What is cystic acne and how can I get rid of it?

person washing hands on sink

Acne doesn’t only affect adolescents. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that around 85 percent of people aged 12-24 have at least mild acne. This can persist into one’s 40s and 30s. Cystic acne can be quite severe and rarer forms of acne.

What is cystic acne?

Cystic acne can be described as the more annoying cousin to your typical pimple. It often appears larger, redder, or whiter than your average pimple. Cystic acne is a form of inflammation that affects deeper levels than the skin’s surface. These suckers are not like regular pimples and can’t be popped. Your derm might even disapprove of any pimples.

Many people get cystic acne from oily skin, dead skin cells and bacteria. People with oily skin and older adults with hormonal imbalances are most at risk, including teens, women, people with oily skin, as well as those with sensitive eyes.

Here’s how to deal with a cystic infection right now, or prepare for it in the future.

person washing hands on sink

Cystic acne: What causes it?

Cystic acne can make it seem like volcanic craters were created from the bottom of hell to make your face look bad. It is caused by clogged pores.

Sebum is an oily substance produced naturally by your sebaceous glands. It helps to protect your skin and hair follicles. A clog can develop when sebum production is increased by factors such as hormonal changes or makeup. These clogged pores make it a perfect environment for P acnes (the bacteria that can lead to acne) to thrive.

Acne is most commonly caused by hormonal changes in adolescents. There are many other causes of acne than teenage angst:

  • Hormonal changes resulting from the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, birth control, hormone therapy, or stress.
  • Certain oil-based cleansers, moisturizers, cosmetics and skin care products.
  • Certain drugs and chemicals such as corticosteroids and lithium and phenytoin.
  • High levels of sweat or humidity.
  • Genetics.

Are you concerned about cystic acne? Here are some things to do

Cystic acne can be frustrating and even painful. Consult a dermatologist immediately if you suspect you may have cystic acne. They will be able to help you identify the cause and recommend the best treatment.

Traditional ways of treating things

Cystic acne is not something you can treat with over-the-counter remedies. Your dermatologist may recommend prescriptions. These are some common options:

Oral antibiotics

Sometimes, antibiotics can be used to treat severe acne. They reduce inflammation and bacteria that can contribute to flare-ups. Experts advise against using antibiotics for prolonged periods of time as they can be dangerous.

Common antibiotics for acne are erythromycin and minocycline.

Certain medications, such as blood thinners, diuretics and psoriasis meds, can interact with antibiotics. It is important to discuss all medications with your doctor. Pregnancy is not recommended for some acne medications.

Side effects possible include:

  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sun sensitivity

Isotretinoin (Accutane)

You’ve likely heard of isotretinoin, a powerful prescription acne medication. Research from 2009 shows that 85% of people who take this vitamin A derivative every day for 16 weeks see a clearer complexion.

It is not without controversy. The drug comes with serious risks. These are just some of the possible side effects.

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Although there’s no clear evidence linking inflammation to bowel disease, it is a common condition.
  • Chronic headaches and nosebleeds
  • Skin dryness or inflammation
  • Urine containing blood
  • Muscle and joint pain

It can interact with steroids, seizure medications, and tetracycline anti-biotics in a negative way. You should not take it during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is important to not get pregnant while you are taking isotretinoin. This can lead to birth defects.

You will also need to have regular blood tests if you decide to take isotretinoin.

Topical retinoids

Topical retinoids, which are similar to isotretinoin but not as strong, are made from vitamin A. These creams, gels, and lotions target the inflammation that can lead to acne.

For better results, a dermatologist might combine topical treatment with topical antibiotics.

Topical retinoids such as adapalene, tretinoin, Avita, Retin A, or tazarotene are often used to treat acne.

Side effects include skin peeling or reddening, which is usually temporary and increased sun sensitivity.

Topical retinoids should not be used on skin that is irritated or has been affected by eczema. Before applying a topical retinoid, they should consult a doctor.

Some retinoids can also react negatively to some astringents and toners. Talk with your dermatologist before you start using retinoids.


Although spironolactone, also known as Aldactone, is used to treat high blood pressure or edema it can also be used to treat acne by controlling high levels of androgens that may contribute to the condition. It is used to treat cystic pimples on the lower jawline and lower face in women with acne.

Side effects can include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Low blood pressure
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Dizziness
  • High potassium levels (hyperkalemia).

It can cause abnormalities in the developing fetus so it is important to avoid taking spironolactone during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant. People with kidney disease should also avoid it.

Do you prefer to be brave with your acne? This is what you should do…

Lorde should be offended by people who suggest Lorde just use “moisturizing” or “coconut oils!” after she has had severe acne for years.

There is no one perfect way to care for your skin. However, these home remedies can help you keep things in check.

  • Your cleansing routine should be perfected. Cystic acne can be worsened by using harsh exfoliants or scrubs.
  • Keep your hands off of your face.
  • Make sure to check your cosmetics at least twice.
  • It’s a big feat to get up and wash your face after a long night of watching Netflix. You will be the hero you deserve when you do it.
  • After you finish working out, wash your hands.
  • It’s okay to not sweat it.

What does diet have to do with it?

PSA: Don’t believe the 2002 Cosmo copy. Foods like chocolate and greasy potatoes chips are not actually contributing to acne. In fact, the idea that there’s a relationship between diet and acne at all is highly controversial within the scientific and medical communities.

However, some studies suggest that these dietary changes may help to reduce cystic acne.

High blood sugar levels are to be avoided

Someone told you that fatty foods such as burgers and fries are the cause of breakouts. While that’s not exactly the case, some medical experts suggest a low glycemic diet might clear up the skin.

White bread, white doughnuts, soda and cereal with high glycemic levels can lead to blood sugar spikes and inflammation that can increase sebum production.

Meanwhile, loading up on low glycemic, anti-inflammatory foods .like fresh veggies, certain fruits, fatty fish, beans, and steel-cut oats can help keep blood sugar (and possibly acne) under control.

Consider cutting back on dairy

It is still unclear if there is a link between acne and dairy. Dairy consumption can affect hormone levels and lead to sebum spikes which could cause acne.

A 2019 review of studies suggested that there’s a link between milk consumption and acne, but more research needs to be done to prove causation. This review also found no correlation between yogurt and cheese consumption, so Yoplait or pizza are probably safe.

Take a look at the supplement aisle.

These supplements could also be used to keep Krakatoa away

  • Vitamin D. The 2016 Vitamin D. A . Study concluded that acne sufferers were more likely to have vitamin D deficiencies. After taking vitamin D supplements for 8 weeks, participants with acne saw clearer skin. Vitamin D supplements may help with acne and vitamin D deficiencies.
  • Green tea. It might be a good idea to apply it to your skin. A 2013 study found that green tea extract applied to the skin reduces sebum production. This could help with acne.
  • Fish oil. Fish oil contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. In a small 2014 study, participants who took omega-3 supplements daily for 10 weeks saw a significant decrease in acne.
  • Vitex. Some research suggests that the medicinal plant Vitex agnus-castus helps fight acne by reducing bacteria growth. However, there is little evidence supporting its safety or efficacy.
  • Vitamin B5. According to a 2014 study, Vitamin B5 (also known as pantothenic acids) may help clear skin.
  • CBD. Cannabidiol has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that might help regulate sebum production.
  • Probiotics. Probiotics may fight inflammation that leads to acne, according to a 2015 study. However, there isn’t enough evidence to support this claim.
  • Barberry. Berberis vulgaris is a berry shrub that might help fight acne-causing inflammation.
  • Zinc. Some research has identified zinc as a possibly promising alternative to traditional acne treatments.

Before you begin any additional treatment, it is important to discuss your options with a healthcare professional.

Cystic acne can cause scarring more often than other types. The risk of scarring is lower if cysts are not picked up, prodded, or manipulated.

You might find it difficult to resist temptation, especially if your are a .Dr. Pimple Popper’nbsp.fans are a good choice, but it is worth trying. This will lower your chance of getting infected.

Some treatments may help to reduce scarring from acne. These treatments should be used only if your acne is under control.

  • Chemical peels
  • dermabrasion
  • Laser resurfacing

Bottom line

  • Cystic acne is characterised by large, inflamed cysts underneath the skin.
  • It’s the most severe form of acne and can often not be treated without professional help. It is not possible to treat it with over-the-counter remedies.
  • It is still unclear if diet and acne are linked. Reducing blood sugar levels might fight acne-causing inflammation. Supplements like fish oil and zinc might also be helpful, but it is important to consult your doctor before you start any supplements.
  • Managing stress and staying healthy can help reduce symptoms. It doesn’t hurt to try, right?
  • Don’t. Touch. Your. Face! It can cause acne to worsen, scarring, and increase the risk of infection.
  • Your dermatologist is the best expert when it comes to cystic skin conditions. For guidance, consult a professional.

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