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Ask Belle: The Best Cystic Acne Treatment

This isn’t exactly an Ask Belle, because I don’t have a specific question for it, but readers often ask how I treat my very-problem skin.  Recently, I found a brand of products that I had never heard of before and plonked down $40 for the latest “miracle cure.”

I’ve done this hundreds of times before.  If I could have back all of the money I spend on skincare products, I could pay off my student loans.  Clear skin is my obsession.  But this time, the product actually worked…and worked on the stubborn cystic acne that not even dermatologists had a solution for.

It’s called Renee Rouleau Anti-Cyst Treatment ($39.50).  I use the clear gel on in the morning and at night, and I apply it to theareas that I know are a problem.  Number of blemishes has reduced.  Size of blemishes has reduced.  Duration of blemishes is down to a manageable week-plus instead of a month-plus.

I also purchased their BHA Clarifying Serum ($44.50).  This AHA serum with salicylic acid and lactic acid helps erase dark marks from acne and smooth skin.  You only use it a few times a week, but on the mornings after use, I notice a positive difference in my skin.

I think my next purchase will be the Advanced Resurfacing Serum ($82.50) and the Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($85.50).

What if you don’t have acne?

Hold on, I need to stop being totally jealous…

The Renee Rouleau product line contains products designed to help nine different types of skin.  Typically, brands only talk about oily, combination, normal and dry…maybe sensitive.  She talks about all of those and others as well.  So I think anyone could find products that worked for them, esp. if they’re entering their 30s and just starting to think about things like AHA, Retinol, etc.

Also, I found the prices to be very fair.  Perhaps I’m just warped by the cost of anti-aging product lines from Kinerase, SK-II and Kate Somerville.  But the majority of her products are under-$75, and a kit with 11 full-size products can be had for under-$400.  Compare that to some of the kits that give you trial sizes, and I think it’s a much better value.  Not inexpensive by any means, but value for your money is much higher.

I like the products I purchased a lot.  I also like the company’s decision to focus more on what is in the bottle than on the packaging, avoid synthetic ingredients and to be cruelty free.  And lastly, I love that I can email the company for advice on what products to buy and that they.actually.respond with helpful information.  So check out their product line, and let me know what you think.



  1. Catherine says:

    Have you considered diet issues being at the root of your acne problems?

    March 6, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I went on a crazy clean vegan diet a few years ago. Did it for three months. Nothing changed. It’s genetic, every woman in my family has the same thing.

      March 6, 2013/Reply
  2. RR says:

    Belle, for controlling my acne, I found two things really helped. 1) Clarisonic (your best advice EVER) and 2) working out. Believe it or not, working out/exercising regularly apparently helps balance hormones. My skin (and body) have seriously benefitted from only 3-4 times per week. I really like Barre classes and yoga sculpt but to each their own.

    March 6, 2013/Reply
  3. Sari says:

    Chemical peels at my dematologist’s office have significantly helped my acne (not cystic acne, though) and melasma (brown spots). It’s like $80 and I go every 3-4 months.

    March 6, 2013/Reply
  4. Irene says:

    I have bad acne as well and I went on a year long accutane prescription. This cleared up the worst of it. Now I use Acne.org products in combination with vichy facewash and cream twice daily. The other thing that helped for me was to avoid foods with a high glycemic index. It causes inflammation in the body and can aggravate already bad skin.

    March 6, 2013/Reply
  5. Katy says:

    Accutane worked miracles for me.

    March 6, 2013/Reply
    • lhh says:

      Ditto on the Accutane–I had awful acne and now I may get a small zit once a month.

      March 6, 2013/Reply
    • Jill says:

      I used Accutane in my twenties. It dried out my joints, so much so that I thought I was experiencing early onset arthritis. And every time I took a pill, I had to break through a drawing of a terribly malformed fetus on the blister pack, as a reminder not to get pregnant while on the drug. (Seriously! I’m not sure if the packaging is still like this.) But my skin was never so clear, and the effects lasted more than a year after I went off it. I’m in my child bearing years now, so Accutane isn’t an option, but it was totally worth it. Pain, weird fetus pictures, and all.

      March 7, 2013/Reply
  6. Rory says:

    I swear by Mario Badescu’s buffering lotion. It uses sulphur, the only thing that I have found to kill my cystic acne (which is rare, thank god).

    March 6, 2013/Reply
  7. Michelle says:

    As a fellow acne sufferer – I am a huge fan of Renee Rouleau! I use the balancing skin tonic daily (their line of toning clothes are really awesome for the tonic) and the night time spot lotion. I also wish I had discovered the line sooner since I have tried anything and everything on my skin and this stuff works 1,000x better than anything else.

    March 6, 2013/Reply
  8. Angie says:

    I used to have severe acne and tried everything as a teenager to get rid of it…Accutane, Retin-A, antibiotics, all sorts of painfully drying prescription creams. Now in my mid-20s I have a few cystic zits every now and then, which I manage with a daily routine of salicylic acid cleanser/Clarisonic, oil-free toner, benozyl peroxide gel (the cheap Clearasil kind), and Garnier dark spot corrector for scarred areas. I also make sure to thoroughly wash my hands before touching my face and making sure that any towels or pillowcases are cleaned regularly to avoid additional bacteria and oil.

    I will try the Renee Rouleau gel…like Belle, I’ve spent way too long managing this problem, and I was hoping being an adult would mean the end of acne!

    p.s. I got a cortisone shot recently for bad allergies, and it reduced a lot of my existing acne…I’m not sure how much they cost or how safe it is to get them regularly, but I know they are sometimes recommended by dermatologists.

    March 6, 2013/Reply
    • Dee says:

      Where was the cortisone shot injected?

      April 25, 2016/Reply
  9. Parker - Boardroom Belles says:

    Birth control? It’s the only thing that helped when my acene was really bad during my late teens/early twenties.
    Trying to go off it in my early 20ies wasn’t an option, but in my mid-twenties I found that I could deal with the (much less severe) acne that was left over. I’ll never have one of those pore-less, smooth, blemish-free and glowy faces but that’s okay. What helps my skin at a reasonably healthy level now is a combination of using the Clarisonic + African Soap daily, using drug store pore cleansing strips 1x week, forsaking regular face creams for oil free moisturizers and a retinol cream every once in a while, immediately dousing pimples in Benzoyl Peroxide. What also really helped was to reduce my intake of dairy, GSMs and high fructose corn syrup and adding 3x veggie juice per week.

    March 6, 2013/Reply
  10. Lovin PC says:

    Have you tried Paula’s Choice?
    I think her products are exceptionally well-formulated, with scientific research backing all the ingredients. They’re also fragrance-free, and reasonably priced for stuff that really works!
    You should definitely try it, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

    March 6, 2013/Reply
  11. Mere says:

    I agree with the diet aspect. Mine is related to hormones, too, and I went primal (about 80% of the time) gave up booze and cheese and my skin is the best it has been in forever. Still spot treat a bit and use some mild prescriptions on my face, but they no longer last MONTHS, just a few days. I am sure I have spent a small fortune on “miracle cures”, too, so I am glad you found something that works for you!

    March 6, 2013/Reply
  12. Heather says:

    All my life I’ve had problems with terrible acne. I tried every over the counter and rx thing out there, and nothing worked, it just kept making my skin dry, peely, red, and angry. Then, over a year ago, I gave up and decided having dry/red/inflamed skin was worse than the acne itself, and threw out all my acne facewashes, gels, creams, tonics, rx, and yaz birth control. I switched to a clarisonic and Tammy Fender face wash and Intensive Repair lotion (which is all natural, no chemicals), and within 2 weeks, ALL my acne was gone, my face was moisturized, and my 10 yr old acne scars were quickly disappearing. While it gives me a small heart attack every time I shell out $40 for facewash and $120 for a small bottle of lotion every few months (its small but potent so you don’t need to use a lot), it is 100% worth it to have clear, dewey skin that doesn’t flake off in ugly patches year round. Its the best decision I’ve ever made.

    If you buy Tammy Fender, get it off of BeautyBar which offers free 2 day or less shipping, usually has some kind of $20 off $100 promo, and use Ebates to get extra savings, and its really not that bad. Best decision I’ve ever made!

    March 7, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Tammy Fender makes good products. The Intensive Repair Cream is one of my favorites. I had no idea you could buy it places other than her online store. That’s a great tip.

      March 7, 2013/Reply
  13. Sam says:

    I’ve had acne since my teens (though it was an occassional cystic zit on the chin in HS) which has gotten worse in my 20’s. I’ve tried several prescription topical creams (Differen, Finacea, Clindamycin, Tazorac, etc) and antiobiotics (Solodyn) which have sorta/kinda helped as long as I am religious about cleaning my face twice a day (I use MD Forte face wash which is gentle on my skin). I’d like to save up for the Clarisonic at some point.

    I’m not too thrilled with my dermatologist and I’ve thought about dropping all the prescriptions for a more natural routine but I am terrified about what will happen in between.

    March 7, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I would recommend the cystic serum from RR, and have you tried the Tanda Zap? It’s $50, and it really helps clear a deep blemish before it comes up.

      March 7, 2013/Reply
  14. LGF says:

    I LOVE Renee Rouleau products. I made the switch to her skincare line about three years ago (I’m a skin type 4) and have never looked back. Do I add in a few other products from other lines to my skin routine, yes absolutely. But I don’t think I need to, just have a few other products I can’t let go of.

    You’ll LOVE the Triple Berry Smoothing Peel – using once a week or every other week makes a huge difference. I also adore her eye make-up remover, takes away all eye make-up with barely any rubbing.

    And yes, like you said, it’s awesome that you can email her staff (or tweet her) with questions and they actually give you super thoughtful answers within a few hours.

    Glad you found her stuff. It’s completely changed my skin!

    March 7, 2013/Reply
  15. Kristen D says:

    Love Renee Rouleau products! The Mint Buffing Beads are great and her instructions for home mini-facials are fabulous.

    March 7, 2013/Reply
  16. Nora says:

    Can you give any advice on HOW to use the anti-cyst treatment? I have it but I can’t figure out when in my routine I should put it on. Before anything? After toner, before serum? After serum, before moisturizer? Any advice you have would be very welcome!

    March 14, 2013/Reply
  17. RObyn Qui says:

    Citrus Clear products have been a HUGE lifesaver with my random pimples that pop up. It quickly reduces them and gets rid of them completely. Even my cystic pimples have healed faster (with less scarring!) when I put this on it at night. I highly recommend for you. . .

    November 5, 2013/Reply
  18. supreme86 says:

    Along with my aging skin, I’ve been battling some nasty cystic acne for way too many years. I’ve also been using Citrus Clear like you mentioned – I’ve been using this daily for the last 2 weeks and all’s good! No breakouts and no dry skin. The Citrus Clear cleanser doesn’t irritate my skin. It doesn’t foam as much as I hoped it would but that’s not a deal breaker.

    April 29, 2015/Reply