear, yogurt, lotus seed/roots, and mung beans will bring the balance back down and thus ease the acne and best eaten in the summer).


That's all I know about acne from personal experiences. Good luck with your skincare! I know it annoy the hell out of me when I get the monthly giant painful acne. Oh, err, for temporary relief, I wrap an ice cube in 2 layers of paper towel or a facial towel and the cold helps shrink the big ones a bit.

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I'm Chinese and I know exactly what you're talking about. My mother would always say I have "hot air" because I eat too much greasy/junk foods. I would say, however, that I think oranges are good for you. Apples, on the other hand, are bad...for your skin that is. At least that's what I have been told.
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Yay Chinese united! I like your username btw. If I had known this is permanent, I would've made a cooler, less generic username. =/

Orange are good for you cuz of the Vitamin C and fiber, but too much orange and ginger makes me feel a tad flushed and fever-ish like I'm about to have a nosebleed so I can only eat them in the winter. I do get pimples when I eat too much greasy food. I think the western explaination would have something to do with inflammation from increasing blood circulation and over producing oil and such.

I haven't heard the thing about Apples since I hate them and I usually eat: mango, banana, strawberries, blueberries, pears, and white flesh peach when they are in season and pretty much no other fruits (baked goods with chocolate chips, black sesame, peanut butter or matcha in the winter when there's no fruit aside from apples. I got a GIANT sweet tooth).

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Hello! Thanks so much for such an in-depth response!
Thanks so much for the code for the same of the Retinol. I never would have thought to try it since it's usually linked to anti-aging products, which isn't my main concern. But if it's noted to treat acne, then sign me up! :-)
As for cleaners, the only thing I seem to have my in bag of tricks are cleansers primarily with the main ingredient of salicylic acid. I've used glycolic acid as a spot treatment, with good results. I guess it would make sense to try that as a cleanser as well.
In regards to masks, I've been using the Fresh Umbrian Clay Bar. So far, I really like to use this about twice a week for about 5 minutes because it has been reducing the redness caused by all of the inflammation. It works really well before I put my make up on, especially if I have a big outing and want to make my skin look as good as possible. I've even read online that you can use it as a spot treatment, but I haven't quite tested that out since I don't know how I feel about having clay all over my pillow.
I've seen a lot of estheticians in regards to my cystic acne, and no one has suggested the use of the toner. Maybe due in part because I have combination skin? So many different factors to take into consideration!
I wish I could say that my acne was because of junk food, but I really think it's all hormone related which is probably why the dermatologist had recommended birth control as a form of clearing it up. That would probably help too, considering when I was on Yaz a year ago, the cystic acne had gone away. However, when I do go back on birth control in the future, it more than likely won't be Yaz, but for something that is made more for endometriosis. Oiy veh. Why do girls always have these problems? Wish I was a guy sometimes!
Hm, I'm surprised no mention of toner. I guess many people thought toners are unnecessary or very drying. Toners are mostly for combination and/or oily skin so it usually contain something that controls acne (witch hazel, salicylic or glycolic acid) and thus can be drying to some people (or even to me when my skin is especially dry). Personally anything that contain salicylic acid makes my skin drier and flaky-er (many drugstore cleansers and toners), anything with witch hazel is perfect for me (Clinique Toner 2), and anything with glycolic is excellent at smoothing out my skin without making it dry.

If you have combination/oily skin, I strongly recommend trying some. All the acid in the cleanser gets washed away and are thus not really effective. Spot treatment can be harsh, so toner is like a gentler form of treatment that sinks into the skin better. It also wipe away remaining dirt/oil after the cleanser and prep the skin for moisturizers (sometimes due to environment and/or season, moisturizers don't get absorbed, so this solves that problem). I would suggest trying Clinique Toner 2 (if you are not opposed/allergic to mint, alcohol or witch hazel. This is my standby for 5 yrs), or DDF toner if you like glycolic.

Why do girls always have these problems? ohhhh lady, that is the question I ask myself every month when I have (TMI) menstrual cramps and alternate between silent cries of pain and cursing the world. As for cystic acne, some of my guy friends have that problem too, some don't care, one uses Proactive, but I don't think it's working =X.
@beautytester I usually hate apples too unless they're super crunchy.
@missconduct I have acne-prone skin and I use the Origins Zero Oil Purifying Toner. I've used Olay and Clinique's toners and I didn't like them, but the Origins's one has salicylic acid and Saw Palmetto, and it takes off so much gunk! I used to think toners were unnecessary, but this toner has changed all that because it isn't drying at all contrary to the name of the product.
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Took the plunge today, and bought a Origin's toner. It's not the Zero Oil, but the United State balancing toner. Hope it helps!
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