I’ve never had perfect skin, but I never had a big problem with acne. I dealt with some breakouts here and there but I’m super good about washing my face every night (if you’re still sleeping in makeup, WYD?) and washing my makeup brushes to prevent the growth and spread of pimple-causing bacteria. In addition, I was put on birth control for a couple reasons but one of the positive side effects was clearer skin, due to decreased testosterone production. My skin this past summer was super gorgeous and, for the first time in my life, I left the house with a bare face on a regular basis and LOVED it.
But this past January, at nearly 25 years old, my skin started breaking out in deep, painful bumps. The dreaded cystic acne. I had no idea how, I had no idea why. It started on my left cheek, mostly around the hollows of my cheeks. I quickly assessed the situation:
– I do not contour my face a lot, so it isn’t a build up of product, and I wash it off at the end of the day anyways
– I touch my face (probably more than I should) because I’m a teacher and it’s just like, part of my job… but not any more than the past 3 years.
– My diet hadn’t changed (I am still living off fries, blueberries, Life Cereal, and Diet Coke because I am the epitome of #health) BUT I had been eating more Halo Top ice cream than I had in past years because not only is it delicious, I can eat a bowl and not have yet another struggle with my body
– I hadn’t really changed my skincare or makeup products
– I was still washing my makeup brushes weekly
– I was still washing my sheets & pillowcases weekly
– My stress level was the same. If anything, it was probably lower
What was I doing wrong??
Around March, the acne started to spread to my right cheek and again, I couldn’t figure out why. I was avoiding social situations because I was so embarrassed. I have never gone through so much face makeup in my life because I had to cake it on to cover the redness (you know it’s bad when you’d rather look cakey than have people know you’re struggling with cystic acne). I finally decided enough was enough and I scoured the Internet for “cystic acne solutions” and made an appointment with a local dermatologist.
My dermatologist was able to assess the situation in literally 30 seconds. He asked me what kind of milk I had been consuming. I don’t drink milk, but I use skim milk in my cereal, protein shakes, and other recipes… and, as I mentioned, I was eating a ton of Halo Top! Every trip to Pick-n-Save resulted in a pint because I live by the mantra TREAT YO SELF.
He told me that studies conducted by dermatologists have shown there is a clear link between wild acne and consuming low-fat or fat-free dairy products. And here I am thinking I am, again, the epitome of #health, because I let my Life cereal swim in a vat of skim milk.
Coupled with the advice to cut out Halo Top & skim milk (my derm suggested I switch to 1% which I can totally live with), here are my top ways to combat the evil demon that is cystic acne:
I wish I hadn’t waited so long to search for cystic acne solutions because this stuff is a major key to seeing the other side. I honestly don’t know how this stuff works, but what I do know is that it seriously works (and many beauty mags rave about it too). It is a runny, clear serum that you apply to the bump 1-2x daily and it seriously diminishes the redness and the size of the cyst. It is magic and it is worth the price tag. No matter who you are, I believe this is the number one product you should try and always keep on hand.
Solution by Glossier is a chemical exfoliator. That means it uses acids to get rid of dead skin. It uses three acids: alpha-hydroxy acid, beta-hydroxy acid, and polyhydroxy acid. The ingredients list boasts serious acne fighters lactic acid and salycylic acid. This prevents acne, targets the spots that can be targeted, and helps remove dark spots left behind. I use this in the evening after washing my face, but before applying the Renee Rouleau Anti-Cyst Treatment. Solution is currently out of stock until May because it’s that awesome, but use my link to get 10% off when it is back in stock.
Milky Jelly Cleanser is like Cetaphil or Cera/Ve on steroids and without the nasty parabens. It has won multiple beauty awards. It is gentle on skin and has 25% rosewater included which smells great, but is also really smoothing. I use it morning and night and it is tough enough to remove makeup but gentle enough to not suck all the moisture out of your skin. As if you needed more convincing, I left a bottle at my boyfriend’s house and it’s nearly gone (and I haven’t been the one using it). It’s nice stuff. I love all of Glossier’s skincare products and I use their Priming Moisturizer in the morning before I begin my makeup routine.
4) Don’t touch your acne.
I’m serious. Don’t touch your cysts. They are not going to pop, they’re not going to get better. They will only become even more reddened and stick around for longer. Instead, just let them be. Irritating them will only make the products you use have to work harder and then you will be back to square one. Just don’t. touch. them.
This was a topical cream that I was prescribed by the dermatologist. After my appointment, I called my mom, who is a pharmacist, to tell her about the medicines I was prescribed and see her experience with her own patients. When I told her I was prescribed Aczone 7.5% (whose generic is dapsone), she told me that it was often prescribed for leprosy! I’ll be honest, my skin is no where near leprosy, but it is kind of cool that this cream is so effective that it will treat leprosy at higher doses. I apply it once a day in the morning under my moisturizer and I’ve noticed that my bumps are appearing less and less and are much smaller.
This stuff is weird, but it works. It contains calamine lotion as well as salicylic acid and witch hazel. Every time I’ve had a problem pimple, I dab a dot on it and it is reduced in size, redness, and duration. My roommate and boyfriend can attest to seeing me with pink dots all over my face.
I use this mask about once a week, and make it with equal parts Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar or water. I also add a couple drops of my favorite Young Living essential oils (lavender or Frankincense, both great for supporting skin). It’s 100% bentonite clay and it leaves my skin soft and smooth. The first time I used it, I couldn’t believe how well it transformed my skin. At $8.50 for a ginormous jar, you can’t go wrong. My friend Allison introduce me to it, and now I have a bunch of my friends hooked on it! We always send each other green-faced selfies.
Here is my routine:
AM: cleanse skin with Milky Jelly Cleanser, apply Aczone to cheeks, then follow with Glossier Priming Moisturizer
PM: cleanse skin with Milky Jelly Cleanser or Pacifica Sea Foam Complete Face Wash (natural and great at removing makeup), swipe skin with Glossier Solution on a cotton round, apply Renee Rouleau treatment when dry, and then press Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil into my skin when the treatment is dry.
Thankfully, my acne has improved and I am able to wear less makeup. I’m starting to feel more confident in my skin and my bumps have really gone down. It is important for me to say that these are just products and tips that have worked for me personally. Everyone is different, and sadly, it might take a concoction of products for you to find the perfect solution for your skin. However, I really do believe that these products and tips are worth trying and are affordable enough to do so. Cystic acne is a really hard thing to deal with, and my heart goes out to you.
Don’t stop until you find a solution.