How to Deal With Cystic Acne—and What to Do If You've Accidentally Picked at It
There's acne, and then there are those soul-destroying, under-the-skin bumps that hurt every time you touch them, and can't be tackled until they surface. Come a certain time each month, cystic acne continues to be the bane of our existance, though the painful blemishes can also be triggered by a few too many scoops of Ben & Jerry's, as well as other dairy products. Of course, regulating your diet is an easy way to nip the problem in the bud, but to quote warrior poet Drake—if you're reading this, it's (probably) too late.
In an attempt to treat the issue once and for all, we spoke to skin expert Renee Rouleau on what to do if you feel a breakout forming, and how to deal if you've accidentally picked at it. (Hey, we're only human.) "True cystic blemishes will never come up to the surface. They develop deep in the dermis layer of the skin, and they heal in the dermis layer," Rouleau explains. "If you pick at it and pick at it, yes, you might eventually get something out, but by that time, you have torn up the skin so severely that you're guaranteed to have a discolored mark for months." To reach those deeper layers of skin, Rouleau recommends looking for a spot treatment specific to cystic breakouts, like her Anti-Cyst Treatment ($42; reneerouleau.com), which is rich in lactic acid and penetrates the dermis layer to dissolve the infection.
Also, applying ice to the bump can help reduce swelling, especially if your urge to pick got the better of you. Post-attempted extraction, Rouleau recommends icing it down for 10 minutes, then following up with a blemish treatment for cysts. After that, ignore the voice inside your head telling you to touch it, and let the spot heal on its own. To determine whether the issue is triggered by your moon cycle or dairy consumption, Rouleau also suggests completely eliminating any intake of yogurt, cheese, milk, and ice cream for three weeks, then slowly introducing it back into your diet after that period to see if your skin starts to react, and to determine your tolerance level. "If you don't develop any new cysts in this three-week time period, then this might be the solution to your problem," she tells us. "Some people can still eat a fair amount of dairy, whereas others literally can't have any without their skin breaking out."