For $9, This Powerhouse Face Wash Helps Clear and Prevent Cystic Acne Breakouts

If you’ve ever struggled with cystic acne, you know the feeling: one day, a spot on your face starts feeling extra tender, and the feeling gets worse and worse until you find yourself with a noticeable (and big) bump under your skin. Cystic acne isn’t like regular acne—it lives under your skin’s surface, and it typically doesn’t come to a head, which is why you may have also heard people call acne cysts “blind pimples.”

The other annoying thing about cystic acne is that it’s extremely hard to get rid of, and it can also leave scars fairly easily. This is where it’s a good idea to have products that are equipped to help you deal with these pesky pimples before they even start, and help heal them quickly if they’re already there.

The first step to combat cystic acne should be to find a good cleanser. “In some cases, cleansers can actually help treat acne,” says Dr. Josh Zeichner, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are effective in treating acne when they are included in cleanser formulations.” Salicylic acid is a form of beta-hydroxy acid that clears oil and dries acne, while benzoyl peroxide helps calm inflammation and reduce levels of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. 

According to Renée Rouleau, Celebrity Esthetician and Skin Care Expert, you should also look for a pH-balanced cleanser that will keep your skin barrier intact (skin is naturally slightly acidic, for reference). She also recommends looking for ingredients like tea tree oil for its antibacterial properties, glycerin for soothing, lactic acid for exfoliating, and kaolin, “a mineral clay to reduce oiliness on skin’s surface.”

When you’re using a cleanser to treat acne, Zeichner says you should take special care while washing your face. “Rather than using it as a traditional cleanser, think of it instead as a short contact therapy,” he says. “It needs enough time on the skin for the active ingredient to penetrate and do its job. I tell my patients to lather the product onto the skin and let it sit while you sing the alphabet before rinsing off.”

“PanOxyl Foaming Wash with maximum strength 10 percent benzoyl peroxide is especially useful for red, angry pimples,” says Zeichner. “Just be careful to dry off with white towels because any residual benzoyl peroxide left on the skin can bleach darkly colored fabrics it comes in contact with.”

Zeichner says that if you’re already using a leave-on acne treatment, opt for this gentle cleanser. “In some cases, using a leave on treatment along with a therapeutic cleanser may cause excess skin irritation. So using a gentle cleanser can be helpful. Is cleanser uses micellar technology to remove soiling from the skin without disrupting the skin barrier.”

“Bliss Clear Genius cleanser contains salicylic acid in a formula along with soothing botanicals to minimize potential irritation,” says Zeichner. 

Formulated with 2 percent salicylic acid, this lightly foaming cleanser helps remove excess oil and clear pores. 

Plant-based and safe for people who are pregnant and nursing, this cleanser utilizes ingredients like white willow bark extract and sage leaf extract to clear skin. Plus, how fun is the bottle?

Powered by 41 percent tea tree oil, this cleanser gets deep into pores to fight oil production. It also has green tea to calm inflammation. 

This cleanser uses clay to pull dirt, oil, and other impurities out of the skin, and it’s good for sensitive skin.

Cerave is consistently a dermatologist favorite brand, and this oil-controlling cleanser is a great option to keep cystic acne at bay. It also contains hydrating ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid, so you can be sure it won’t dry our your skin.

This pore-clearing cleanser has salicylic acid and panthenol, which help remove oil and impurities.

Use this face wash if your skin needs a clarifying boost. Zinc sulfates work to minimize how much oil your skin secretes. 

While a balm cleanser might scare you if you’re acne-prone, hear me out. This one contains salicylic acid, and it gets deep into pores to remove oil and impurities. 

This fast-acting cleanser is a double-whammy—it fights spots and clears pores, all in one wash. It also keeps working throughout the day, so expect clearer skin quickly.

If any brand knows how to clear acne, it’s Kate Somerville. Salicylic acid and niacinamide work together to clear and refine skin. 

Unfortunately, like most types of acne, cystic acne requires a holistic approach rather than a one-stop solution. Zeichner says that if you continue to experience breakouts after adding in a targeted cleanser, it’s time to consider adding in an acne treatment too. 

“Use exfoliating products three times a week and avoid drying spot treatments that can dry out the surface of the skin, trapping bacteria deep within the skin and preventing actives in products from getting to work,” says Rouleau. Be sure to avoid touching or picking at your face, as this can spread bacteria or make cystic acne worse.

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