Skip To Content

    20 Things That Really And Truly Work On Cystic Acne

    WARNING: these before-and-afters will ~deeply~ affect you...and make you a believer.

    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

    I'm honestly not even sure how there are still people left on this Earth who have yet to buy this, because 11,129 people already swear by this! By the way this works best with apple cider vinegar!

    Promising review: "Wow. Just wow. I had no expectations for this product since I've been dealing with cystic acne since I was a teenager (I'm 24 now), so I went into this purchase not expecting much. As many others have said, I previously tried absolutely everything on the market to cure my acne. After reading all the reviews about this product, I figured I would give it a try, not expecting much. However, I have been blown away by the long-term results of using this mask. I mix it with apple cider vinegar and apply it several times a week when my skin is really bad, and it has never done anything negative to my skin – no irritation, no dryness, nothing. It always destroys every single pimple that emerges. It does bring underlying pimples to a head, and that can be a little disturbing at first, but it is so worth it for the end result. I was considering taking Accutane, a very strong and dangerous medicine to finally cure my acne for good, and this product has made me completely reconsider." —Heather E.

    Get it from Amazon for $9.31.

    Want more proof? Check out "This Clay Mask Basically Vacuums Out Your Pores, And BRB I'm Going To Bathe In It".

    2. Avarelle Acne Cover Patches 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.

    instagram.com, amazon.com

    Promising review: "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 nine month old baby, hell in the form of hormones entered my life. It was the most horrid and 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 put more patches on and wore them around the house for the rest of the day and evening. 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 36 round patches, plus 4 large patches from Amazon for $8.07.

    3. 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 damn pimple to hide.

    instagram.com

    This is gentler than most prescribed retinoids, but still be careful if you have sensitive skin!

    Promising review: "I normally do not write reviews, but today I knew I must. I am a nearly 30-year-old woman who broke out horrifically with cystic acne when I was in my early 20's. I don't mean one or two. I mean my entire face was severely affected. I've finally gotten it mostly under control, but I was still very frustrated with regular breakouts and scarring. I became used to wearing a mask of makeup daily. I was never seen without layers of foundation and powder, which I'm sure wasn't helping my breakouts. I've been using the Differin gel now for about three weeks and today, I am about to go out in public without any makeup except a little mascara. I feel confident with my skin. It isn't perfect, I still have scars from the cystic acne, but I feel good! I cannot tell you what this means to me!" —ameyer7487

    Get it from Walmart for $28.25.

    4. 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 that didn't have to be concerned with skincare until adulthood, because I literally never got any pimples or blackheads as a teenager. With that said, when I did start having issues I was mortified and have 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.

    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!

    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 over night. 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.

    6. 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 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 twenties 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 $4.18.

    7. 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 $7.59.

    8. 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 $14.34.

    9. 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 hell 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 stent 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.

    10. 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: "I’ll be honest — I really didn’t want to like this product. I wanted to be rid of my acne, but I wasn’t really interested in shelling out 25 bucks for a quarter-sized container — but OH MY GOSH. I have struggled with cystic acne on my chin and chest since I was 12 (over half of my life). I have tried everything short of Accutane. I tried this about a month before a wedding I was supposed to be in, AND MY CHIN AND CHEST WERE COMPLETELY CLEAR IN TWO WEEKS! This has happened maybe five times ever in my life! I have only had one cystic pimple come up in the month I’ve used this, and it lasted half as long! I cannot tell you how happy I am. I use it nightly on my chest and chin, and then I just rinse it off in the morning. One tiny container has lasted me over a month (which is impressive seeing as I used it to cover large portions). Keep your layers thin!" —CAM

    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".

    11. 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: "With combination skin I often find that chemical exfoliators treat my oily zones fine, but are too harsh on my cheeks/drier areas. This is gentle enough for those spots, but still give me the exfoliation I need in my T-zone. I have been using it twice a week and it has really calmed down my cystic acne. They're not as painful and pass very quickly." —Tabitha C.

    Get a pack of 30 from Soko Glam for $27 or from Amazon for $18.48.

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

    12. 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 been struggling with 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.

    13. 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 suffered from with 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.

    14. AcneFree Oil-Free Acne Face Wash conquers intimidating breakouts all over (it doubles as a body wash!) with a tried-and-true vanquisher of cystic pimples: benzoyl peroxide. It reaches deep into your pores to treat the irritated, buried pus then uses natural ceramides to keep your skin balanced and hydrated. Call it old fashioned, but it WORKS.

    instagram.com

    Promising review: "I love this product. It's what I had to switch to and only use. I can get really bad, cystic breakouts during that time of the month and I feel like this has helped a lot. The price isn't too bad compared to other products with the same ingredients. This is really the only face wash that has worked on my skin." —stephaniem16

    Get it from Walmart for $5.22.

    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!

    instagram.com, 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 was lucky enough to have clear skin in high school so I never understood how awful acne really is. 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 horrible 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 skin care 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 blemish...until I hit 30. The hormonal cystic acne has plagued 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 $8.49.

    17. 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.

    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 thirties I struggled with 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 suffer from all kinds of unpleasant 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 $14.97+ (available in four 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 suffered from 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 pack of 60 from Amazon for $6.89.

    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

    Shopping Newsletter
     

    Find great products and the best-money saving deals around, delivered right to your inbox.
    Newsletter signup form