I've had a very long obsession with pimples. I had mild acne when I was in highschool, which I was able to cure with Proactiv, which worked for about a year and never worked for me again. In college, I had a ginormous breakout sometime towards the end of sophmore year into junior year. It was pretty bad, I had cystic acne that really hurt, pretty much all over my t-zone area, especially on the forehead and inner cheek (the worst ones were at the bridge of your nose, in between the eyes). After I had gotten the acne under control it left me with scars all over my face. It's a horrible experience to go through, emotionally and physically. The reason why I am obsessed with acne is not so much the pimples as it is the after-effects and the scarring. The smallest blemish will leave a scar for months.
I'm not a dermatologist, haven't had any technical/scientific training in skin, nor am I an expert, but I do know what works for me and hopefully what will work for other people experiencing the same thing.
To get rid of cystic acne, or any other type of acne, one should really consult his/her dermatologist, as there are so many options available today, and everyone's condition is really unique. For me, I took oral antibiotics and used topical creams prescribed by my dermatologist. I no longer suffer from acne, but I do get an occasional pimple, which I attack at the first sight. I check my skin at night and also the morning to see if anything is starting to form (I know kinda crazy) and depending on what stage the pimple is in and the time of day, I use different active ingredients to fight it. I alternate between salicylic acid, sulfur, and benzoyl peroxide as a last resort, since benzoyl peroxide isn't as effective for me as the other two. If I see something beginning to form in the morning, I will use a salicylic acid gel (I use Clean & Clear's Advantage Acne Spot Treatment, it comes in silver and purple packaging) before I apply my moisturizer and sunscreen. I think sulfur is actually more effective, but since sulfur does smell funny, I only use it at night. If I see a pimple starting to form at night I will use my DDF Sulfur Mask as a spot treatment (this mask is really great, not only in killing the bacteria that forms pimples, but also purges and tightens the pores). If in the next 8-12 hours, I see that the pimple is still there, I switch to the other active ingredient, and if that doesn't work I'll use a benzoyl peroxide cream (Neutrogena on the spot acne treatment). I would say this method works for me 95% of the time, and the other 5% of the time I will end up suffering through the entire cycle of the pimple.
Not only do I do spot treatments, but I also take preventative measures in my normal skincare/makeup routine. Every night I wash my face using an oil cleanser to remove the makeup (for me I find oil cleansers to be the most effective way of removing ALL makeup, including waterproof mascaras) and follow that by using a gel cleanser that contains salicylic acid (I like the Neutrogena oil-free acne wash, the grapefruit version) which kills the bacteria on your skin. I try to exfoliate as often as my skin will allow me to, and I also make sure to wash my makeup brushes often (about once a week for brushes used in powder products). I also try to re-do my makeup when I can (as in wash off completely and redo) because I don't like to contaminate my brushes unless I start with a clean face.
I try not to conceal pimples when I have them, I think it's best to let it breathe and go through its cycle as fast as possible (this is just my feeling, no idea if it's scientifically proven), but there are occasions where you have to conceal them somehow, and usually I find that my foundation is enough to hide the redness (Guerlain Parure Gold). I also don't pick or try to pop the pimples either, as that will leave an even worse scar when everything is over.
I'm hoping I don't sound like a complete maniac or that my theories and practices are not too OCD. I remember what it's like to have scars and frankly I'm a little traumatized, so I do what I can to prevent going through that experience again. I realize that normal people probably don't study their pores every night, but if you find something in its early stages, alot of times you can prevent them, and that really applies to alot of things in life, including pimples.