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Ask Belle: Treatments for Deep Acne

Belle,

As a fellow acne sufferer, I need your advice.  I’ve been getting these deep, painful zits on my chin and forehead.  They take weeks to come to the surface and my usual acne medicine isn’t helping.  I remember you said that you have the same problem, how do you treat it?

Sincerely, KP

First off, make an appointment with a dermatologist.  If you don’t have one, ask your regular physician for a recommendation.  I waited far too long to see a skin specialist, and I ended up with some scarring as a result.

In the interim, don’t pick at the blemish, you’ll only make it worse.  Instead, I recommend an old home remedy.

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Christopher’s Black Ointment ($15)

Black ointment or drawing salve is a great product for draining deep blemishes.  The first step is to place a warm compress on the spot for a few minutes to open the pores.  Step two, apply some of the drawing ointment to the spot.  Step three, cover with a band-aid and then go to sleep.  Step four, repeat each night as necessary.

Drawing salve drains some of the infected fluid out of the skin, which can heal it without a manual extraction.  The process can take a while; I once needed to use it every day for almost three weeks to drain a particularly nasty spot on my cheek.  The salve smells terrible, like a combination of rotten eggs and a boy’s lavatory, but once you put the band-aid on it mostly goes away.

Lastly, remember that salicylic acid is designed to prevent acne and benzoyl peroxide treats acne you already have.  So if you’re treating an existing blemish with salicylic gel, it’s not as effective.  AcneFree’s Terminator 10 is the best benzoyl spot treatment that you can get over-the-counter.

LEAVE A COMMENT

    27 comments

  1. YouSaucyMinx says:

    I have deep, awful, cystic acne, and the usual ance treatments (including prescription) would leave my sensitive skin incredibly dry, like peeling off in sheets dry.

    I tried the Body Shop’s Tea Tree Blemish kit, and it’s a godsend. It clears up even the worst of my blemishes, and keeps my skin soft and moist.

    I use the cleanser, toner, tea tree oil, and lotion morning and night. I use the mask once a week. My skin is noticeably clearer, with only teeny blemishes (instead of deep painful cysts) and no flakiness. LOVE. At $29, it was worth it for me.

    December 15, 2014/Reply
    • LS says:

      Do you (or other readers) have suggestions for body acne? My boyfriend has struggled with it for years, but can’t find a product that works without drying.

      December 15, 2014/Reply
      • Belle says:

        Glytone spray. It is the only thing that ever worked for me, and I know it’s worked for some readers as well.

        December 15, 2014/Reply
        • LS says:

          Ah ha, now I remembered you’ve mentioned it before. Will check it out. Thanks!

          December 15, 2014/Reply
  2. JD says:

    Going dairy-free made a HUGE difference in my skin. I was having deep, painful zits on my chin and around my mouth, similar to what you’re describing. Sometimes they were so painful that I needed ibuprofen to sleep. When an esthetician suggested that dairy might be the culprit, I was deeply skeptical, but to my surprise, my skin looked much better after only a week without cheese. Not saying that dairy is the cause of all cystic acne, but it’s easy enough (and free!) to try going without.

    December 15, 2014/Reply
    • Mo says:

      Seconded. My skin is night and day when I’m good about avoiding dairy. Zero blemishes when I go without, 3-4 cystic blemishes when I indulge.

      December 15, 2014/Reply
      • Phoebe says:

        Thirded! I used to have terribly painful zits on my chin and jaw, and tried EVERYTHING – and finally, in desperation, cut out dairy completely. It was like a night and day difference. I’ve been dairy-free since then – I miss it for sure, but I love having totally clear skin more than I love ice cream. 🙂

        December 15, 2014/Reply
        • Angela says:

          Also cutting back on wheat has helped mine, I have Friday night pizza but pretty much gave up sandwiches for lunch or cereal for breakfast, my dermatologist recommended that. He likes to treat with meds and diet, which I appreciate

          December 19, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I just don’t know if I can stop eating cheese. Clear skin, nachos, clear skin, nachos, what a toss up…

      December 15, 2014/Reply
    • Samantha says:

      I vouch for the dairy issues! I read about it on Renee Rouleau’s website and it finally made sense. I still eat plenty of pizza/cheese/etc but if I have milk or ice cream (like I did last week), my skin will revolt in less than 36 hours. I miss it like crazy but I always regret it when I give in.

      December 16, 2014/Reply
  3. Kaitlyn H says:

    What is a good facial lotion for my skin after using some heavy derm-prescribed zit cream? I’m striking out.

    December 15, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I use the Tammy Fender balm, but Skincando makes a cheaper Miracle Cream that I also like. Cerave is another brand that you could try.

      December 15, 2014/Reply
  4. LC says:

    How do you use products with benzoyl peroxide without bleaching everything in a 10 foot radius? I know it’s effective, but I can’t keep buying new towels!

    December 15, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I own six white washcloths for this very reason.

      December 15, 2014/Reply
  5. Faith says:

    I am a fanatic about Paula’s Choice. She has a line for acne in 2 strengths. I bought the stronger one. In hindsight I wouldn’t have bought the cleanser. I use Cetaphil and it works just fine.

    December 15, 2014/Reply
  6. M. says:

    Be super careful about what you’re putting on your skin. Black salves come in many different formulations and can cause terrible burns (google only if you’re brave). Green clay masks, either purchased or made simply by mixing green clay powder with apple cider vinegar, draw out oil from pimples safely and gently.

    December 15, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I haven’t experienced that, but thanks for the warning.

      December 15, 2014/Reply
  7. Alli says:

    Has anyone tried “oil pulling?” I’ve read it is supposed to have similar effects as removing dairy from your diet, as discussed above, but I am still skeptical. I’m not sure I understand how swishing oil around in your mouth would help remove it from your skin, but has it worked for anyone else?

    December 15, 2014/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’ve done it to whiten my teeth. It’s not easy to “chew” oil for that long, but it’s really helped my gum health.

      December 15, 2014/Reply
      • Jenn S. says:

        Did you find that it actually helped with whitening?

        December 16, 2014/Reply
  8. jj says:

    Cystic acne can also be hormonal (I had it all the time and then worse during certain times of the month – joy). My doctor prescribed BC, and acne went away immediately.

    December 15, 2014/Reply
  9. thb says:

    Also, for those who have decreased their milk intake and seen less cystic acne as a result, the problem is not the milk itself. The problem is the hormones they feed the cows to get them to produce MORE milk. These hormones are not fully depleted during the pasteurization process. Even Organic milk can transfer these in large amounts. These same hormones affect our own hormonal balance and increase cystic acne.

    December 17, 2014/Reply
  10. MT says:

    Thank you for the very last paragraph explaining the difference between salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. I had no idea. I pretty much gave up on my skin and stopped dealing with it (by that I mean looking for new treatments other than a mask and good moisturizer) when I was 18, and figured out how to cover up like a champ. Then I thought it would be better to try an all natural (or close) approach using Simple products. Which did help a lot, but I still had issues. I have had a revolutionary weekend with a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment and salicylic acid face wash. Simple has neither in any of its products, so my skin responded quickly to the treatments and I am looking at a two deep pimples drying up on my chin and am now way too excited to wash my face.

    December 22, 2014/Reply
  11. nicole says:

    Belle, what are you doing currently to help your acne?

    February 10, 2015/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Prescription benzoyl peroxide cream with antibiotics in it.

      February 10, 2015/Reply
      • Annie says:

        Hi Belle – I’ve tried everything for my acne except for Accutane or something similar. I did do a three-month oral pill.
        Do you mind sharing which prescription cream you use? I’ve been prescribed Aczone and Tretinoin and neither have really worked. And do you put your cream on, followed up moisturizer and spot cream in case you do have a zit?
        Mine is mainly cystic acne on my chin and whenever I think it looks okay another one pops up. Hate it so much. My derm will shoot them with the steroids which calms them down but I hate having to go in every time.

        March 10, 2015/Reply
        • Belle says:

          Nothing has ever fixed mine completely. I use a mix of Clindamycin and Benzoyl Peroxide. It wasn’t my first choice because I don’t like using antibiotics when they’re not necessary, but it is the only thing that noticeably helps.

          I apply before and then moisturize. I’ve also brought a humidifier into my bedroom, and that has been helping my skin in a lot of nice ways.

          March 12, 2015/Reply