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BPGP: Drawing Salve

Since moving to D.C five years ago, my mild, hereditary acne has become full-blown cystic acne.  I’ve spent thousands of dollars on miracle cures and expensive dermatologists, to no avail.  So imagine my surprise when the best product that I’ve tried thus far cost less than a Starbuck’s latte.

Because I’ve tried every prescription cream on the market, I started searching for a homeopathic cure.  Several websites extol the virtues of drawing salve for the treatment (not prevention) of the cystic acne, so I thought that I would give it a whirl.

The black, gel-like ointment smelled terrible–like a combination of paving asphalt and rotten eggs.  So I was less than thrilled to use it.  But, to my surprise, it helped. 

I used the CVS brand drawing salve, but the Interwebs seem to be in love with a product called Prid’s.  If you’d like to try the product, here are the directions:

1) Soak a clean rag in hot (and I mean HOT) water.  Allowing it to cool just enough that you don’t burn yourself.

2) Place the rag onto the blemish for 30 seconds to a minute.  Then pat the area dry with a clean rag.

3) Using a Q-Tip (you do not want this smell on your hands), apply a bit of drawing salve to the blemish.  

4) Cover the blemish with a fabric band aid.  The band aid isn’t required, but you do not want this stuff on your sheets.  I prefer the fabric band aids because they don’t come off in the middle of the night the way the sheer band aids do.

5) Wear overnight.

6) The next morning, remove the band aid and wash the area with a gentle soap.  The drawing salve may stain the skin slightly, but that wears off.  

In the weeks since I first purchased the product, several deep, painful blemishes that I’ve had for years have either gotten smaller or disappeared completely.  So while I wish it helped with the prevention of acne, I’m happy to have a better treatment method.  Hopefully, using the salve will prevent any further scarring.

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    22 comments

  1. m says:

    I had cystic acne in high school that would not go away, and also tried every prescription dermatological cream and antibiotic combination known to man. Do accutane if you can – it completely changes your skin. There are side effects, but for me it was worth it. You will never have to worry about it again.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  2. Trang says:

    Hi Belle- have you tried the Mario Badescu line? The Buffering Lotion, Special Cleansing Lotion, and Botonical Facial Lotion did wonders for my cystic acne,

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  3. Suburban Sweetheart says:

    Thank you for this!!

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  4. Belle says:

    Trang-I'm allergic to sulfur so I can't use Badescu products.

    M-I won't do Accutane, too many scary side effects. Neither liver damage nor suicidal thoughts appeal to me. But the deal breaker was the birth control. I don't use it, because I don't date. So I didn't like that I would have to start taking it in order to take Accutane.

    Glad it worked for you though.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  5. S says:

    My acne has flared up since I moved to DC as well. Wonder if it's the stressful environment or just bad air quality? Anyway, I just went and ordered this – so thanks and hopefully it will help me!

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  6. LL says:

    Belle — I'm allergic to sulfur as well, but only (it turns out) when taken orally. On my very sensitive skin, I don't get hives or anything like I do when I have taken sulfa drugs. My cystic acne has gone WAY down, and even those hard lumps are coming to the surface and clearing. The MB buffering lotion has worked well for me. But what has also worked well is an Rx face wash with some sulfur and sodium sulfectamide in it. I was scared to use it given my experience with sulfa drugs, but to my surprise, no nasty topical side effects (not even peeling/flaking like I get with benzoyl peroxide).

    Of course, if you've found out you're allergic by trial and error topically, then of course ignore what I just wrote.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  7. Jill says:

    Thank you for this great tip, Belle. Do you have any recommendations for a dermatologist in the D.C. area? I also try just about everything for acne and figure it's time to visit a dermatologist for the first time in ages.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  8. Sara says:

    Belle, like you, I won't go on Accutane because of the side effects and I also don't date so I feel no need to go on the pill in order to use it. In addition, the prescription bills for all of the above and the lab fees to verify my lacking desire to reproduce at this point in my life are a little much for a full-time Hill staffer and full-time grad student. Acne has won this battle over me.

    Until hopefully now….I think at this point, I can honestly say that I have tried literally everything on the market. ­čÖé

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  9. southerner in london says:

    In my mid-twenties I started having painful, cystic acne out of nowhere. The acne was mainly in my chin/mouth area. I've tried everything. I used to think I had to be on antibiotics/low dose oral steroids all the time to keep the bastards at bay, but that made me feel awful.

    My potion of choice is finacea gel. Finacea is commonly prescribed for Rosacea, but it's a gentle hard-working acid–remember it being expensive in the US but the tube will last you a good 6-7 months. What's key for me, is taking daily supplements of lysine, flax seed oil and borage oil–I also take a multi-vitamin with fish oil. If I stray or get off my wagon it will show. And getting back in control can take as long as six weeks when I do stray. I know how frustrating this is, and I hope you find the balance that works for you, sounds like you're getting closer!

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  10. Belle says:

    I've been using the salve on a cheek blemish for a few days now and the improvement is noticeable. While three or four days might seem like a lot, I would usually be treating this thing for weeks or months without the salve.

    I had one blemish under my eye that had been there for four years, and now it's almost completely healed after a week of the salve. I'm happy with anything that shrinks them in a manageable time frame.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  11. KLo says:

    https://www.horse.com/item/ichthammol-drawing-salve/SLT181092/?srccode=MRHSGOOG&mr:trackingCode=A499C326-C75A-DF11-BAA3-0019B9C043EB&mr:referralID=NA

    Ichthammol is for horses, and is probably the exact same stuff. It works miracles for drawing out infections, and has been used on members of my family without any side effects (we're farm people, we get nasty cuts).

    I've never thought of using it on my acne, but I am seriously considering a stop off at the tack shop or Tractor Supply on my way home. This might be an even less expensive option.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  12. Kelly says:

    I used to have terrible skin in high school and all through college but since moving to DC in 2006 my skin has gotten a lot better. I don't think there's one reason and, truly, no product works the same on everyone but here are some things that have worked for me. Proactive. While this product does not work for everyone some of the products individually work wonders. For instance, if I use the scrub, the toner, and the “moisturizer” all together I'm a scabby, dried out, red faced mess. But if I use the scrub and my go to moisturizer it can totally rid a breakout before it starts. The green mask is awesome, too. I used to have the deep, deep problem pores that you all speak to and keeping my skin clean, not touching it, not scrubbing on it every day seriously made a huge difference. You can really irritate an already bad situation if you apply too much product, scrub too much, or try too hard to cover it up with makeup. I have found that doing an at home mask a few times a week has decreased the size of my pores, and made my skin much more vibrant. The only things that have ever worked for me with an aesthetician are oxygen treatments, it's like a cool, refreshing drink of water for your face. Also, make sure you are getting all of your makeup off at night before you apply creams and other products. Depending on what type of makeup you wear it may take more than eye makeup remover and soap to get it off. I swear by cold cream and then a face wash and then I let my face breath a while before applying my evening moisturizer and under eye cream.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  13. Ms. B says:

    This has been around longer than most of you have been alive. I am a farm person as well and it was a staple in the barn and house medicine chest. Just never thought of using it on acne. But, it does make sense that it would work.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  14. Diane says:

    Don't think of birth control pills as contraceptives but as a hormonal acne treatment. While I'm still not completely cured and your mileage may vary it did more for my skin than evil accutane ever did. Seriously folks, that's some nasty stuff.

    Rodan & Fields has some new lines of products and I swear by the spot fading toner in the acne kit. The post pimple residual redness that used to last years is clearing up nicely. The cleanser does however have sufur in it but if the Mint Julep masque you tried a while back didn't cause an allergic reaction topical sulfur may be worth trying…slowly and cautiously of course.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  15. Belle says:

    I tried something (name escapes me) that was the hormones without the contraceptive part. Didn't really help me.

    The sulfur that I had a reaction too was a Murad topical treatment with 3% sulfur, so maybe I'd be okay with less.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  16. Ms. K says:

    I have had a similar problem as I have gotten older. I was told by a aesthetician to take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar each morning before I have anything to eat or drink. I figured I would give it a try, since nothing else seemed to work. I have been following this advice for a few weeks and my skin is completely clear. I honestly don't think it has ever looked so good.

    Each morning I mix a tablespoon of Braggs apple cider vinegar (get it at Whole Foods) and a tablespoon of honey (helps kill the taste of the vinegar) in a large glass of water (the more water the easier it is to get down).

    Besides the benefits to skin, apple cider vinegar is said to help lower glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. It increases energy, aids in weight loss, and may possibly kill cancer cells or slow their growth.

    It took me about 1 week to get used to the taste, but even if I never got used to it I would still continue to drink it because the results have been so wonderful! My face is clear, my hair is shinier , and I have a ton of energy. Totally worth the crazy taste.

    October 25, 2010/Reply
  17. Shawna says:

    Ask your dermatologist about getting on Spironolactone. They started using it for acne patients with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, whose acne is caused by a hormonal imbalance. But I think they are giving it to other acne patients now. Anyways, it is honestly the only thing that has controlled my acne throughout my late 20s and now 30s. I use it with a combo of three other topical meds (tazorac, benzoyl peroxide wash & clindamycin) and it finally, finally has done the trick! Plus thanks to you, I finally bought a clarisonic, and found improvement in my acne scars/red marks, so thank you for that!

    October 26, 2010/Reply
  18. Belle says:

    Shawna-That's the stuff that I was on, didn't help.

    Glad you bought the Clarisonic. I love mine. I've been using vinegar to keep the brush head bacteria free, seems to be helping.

    October 26, 2010/Reply
  19. Sarah says:

    Did you order it online or find a CVS in the city that has it?

    October 26, 2010/Reply
  20. Megan says:

    I've had terrible acne since very, very early adolescence (age 10 or 11, I've 25 now). Tried everything else on the market and in the pharmacy, including oral antibiotics, and they all failed. Finally, my dermatologist threw up his hands on put me on the pill. Haven't had a problem since. Hell, I've barely had to wash my face since then – a quick rinse in the shower is all the maintenance my face needs.

    October 26, 2010/Reply
  21. Emma says:

    For anybody who gets cystic acne around their mouth, I highly suggest examining your diet. After many attempts at pinpointing a specific culprit, I have found that the coloring in dark sodas (Coke, Diet Coke, Root Beer, etc.) gives me the most painful cystic zits around my mouth, chin, and neck. After cutting out dark soda, the difference, at least for me, has been uncanny. Even when I slip and drink a Diet Coke, I get at least one cystic zit in my mouth area within a few days. It is like clockwork. Obviously, I am sure that we all know that an overall clean diet with as few processed and artificial elements helps, but that is not always practical or even realistic.

    October 26, 2010/Reply
  22. qwerty says:

    My acne has quadrupled in size since moving to DC. So has my roommate's acne. Any theories on why this is? Just curious.

    Still looking for something to prevent it, rather than treat. But aren't we all?

    October 26, 2010/Reply