Skip To Content

    20 Things That Really And Truly Work On Cystic Acne

    Get ready for major before-and-afters.

    We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    1. Aztec Indian Healing Clay Mask wages straight war on your toughest of cystic breakouts, because it's time to show 'em who's boss. No matter how deep your acne goes, this mask will vacuum out clogged pores like there's no tomorrow.

    amazon.com

    By the way this works best with apple cider vinegar!

    Promising review: "I have dealt with hormonal cystic acne for years. Even after being prescribed medication to help with the acne, I would still get some breakouts around my period and occasionally throughout my cycle. This product changed everything. I use it every night in addition to my normal routine. If I do get a pimple here or there (because sometimes I’m tired and skip my nighttime face routine) this helps to clear it up quickly. At 28 years old, I finally have consistently clear skin. I have also noticed a reduction in blackheads and the size of my pores. I do make sure to moisturize afterward because it is very drying. In conclusion, this stuff has changed my life and I will buy it until I die." —Elizabeth

    Get it from Amazon for $9.70+ (available in two sizes).

    To learn more about this, check out "This Clay Mask Basically Vacuums Out Your Pores, And BRB I'm Going To Bathe In It".

    2. Avarelle Acne Absorbing Cover Patches (also available in extra large) tackle every single breakout that dares to challenge your complexion. They're powered by tea tree oil and calendula oil (all of which are gentle on sensitive skin) to reduce inflammation and absorb pus ASAP. *And* extra-large patches are included for when you need defeat multiple deep pimples at once.

    amazon.com, amazon.com

    Promising review (for the round patches): "I have literally never written a review for anything in my entire life, but I feel compelled to share my experience with this product. A few months ago when I weaned my 9-month-old baby, hell in the form of hormones entered my life. It was the most painful case of cystic acne that there ever was. I woke up one morning with one lesion (not just a pimple), and by bedtime that same night I had two more. By the next morning it had spread over my entire face. These arrived Tuesday and I put them on overnight. I woke up Wednesday morning and was both impressed and disgusted by what I peeled off. I wore them to bed again on Wednesday night, and woke up the next morning to find that for the first time in months, my skin appeared to be healing. I was so excited that I actually almost cried. I am not kidding when I tell you that I took them off before bed to find that my acne, which had completely withstood the test of every dermatologist recommendation for months, was all but gone. GONE!" —Jennifer Gruselle

    Get a box of 40 round patches for $8.50 and a box of 8 extra-large patches for $8.50, both from Amazon.

    To learn more, check out "These Satisfying Acne Patches Deserve A National Holiday, Change My Mind".

    3. Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner helps to remove dead skin, which in turn will bring cystic acne to the surface *and* heal scars by combining a duo of powerful exfoliating ingredients: glycolic acid and papaya extract. And! It'll soothe inflamed skin with aloe vera.

    BuzzFeed Reviews

    Promising review: "This is a life-changer. Before this, I had large pores, blackheads everywhere, even cystic pimples that really hurt. After two weeks of using this product, my skin is glowing with little to no acne!!! It isn't a very intense toner, just use this with moisturized skin. It feels like nothing to me. It's an absolute must-have for anyone with combo skin. I NEVER buy luxury beauty products because I think it's just a lot of money and maintenance, but this is the only product I think I will consistently buy from now on. Don't be scared by the price, it's worth it." —Kevins Small Engine

    Get it from Amazon for $18+ (available in two sizes).

    See why this won our budget pick for best toner on BuzzFeed Reviews.

    4. Differin Adapalene Gel Acne Treatment is essentially one of the strongest spot treatments that you can get without a prescription. Its *super* strong retinoid formula regulates skin cell turnover (aka reveals a new layer of skin) to reach inflammation deep within the breakout. Translation: there's nowhere for that darn pimple to hide.

    amazon.com

    This is *very* strong and reviewers say that while it works, it might make your skin sensitive and dry while it adjusts (much like Accutane). They recommend that you always moisturize after using this, and to use it at night while you're out of the sun.

    Promising review: "This is by far the best acne product I’ve ever used. Hands down. This is coming from someone who had tried over 20 different products to get rid of my acne (I use to spend over $100 for other acne lines). I have been using this product for about three weeks and have gotten a TOTAL of three tiny zits since I started. I started this product when I got five cystic zits in one day. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing! It’s even helping me remove my acne scars. I cannot rave enough about this product, it changed everything for me. Only side effect is it makes your skin super dry and flaky so moisturize well. Invest in a good moisturizer and you are golden." —Kassi

    Get it from Amazon for $12.83+ (available in two sizes).

    5. Clinique Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel earns its stripes as a cult-favorite cystic breakout treatment by giving pricey topical prescriptions a run for their money. Its powerful four-in-one clearing complex greets pimples with salicylic acid to not only inform them they need to *clear out*, but make sure they never come back.

    Sephora

    Reviewers use it as a spot treatment! Its four main ingredients are salicylic acid and acetyl glucosamine (to help clear dead skin cells), lamincaria sacharina extract (to minimize shine), and witch hazel (to tone).

    Promising review: "This feels SO good on painful cystic breakouts. It cools the skin, and it calms inflammation. This begins working right away and my blemishes shrink a bit overnight. It gets rid of the redness around the blemishes, too. This doesn't dry my skin out, which almost seems strange, because I'm so used to fighting acne via burning my skin off. This is the best blemish remover I've ever used." —Catwomanca

    Get it from Sephora for $27.

    Read about why a BuzzFeeder recommends Clinique's BB Cream from this line for helping with cystic acne in "10 Life-Changing Beauty Products You Need To Try ASAP".

    6. Christina Moss Naturals Facial Cleanser works quickly on sensitive skin to clear out any pesky blackheads, clogged pores, and of course, cystic pimples. The best part? Its formula is all-natural, organic, and SUPER gentle so your skin will never get irritated.

    amazon.com

    Its main ingredients (drumroll, please): rosemary flower extract (to cleanse and control oils), olive fruit oil (to prevent and reverse damage from UV rays), aloe vera juice (to help heal irritated, broken-out skin), and coconut oil (to smooth and moisturize).

    Promising review: "I'm one of those people who literally never got any pimples or blackheads as a teenager. With that said, when I did start having acne, I spent hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on products over the last 10 years trying to find the product that would clear up my cystic acne/oily skin. I've used everything and while each of those gave my skin some improvement, none of those were clearing up my skin and smoothing my texture like Christina Moss Naturals. It has been just under two weeks since I started this product and I can already see my skin looking 50% better than when I started. I'm getting compliments left and right, and people are asking me what I am doing different to make my skin glow. It's AMAZING! I think I have finally found what my skin has been craving for the last 15 years." —Kristina Owens

    Get it from Amazon for $22.99.

    Learn more about what makes something certified organic in "Here's What "Certified Organic" Actually Means".

    7. Shea Moisture African Black Soap with shea butter works overtime to fight stubborn acne all over: be it on your face, tuchas, chest, wherever. Its anti-bacterial properties clears deep breakouts *without* drying out your skin thanks to soothing aloe and oats. Basically, it's taking squeaky clean to a whole new level.

    amazon.com

    Promising review: "I have had acne for nine years. I'm in my late 20s now. My acne is mainly cystic acne and primarily sits on my cheeks and chin. They are deep, red, and take weeks to go away (if they ever do). I have tried everything. Some things would make the acne a bit better, but would never actually clear it up. I saw some friends on Facebook talking about this soap. The bar is very large and I have sliced off chunks to use. Immediately, I noticed the redness decreased. Over several days, I noticed I had no new pimples developing. After the first two weeks or so, the majority of my acne was gone. Now, after one month, a lot of my dark scar spots are gone or seriously diminished. I have only a few remaining red spots. I have made NO other changes to my diet, makeup, or skincare routine. For such a great value, it's worth a shot!" —TammyLou

    Get it from Amazon for $3.46.

    8. Radha Beauty Certified Organic Rosehip Oil makes you wonder if your own multitasking skills can keep up: it'll brighten skin, dramatically reduce stubborn breakouts and pigmentation, and moisturize dehydrated skin. How? It combines antioxidants and essential fatty acids to address your complexion's overall health so your cystic breakouts aren't simply masked.

    amazon.com

    Promising review: "This stuff is amazing. My skin has virtually no breakouts, appears smoother, and feels smoother now that I use this. I’m 32 and still get cystic acne, been on Accutane twice, and nothing worked. I’m so happy BuzzFeed had an article about it, I’m sold! Yes, its pretty oily, but it soaks in. I use it in the a.m. as my moisturizer and at p.m. before bed. It has a yellow tint, but fades after soaking in. I highly recommend it." —Emily Jacob

    Get it from Amazon for $14.95.

    9. The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Clay Face Mask delivers a cooling sensation on tough, active breakouts. Basically, you'll be saying ahhh not AHHHH when treating your complexion from now on. It'll fully cleanse pores, control excess oil, and target deep breakouts with tea tree oil to get you clear STAT.

    instagram.com

    Promising review: "I received this on May 16 and have been using it twice a week since. Let me just say, wow! This has helped so much with the cystic acne I had. I'm currently nursing my son and can't take the oral medications or use the topical prescriptions. My skin hurt from all the cysts. I started using this, and like all acne treatments, my skin did get a bit worse before it got better. But after just a few weeks, I saw a huge difference. I would see a cyst starting, use the mask, and wake up with a small whitehead instead of a giant, painful, red cyst. As of July 2nd, I have zero cysts and two whiteheads. The redness is fading and my skin looks and feels better. I highly recommend giving this a try!" —JBake

    Get it from Amazon for $15.95.

    10. TruSkin Tea Tree Clear Skin Super Serum lives up to its confident name. Its powerful blend of 20% vitamin C, retinol, niacinamide, salicylic acid, and hyaluronic acid work together to unclog stubborn pores and deeply nourish irritated skin — which is a nice way to say it tells cystic breakouts to get the heck out of here.

    amazon.com

    Basically, anything with retinol resurfaces new skin so deep pimples can be brought to a head, leaving your complexion clearer, glowing, and moisturized.

    Promising review: "The stuff is seriously unbelievable. I’ve had terrible skin my entire life including a long stint with Accutane in my teens. After reading a lot of reviews, I finally decided to pull the trigger with this product and I’m really happy I did. After I put on some witch hazel and then apply the stuff, my skin feels a little tingly/burning, but it only lasts for 30 seconds then it feels amazing. I’ve been doing this for less than three weeks and my skin has changed dramatically. The cystic acne that I’ve had for almost 20 years is gone. The sallow skin color and red spots are completely gone. This product is worth it and every way — go buy it now." —Missy Moore

    Get it from Amazon for $24.79.

    11. TreeActiv Cystic Acne Spot Treatment shaves the time it takes for cystic pimples to fade in half. Its main ingredient, bentonite clay, draws out toxins, fights swelling, and calms irritated skin très vite so the days of waiting an eternity are over.

    amazon.com

    It also has pink grapefruit essential oil (to reduce inflammation, kill infections, and promote collagen production), witch hazel (to clear excess sebum and balance oil production), peppermint and spearmint water (to kill bacteria and reduce scarring), tea tree water and essential oil (to moisturize and tone), and aloe vera (to promote vitamin E and C and help your skin recover). SO YEAH, IT DOES A LOT.

    Promising review: "My son was having issues with cystic type acne on his forehead after he went camping for two weeks this summer. It was red, lumpy, and painful. Washing his face and using regular acne treatment wasn't helping at all. I found TreeActiv on Amazon before heading to the dermatologist and was so glad I did! We saw results after one use. The redness is gone, lumps are gone, and we're just working on clearing up red scars. Love this stuff!!" —Lynn

    Get it from Amazon for $24.95.

    To learn more about this, check out "Hundreds Of People Swear By This Spot Treatment For Cystic Acne".

    12. NeoGen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine combines red wine extract with single-use exfoliating pads to clear dead skin cells and lingering breakouts (looking at you, week-long cystic zit). Each pad's three-layer technology, plus powerful lactic acid, penetrates deep into clogged pores to eliminate dirt and oil. Feel free to have a glass of actual wine to toast that hormonal pimple goodbye.

    instagram.com

    Promising review: "These pads are a must-have! I have oily skin and get hormonal acne (occasional whites heads and cystic pimples). These pads calmed my breakouts immediately. They also smooth, plump, and moisturize." —Britt

    Get a jar of 30 from Amazon for $27 (available in three formulas).

    To learn more, check out "Hundreds Of People Love Exfoliating With These Neogen Pads, And This Is Why".

    13. Body Merry Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser alleviates clogged pores, exfoliates dead skin, and banishes dirt and excess oil so you can treat hormonal breakouts in the easiest way possible. Glycolic acid, willow bark, and jojoba beads not only diminish buried whiteheads, but overall soothe your stressed complexion. Dare I call it a ~fresh~ start?

    amazon.com

    It also contains kojic acid, olive oil, rosehip oil, jojoba oil, and tea tree oils to penetrate deep into your pores and get rid of excess oil and dirt. Toodle-oo.

    Promising review: "I love this face wash. I have had severe adult cystic acne for years and tried everything offered to help. I saw this online and was not hopeful, but within 24 hours I saw a change — one that was different than the prescriptions and other face products. In less than two weeks my skin is almost clear. I wish I took before-and-after photos, because the difference is that dramatic." —Amazon Customer

    Get it from Amazon for $18.99.

    14. Amara Organics Vitamin C Serum paves the path to clear skin no matter what your battle may be. Cystic breakouts, enlarged pores, uneven skin tones, all of the above, WHATEVER will be banished and replaced by a ~radiant glow~ thanks to its skin-loving formula of 20% vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E.

    amazon.com

    It even fades acne scars after your breakout is treated!

    Promising review: "This serum single-handedly transformed my skin! I've always had cystic acne on my face. I tried every single face wash/cream with no luck. This serum was my last resort and I can’t believe the amazing results! Within a week my skin cleared up and it’s never looked better! I’m placing a second order right after I finish writing this review!" —Daria Malinina

    Get it from Amazon for $17.95.

    15. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Cleanser employs salicylic acid to STRONGLY encourage breakouts to skedaddle by drastically reducing excess oil (a big cause of breakouts) and exfoliating to help reduce major swelling in the affected areas. *And* it's gentle enough to use both morning and night!

    amazon.com

    Plus it's gentle enough to use twice a day! It specifically works to target and control oil, and then treat blackheads and breakouts so your skin is left clear, clear, and clear.

    Promising review: "I had clear skin in high school so I never understood how to deal with acne. When I was about 21-22 years old, I switched to a birth control implant, and that thing wreaked havoc on my entire life. I suddenly had severe cystic acne. It was actually so painful — laying on my pillow hurt my face! To top it all off, my skin was also dry, and irritated. I tried every skincare line on the market for about two to three years, with no, or very little, results. Finally, I found La Roche-Posays skincare products. Within four days, the inflammation decreased, the redness was fading, and my skin felt less dry. By two weeks, my skin was practically clear! I have been using this product for about four to five years now, and I haven't had a single outbreak, EXCEPT for the time I wanted to try a different product to save money. Huge mistake, one I will not make again." —LadyHawke

    Get it from Amazon for $14.99.

    16. Acure Brightening Facial Scrub exfoliates away excess oil to both reduce active breakouts and brighten your complexion. Its combo of sea kelp and green clay brings new skin to the surface, meaning your deep pimples will finally come to a head and leave your life. Plus, it's gentle enough to use every day so your acne doesn't have a chance to come back.

    amazon.com

    Promising review: "THIS STUFF IS AMAZING. I'm 34 and never had a pimple...until I hit 30. The hormonal cystic acne has been on my chin and neck for years. I've tried everything from washes, scrubs, microdermabrasion, facials, masks, even antibiotics as a last resort. NOTHING cleared my skin like this! I've been using this product for only two weeks and my skin is clearing beautifully, as well as my old acne scars disappearing. People are making comments about how fresh, young, and healthy my skin looks. Its a small tube, but you only need a pea sized amount for your face, neck and chest. Thank you Acure for finally clearing my skin after four years of searching!" —emhart16

    Get it from Amazon for $7.64.

    17. Healing Solutions Tea Tree Oil doubles as a fast-acting natural spot treatment that'll drastically reduce redness and swelling overnight while you catch up on your beauty sleep. The best part: it'll begin healing painful swelling before you have time to pick and make it worse. Hands DOWN, my friend.

    amazon.com

    Promising review: "I love this product! I mixed it with coconut oil for my son's cystic acne before bed and we were amazed at the results the next morning. Redness and swelling was cut in half. We have tried every OTC product out there and I will definitely keep using this. This is working wonders after two uses." —Sue

    Get it from Amazon for $5.99+ (available in three sizes).

    18. Glossier Solution ensures even the most consistent of breakouts think twice before coming around here again. Actually it won't be able to, thanks to this exfoliating blend of alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid, and polyhydroxy acid. The dead skin cells covering painful, swollen acne will be sloughed off to reveal clearer, healthier skin. Essentially, acids = happy, happy skin.

    Glossier

    Promising review: "In my 30s I started to get hormonal cystic acne. I have been on everything under the sun that dermatologists can prescribe. My acne got under control with spiralactone and prescription topicals in my forties, but I was able to get off all of those with Glossier Solution. I have not had a breakout in over a year! I haven't even needed to see my dermatologist for acne. Thank you, Glossier!" —Thankful

    Get it from Glossier for $24.

    To learn more about this, check out "Here's Why The Mega-Popular Glossier Solution Is Totally Worth Your Money".

    19. Honeyskin Organics Ultimate Face And Body Cream relieves extremely dry and irritated skin (including rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis) that can sometimes go hand-in-hand with cystic acne. Manuka honey, amino acids, and vitamins C, E, and A work together to seriously soothe, hydrate, and restore your skin's pH levels. A nightly routine with this will put you on the fast track to a MUCH calmer complexion.

    amazon.com

    Promising review: "I don’t write many reviews, but I have to say this product right here is hands-down THE BEST face cream I’ve used! I’m in love! I have autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s to be exact) and I get all kinds of things that come out on my face, like cystic acne, dark spots, large pores, redness, itchiness, etc. Just within a few days of using this, I saw a huge difference in the appearance of my skin. It’s never felt this amazing either! I even use it on my hands before I go to bed — totally hooked!" —KELLEY S

    Get it from Amazon for $22.47+ (available in two sizes).

    20. Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads resurface new skin with just a few swipes, thanks to their formula of exfoliating 2.8% glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, witch hazel, and a light moisturizer. Whether you're mid-breakout and need to draw out buried zits or just want *brighter* skin, these are an easy step to add to your routine.

    instagram.com, instagram.com

    FYI, the witch hazel is there to soothe and tone your skin (to balance out the other exfoliating properties). And if you're a skincare obsessive like me, I don't have to tell you how great a deal $10 is for glycolic acid. Bless.

    Promising review: "I’m really impressed with these pads. I’ve had adult cystic acne for about a decade now, and have tried countless products over the years. Adding these things into my skincare routine has made my skin look bright and clear like porcelain. I still get the occasional blemish, but they’re always very small and go away in a day or two. I highly recommend them." —Caroline Powell

    Get a jar of 60 from Amazon for $10.35.

    But most importantly don't forget those zits can't control you! YOU 👏 ARE 👏 GORGEOUS👏!

    NBC

    The reviews for this post have been edited for length and clarity.

    Need more for your skin? Check out Korean skincare products you need to know, drugstore products that actually fight acne, products to help deal with dry skin, or check out all of our beauty content for even more great stuff for your hair, skin, and more.

    Shopping for something specific? Check out BuzzFeed Reviews to find the best things for every budget!

    BuzzFeed

    Need A Shopping Buddy?

    Get great products - from pros in the fine art of buying stuff online - delivered to your inbox!
    Newsletter signup form