This magical $45 product is the only thing I trust to treat a sudden cystic acne breakout

One of the fun things about being incredibly pale is that blemishes look extra aggressive on your skin. They really pop against my ghost-like pallor. This is one of the many reasons I take very, very good care of my skin. But after I got an IUD, my usually clear skin started to break out out like crazy. And by that I mean I started to get cystic acne. It should be noted that I would gladly deal with cystic acne to not have to worry about birth control for five years, but that’s another story entirely.

That said, I’m not going to quietly suffer these insidious pain bundles. They’re unpleasant and they hurt like hell and sometimes they show up near your armpits and on your back.  

Unless you’ve had a cyst, it’s hard to describe the throbbing, bone-deep pain that accompanies them. But since I’m a writer, I shall try to paint a picture for you: One day you’re working at your computer. You rest your chin on your hand… and immediately jerk it back because you felt searing, unexpected pain. When you go to look in the mirror to find the offending blemish, you can’t see it. That’s because you can feel a cyst brewing underneath your skin before it actually shows up on your face. Once you realize it’s there, you wonder how you were able to ignore the pulsing pain that’s now taken over your senses. Your face is tender, the bump begins to increase in size and redness, and it just won’t go away.

I tried everything to deal with them, but nothing helped. I relayed my woes to esthetician Renee Rouleau (she’s the person behind Demi Lovato’s glowy skin), who gave me a sample of her Anti Cyst Treatment ($45.50). I don’t use the phrase “life-changing” lightly, but that’s what this product was.

What does it do?


She developed it 30 years ago, back before she had her eponymous skin care line and owned her own skin care clinic in Boston. “What makes this product unique is the use of the active ingredient, ethyl lactate (a purified form of lactic acid) and the fast absorption of the lactate given by ethyl alcohol,” she tells me. “Together, it creates an anti-inflammatory effect to reduce the bump and get it to go away more quickly. It’s fast-acting. Most people will find they get a 50 percent quicker recovery than when using nothing at all. (And for those who get cysts, that could mean taking it from seven days to three days.)” I’m not entirely convinced that no witchcraft is involved in the making of this product, though—it’s that good. 

A gentle routine was the complete opposite of my previous cyst treatment plan. When a cyst popped up, I would immediately go nuclear on it. Layers upon layers of benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulfur (and, in my not-so-bright time, a combination of all three). And they would still last for at least a week, if not longer.

That’s definitely not the thing to do.

"When it comes to cysts, they form so deep underneath the skin and never come to the surface," says Rouleau. "Your efforts of using a drying topical spot treatment to dry up infection that is not present on the surface will only leave you with dry, flaky skin with a bump underneath."

My experience


This stuff is truly magical. The second I feel a cyst coming on, I immediately cover it with this serum. It’s clear, so you can really apply it any time of day without anyone noticing—but I typically apply it at night before I go to bed. It’s weirdly fun to put it on a cyst at night, knowing when I wake up in the morning it will have majorly decreased in size. Because that’s what happens. You can also use it on pustular blemishes (aka regular pimples) as well, because it’s packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients.

“It can be used both as a spot treatment or for prevention on areas prone to cystic breakouts,” Rouleau tells me. I apply it on my chin and my jawline on the days leading up to my period, since cysts are typically caused by hormones. That’s also when I notice my skin starts to freak out the most.  

It’s also become a necessity when I travel. I always make room for it in my quart-sized liquids bag—and you know that space is precious. Like, I do not want to get caught in a foreign city with a massive pimple and no way to treat it. 

Final thoughts


This product has ruined me for all other spot treatments, and I’m okay with that. Yes, it’s a little pricey — but it’s worth every penny because it actually works. I wholeheartedly give this five out of five praise-hands emojis. 

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