I'm generally blessed with decent skin with minimal problems *touch wood* but when I get zits every now and then, they're almost always in the form of monstrous cystic acne the size of a 10 cent coin in the most prominent three dimensions. The worst thing is, whenever it happens, they come one after another and popcorned their way on my T zone.
Recently, I had the misfortune of having two enormous cystic acnes that had proven to be the most stubborn to date. Both in prominent spots no less, one between my eyebrows (I call those the "bindi zits" for obvious reason) and the other on my chin. As if the throbbing pain and the facial marring weren't bad enough, they had to happen while I was in Japan. Yes, Japan. That country where most women have flawless smooth skin and acne suffering women probably get shipped off to some remote island. So it was intensive "Operation rid the acne" daily while I was there and it seems like after more than a decade of dealing with these "zits of a bitch", I seem to have figured out a way to make them go away faster.
Many friends told me their cystic acnes normally stay with them for about two to three weeks minimum and some lasting for months! Many had to go to a dermatologist to get cortisone shots for relief and one girl friend even had to have hers removed progressively over two months by drawing out all the gunk with micro-needle. I was close to going for the cortisone shot when they finally went down thank god. Thus far, with my anti-cystic acne "programme" I've devised through years of trial and error, I seem to have managed to reduce the healing time to about 10 days without a visit to a dermatologist.
But before I give you a low-down on how to attack those cystic acnes, I must make a disclaimer that it probably works well only on people who don't scar with pock marks when they squeeze their zits. People who tend to scar badly with depressions or holes on the skin are better off going to the dermatologist for a jab of cortisone to bring it down. So try this at your own risk.
- pimple/blackhead needle and squeezer
- a pair of tweezers
- good strong pimple cream with salicylic acid (I really like the Shiseido Pimplit acne cream but it's only available in Japan unfortunately)
- tea tree oil
- 3M pimple patch
- Nixoderm cream
Now here's my step-by-step guide, in two phases no less:
- When a brand new one pops out, apply a drop or two of tea tree oil after cleansing your face at night and massage the zit with firm pressure. Yes it hurts, but it'll pay off, for me at least. Then, apply a thick layer of Nixoderm cream, massaging further with firm pressure. It will tingle quite a bit and that's normal. Leave it on overnight. Repeat this for another two days.
- Normally, by day three, there'll be some tiny bit of pus forming. Now it sounds gross but accumulate the pus and resist draining them until there's more cos extracting it when it's more "mature" makes extracting the oil plug off the blocked pore easier. Once there's some or substantial pus, drain them by carefully and lightly puncturing the affected pore with the pimple needle disinfected with rubbing alcohol. Lightly squeeze to see if the blocked oil plug comes out but with cystic acne, they mostly don't really "pus up" too much cos it's way too deep.
- If your acne has matured and risen up, then make sure you clean out the pore by draining out all the blood and pus and try to remove the oil plug. The key to cleaning out the pore is to make sure the oil plug is removed cos if it's not, it'll just be there. If you can only manage to drain a wee bit or not at all, don't force it by brute force or you'll risk pushing it further down (according to a dermatologist).
- After you're done squeezing, apply pimple cream with salicylic acid. If you manage to remove everything and extract the oil plug, congratulations, you zit is now healing and it probably isn't that bad a cystic acne to begin with. However, 90% of the time, these bloody cystic acne doesn't "mature" and I can normally get out just a tiny amount of pus without the chance of extracting the oil plug. So here's phase two.
- So you've squeezed out a wee bit of pus and blood and there's still more brewing underneath with the oil plug still blocking the pore. Now, once you're done with your first attempt to drain the acne, apply a thin layer of acne cream with salicylic acid. Then, wait for the wound to dry up a bit. Once it's dried up, stick on a 3M acne sticker and leave it over night. I've tried sticking on the 3M acne sticker on newly formed cystic acne before any attempt to drain out the pus but it doesn't do anything since all the secretion and oil are embedded way too deep for the sticker to be effective. Thus, I only use it after I'm done some bit of draining.
- The next day, the 3M sticker should have drawn out quite a bit of oil and secretion (the sticker turns white) and normally, my acne would have gone down by a bit. For the day, just apply the pimple cream. At night, after cleansing, check if there's any newly formed pus and drain out if necessary and again, apply a thin layer of salicylic acid, let it dry up before sticking on the 3M acne sticker.
- Repeat this every night and your acne should deflate over a couple of days. Now one very important point to note; you need to exfoliate and remove any dead skin on the zit and around it once the pus stops forming. The key is to get rid of any dry flakes of skin covering the zit and you'll need to make sure the surrounding area is rid of dry skin to make sure the pores don't get blocked.
- When there's no pus, never attempt to squeeze the zit cos it would do nothing but cause trauma. Instead, when the acne deflating progress is stagnant, exfoliate the zit area a little with a gentle scrub. Next, remove all the dry flaking skin using a pair of tweezers and lightly lifting off those skin layers. Please don't rip your skin off by force cos it'll bleed. Never overdo this and remove only those that can be easily lifted off without any pain. Once you're done, stick on the 3M acne sticker overnight. The objective here is to make sure that the sticker is in contact with the fresh layer of skin that has just surfaced and not dead skin because it won't draw out secretion when you put it on dried up skin.
- Do this for a few nights and by the time it's close to being completely deflated, switch to using just the pimple cream only, making sure you remove any dried up dead skin every night.
- Usually by now, some of the deeply embedded oil plug would have surfaced and you can easily prick the skin open lightly and remove them. If not, you just have to be patient and keep applying salicylic acid and it would go away but at least you can now cover it effectively with some concealer in the day and that it is no longer three dimensional.
Again, I need to stress that this works for me and a few of my friends whose skin doesn't scar too badly or leave a depression when they extract zits. So don't try this if your skin has a tendency to scar badly since this trial-and-error "programme" of mine involves squeeze the zit. Hope this helps and I'm gonna say this one more time, I fucking hate cystic acne. Die you cystic acnes, die!