There's nothing more frustrating than getting a giant cystic pimple on my face. It seems that every month like clockwork, one pops up overnight. This normally happens around my menstrual cycle so although I can carefully time it, there's still a feeling of helplessness. There's only so much I can do to prevent and then ultimately treat a cystic pimple.

That doesn't stop me from trying.

If you're unfamiliar with cystic acne, consider yourself lucky! Those who've experienced them know what I'm talking about - red, swollen, painful bumps that form deep in the pore underneath the skin's surface. I get them on my chin, around my mouth, and along my jawline which is a classic symptom of hormonal imbalance. They're so stubborn that I typically get them in the exact same spots as previous flareups. So even though I can expect them every single month, there are a few steps I take to prevent "a big one." Some bumps are more manageable than others.

A little backstory on my skin: I had combination skin as a teenager with occasional breakouts on my t-zone. My chin was the home of cystic acne, especially around my period. I went on birth control pills when I was 18, and my skin was quite happy about that! The tone and texture evened out. I still would develop occasional bumps, but instead of getting them monthly, they would occur maybe yearly. In fact, my skin became pretty dry during my late twenties, and acne was no longer an issue until I went off of birth control two years ago. The progression was fast. My skin immediately began producing more oil and I tossed out my thick moisturizers and heavy oils in favor of lighter weight products more suitable for acne prone skin. I've read that if you had problem skin before birth control, then you will likely deal with it after stopping birth control. Of course every case is different, but many women take birth control pills to regulate their hormones so once they stop, hormones can go haywire.

My skincare routine isn't perfect just yet, but I've found that these steps have indeed made my monthly visitors less painful and more tolerable:

Girl, wash your face! I don't have to remind you that it's the single most important step in any skincare regimen. My most used cleanser is Cetaphil, and you can easily find it at your local drugstore. It's gentle enough for all skin types, and it cleanses without stripping your skin of essential oils. Lately I've been using this cleanser by Kate Somerville, but any basic oil-free face wash is just fine. It's not about the price or brand, but about the ingredients.

When you have acne flare-ups, you realize how crucial it is to exfoliate your entire face at least once per week. There are two types of exfoliants - physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation such as a scrub is the most common way to slough off dead skin cells. I use the Vasanti Brighten Up! Cleanser about twice a week in place of a regular cleanser. The little grains are just effective enough to work into a slight lather and rinse clean. You really need to be mindful of avoiding abrasive scrubs though - too harsh (or larger grains) can cause the reverse effect and can damage/tear your skin! Chemical exfoliation uses - you guessed it - chemicals to remove dead skin cells and create cell turnover. I personally feel that this form of exfoliation is the most effective. Not only does it remove buildup from the pores, but it also instantly brightens the skin. I use my favorite Kate Somerville ExfoliKate once a week, concentrating on my chin and jawline. 

The week before my menstrual cycle, I make sure that the lower half of my face gets extra attention every night. I use a clay or charcoal mask to deep clean and detoxify the entire area around my mouth and on my chin. I rinse with cool water for a squeaky clean finish.

I don't care how oily your skin is, moisturizing is a must! A non-greasy, oil-free lotion is what I prefer daily, and then I use a serum by Glo Skin Beauty at nighttime. It contains salicylic acid which gets rid of excess oil and deep cleans the pores. It helps prevent future breakouts.

Okay, now here's what I do when I first begin to feel a big red bump coming on. I wrap an ice cube in a paper towel and then hold it to the affected spot for a few minutes. This helps to reduce the redness and swelling. After that, I mix a bit of benzoyl peroxide (it kills the bacteria) with some hydrocortizone cream and apply a thin layer to the pimple. This works best overnight! I usually notice a decrease in size of the pimple the next morning, and the hydrocortizone helps eliminate much of the redness. I do this for a couple nights until the pimple disappears or starts to come up to the surface where it dries out within a few days.

I've tried so many different acne clearing products over the years but this system has worked the best for me. Like I said, it isn't perfect and I'm still in the process of figuring it all out. If you have any advice, please let me know in the comments or send me an email! Hormonal acne isn't fun, but it also doesn't have to control your life either. I hope some of you found this helpful!

Linking up with On The Daily Express and Straight A Style.


  1. I sometimes get cystic acne but it's when I have a poor diet and it's definitely very uncomfortable and sometimes even painful. Thanks for sharing your tips and favourite products, I always love to try new things.

    Marta - www.aroundcolours.com

  2. I hear you on those monthly breakouts!! They are the worst. I can't even begin to give you any skincare advice because I know you are far more informed on this stuff than I am, so thanks for sharing your tips and tricks!

  3. I finally found a birth control that does a great job at keeping my acne so much more manageable, of course the idea that it will go right back should I decide to stop taking it is sad. I'm glad you are finding some things that work. Acne in our thirties should not be a thing!
    Chic on the Cheap

  4. I see you use The Ordinary - I have been using it for about 6 months and LOVE it! The biggest thing that helped my skin was their niacinimide/zinc solution - really helped my oily, acne-prone, porous skin! Hope it helps you too!


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