The start of a pimple is bad enough, but even worse than a regular pimple is the dreaded cystic acne, which hides deep under the skin and is painful to the touch. You can’t press on it, or its rage gets worse. You can’t even blow it up and drain it — or, if you try to hunt it down, you’ll have to live with it. that scabs, marks and scars for many months.

But unlike superficial acne, flare-ups can be easier to control. And we’re not talking about the important daily habits that help prevent acne. Instead, you can stay one step ahead of cystic acne as soon as you notice a budding pimple underneath your skin. With a simple day or overnight treatment for that pimple, you can stop it from popping up altogether. It can disappear in a few days (hardly affecting your skin’s surface texture and easily covered with concealer), never to be seen or heard from again.

To get rid of cystic acne at the first sign, follow these three tips we got from board-certified NYC dermatologist, Dr. Ryan Turner. And remember – don’t try to open it!

1. Start with Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid

At the first sign of any flare-ups, Turner says to start with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. “Benzoyl peroxide helps reduce inflammation, treat acne bacteria and unclog pores,” he says. “Clearing with salicylic acid or using it as a spot treatment is a tried and true treatment to help stop breakouts.”

Benzoyl peroxide treatments can be prescribed by a doctor, but are usually to combat ongoing and prominent acne problems. (You probably know it’s what stains your towels and pillowcases.) However, it’s a good idea to have a benzoyl peroxide cleanser or treatment cream handy for times when you feel cystic acne budding.

PCA Skin benzoyl peroxide cleanser 5%

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Proactiv benzoyl peroxide topical treatment gel

Then it’s time to move on to a topical salicylic acid treatment. It will penetrate deep into pores to help dislodge anything that is clogging it, from dead skin to excess oil build up. (Using a cleanser containing salicylic acid regularly is also a great way to prevent these in the first place.)

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Paula’s Choice CLEAR Salicylic Acid Cleanser

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Dr. Dennis Gross gel topical salicylic acid treatment

Then, after the outbreak has passed, it’s a great time to refresh your skin care basics.

2. Apply hydrocolloid acne patch

This is the number 1 public enemy of budding cystic acne. “For each giant cyst that starts to form, I recommend a ‘pimple patch’ that can absorb fluid and reduce swelling,” says Turner. “Patches are usually made from a super absorbent hydrocolloid material to help flatten the cyst. Additionally, some of these acne patches contain active ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil that work to treat breakouts while covering blemishes. ”

Most of these patches require six to eight hours of wear to get the best benefits. Also don’t sell yourself off with a two-hour application. Rinse skin, pat dry gently, then apply patch and leave in place overnight or all day (or both, with a fresh patch at bedtime). It could be the difference between that thing bursting into your face, or retreating into your body. It may last (with a slight pressure and very mild redness) for a few more days, but you will note that it does not increase in size or develop a rash.

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Peace Out Skincare hydrocolloid + salicylic acid acne-healing dots

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Zit Sticka Killa Kit

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Starface hydrocolloid acne patch

The benefit of wearing the patch: you already have a reminder to opt out.

3. In case of emergency, see a doctor

If it’s your wedding day, or you have a big interview, or a date with Rihanna, or anything else emergency, then you may need to rush to the doctor’s office. “For acne emergencies, I recommend seeing a board-certified dermatologist for a cortisone injection,” says Turner. “This involves injecting a single drop of a potent anti-inflammatory medication to help the pimple settle overnight.”

It’s a drastic approach, but it’s the best and fastest way to guarantee results.

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