You know when you're basking in the glory of a g00d-skin day, only to have it ruined by an ache-y bump rising from the depths of your face, like a demon set to destroy your bliss? Yup, that's cystic acne, and it sucks.
Unlike traditional acne, which is usually treatable with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, cystic zits are under-the-skin infections that never come to a pop-able head and rarely respond to classic tried-and-true treatments. So what may work for your best friend's cystic zit may do absolutely nothing for yours.
Luckily, the internet exists, along with a bunch of very wonderful, skin-obsessed Redditors, who have devoted their breakout-prone lives to figuring out remedies for cystic acne. And to help you in your battle against the bumps, I rounded up the nine best remedies that the good people of Reddit (read: not dermatologists, so try at your own risk) swear by.
“Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion was the holy grail for my cystic acne! I used it at night; shake the bottle really well, put it only where you have the cysts (I just put it on with clean hands/fingertips), let it dry, then apply moisturizer on top. I only used it every other day because it can be so drying, but my cysts that usually lasted for months would be gone in about a week.” —bangerrang2010
"Just wanted to sing my praises for Vaseline for acne on my chin. I was pretty nervous about trying it, since it could lead to more breakouts, but my skin is so soothed. I actually stayed home from work yesterday to let my skin rest (that's how bad the breakout was) and kept Vaseline on my large pimple that had popped on its own and scabbed over. I slathered my entire chin last night as well (I have several other pimples), and this morning, it's healed to a point that would normally take days." —@deleted
"I was skeptical AF when I read that drinking spearmint can help acne, but I gave it a try because I like mint tea and figured, why not? I tend to get super-painful cystic acne from my period (and any chronic stress). So I tried spearmint tea, and holy shit, you guys. I haven't had a major breakout EVEN ONCE since I started back in November.
I gave it several months to make sure it was really the tea, and by now I'm thoroughly convinced it's making a huge difference. Of course, spearmint tea won't work for everyone. But it was a HUGE help for me. And it's natural, tasty, and something you can buy at the store." —@Korolyeva
"So far, what works: Renee Rouleau Anti-Bump Treatment (put this on as soon as you feel the cyst rising. Keep putting it on 1-2 times per day. This magic thing has reduced the recovery time of my cysts from >1 month to sometimes 2 weeks or less. Pricey, but worth it, because it has forced cysts to come to a head when they never would have otherwise)." —@gudegudegg
"The main part of what you're trying to control here is your body's inflammatory response...and there's a really easy, age-old method of dealing with inflammation: Ice that bitch! Seriously, don't underestimate how much cold temperatures will mitigate the inflammatory response. Certainly not going to be a solution, but it will help prevent your body from freaking out, which is basically what turns it into a cyst." — @PrecisePrecision
"For my under-the-skin pimples, I find that applying a bit of BP [benzoyl peroxide] gel, letting it dry, and then covering with a hydrocolloid bandage helps. I don't think it really does anything specific (other than the BP killing germs!), but I think the isolated, sterile environment from the patch helps cuts irritation and swelling, and also keeps my grubby hands off of them!" — @gotohela
"I've had a positive experience with azelaic acid; several applications and the cystic pimple diminishes. Basically, it's the main component in Skinoren and Finacea, [but] there is also the [over-the-counter option of] The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension." —@sommarvinden
"Taking a normal dose of ibuprofen (or anti-inflammatory of your choice) can also help a bit with the pain and swelling. It'll still be visible and probably painful to touch, but for me, it at least makes it not have its own pulse anymore." —@niccig
"Dr. Dennis Gross Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask is my go-to treatment for cystic acne. When I feel one start, I dab some on, and typically it's gone if not next day, a couple of days later. A Sephora [sales associate] recommended it to me to help clear up my skin after years of flare-ups. I doubted, but took a sample, then bought the jar. A little goes a long way." —@janesso
Some quotes have been edited and/or condensed for clarity.