Regardless of your current age, if you’ve ever experienced the soul-crushing period of your life often referred to as puberty, chances are you’re already acquainted with the term acne. Luckily, there are a few options you can look into before throwing in the towel.
There are several types of acne that can potentially manifest all over the body, the most serious and painful type being cystic acne. As the name suggests, this type of acne emerges when cysts form underneath the skin - a result of a concoction of excess sebum, bacteria and skin cells.
What differentiates cystic acne from pimples is their size (cystic acne are bigger and more painful), and depth (cysts are set deep within the epidermis). It’s important to note that this type of acne can occur at any point in life, so you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you’re past your teenage years and you’re still starting to develop cystic acne. It is imperative that you don’t let this condition affect your stress levels (since stress hormones can increase your sebum levels) and don’t try to pop them yourself because you risk permanent scarring.
You can recognize that you’re dealing with cystic acne by examining the breakouts themselves. In this case, they are large, painful, pus-filled cysts, encircled with redness. The most common breakout area is the face, particularly the chin and neck. Research suggests that acne developed around your chin area is linked to hormonal imbalances and changes, which is why they’re more common in women.
Since prevention is a lot easier than elimination let’s examine what causes cystic acne in the first place. There are several factors that can cause cystic acne: genetics, stress levels, diet, lifestyle and changes in hormonal levels. In addition, studies show that there are a few factors which can worsen cystic acne - such as increased stress levels, the consumption of dairy, certain types of medication (like birth control) and hormonal fluctuations, particularly during menstruation and perimenopause.
Generally speaking, teenagers are at a higher risk of developing cystic acne, due to the many changes their bodies are going through. Specifically, the level of androgen hormones produced in the body increases notably. Women are also more likely to suffer from cystic acne due to a higher fluctuation in their hormone levels.
What should you do if you have an important event coming soon and you spot an irritating cyst on your chin? There are a few safe home remedies you could try. First off, don’t try to remove it or pop it at home - you risk hyperpigmentation and permanent scarring, and chances are it won’t help anyway!
Essential tea tree oil is a great natural remedy that can help fight the bacterium trapped in the cyst, all the while shrinking its size. Simply insert a few drops in water (the ratio is about two to three drops to one ounce of water) and apply it directly on the cyst, several times a day.
Another powerful plant that can aid you in the battle against cystic acne is aloe vera. With its proven anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, it’s a cheap and effective way to combat both the redness and the size of the cyst. Simply apply pure aloe vera gel on the spot and you’ll be good to go in a few hours.
While we’re on the subject of anti-inflammatory ingredients, you could also try using turmeric as a spot treatment. Mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder with a few drops of water and apply the paste on your cyst. Curcumin, the ingredient found in turmeric, will tame both the inflammation and infection. If you want additional benefits from this familiar spice, try adding it to your favorite savory dishes.
Not only does apple cider vinegar make for a great salad dressing, but because it’s an astringent it can also combat painful cysts by taming the swelling and getting rid of excess oil. It can also restore your skin’s PH levels which will help prevent acne in the future.
Simply mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water and dip the mixture on a cotton ball, and then apply it on the cysts. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes and then wash your face as you would regularly.
An ingredient that you likely have at home yet works wonders on your skin is baking soda. It works as an exfoliant by combating dead skin cells and removing built-up oil from clogged pores. Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with water, let it sit for a couple of minutes and then wash it off with a gentle cleanser or warm water.
I know aspirin isn’t your typical mask ingredient, but give this mask a go! Squash an aspirin tablet, mix it with water to create a paste and apply it on the affected area. The mask should help with swelling and redness.
This vitamin C powerhouse is another option for a quick treatment. Dab a cotton ball into lemon juice and apply it directly on the cyst. Let it work its magic overnight and wash it off in the morning.
Even though the above-mentioned natural remedies are perfectly applicable to many situations, the safest and most effective option is always to see a board-certified dermatologist. Cystic acne is a bummer, but you have the upper hand. Let us look into the few treatments that can be prescribed to you upon examination.
Using over-the-counter products such as gels, toners and spot treatments is one of the first options you should examine. Ingredients that are often found in these products are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, both of which treat acne locally. The types of products your dermatologist will prescribe to you depend largely on the severity of the acne, the root cause, and your treatment history.
Oral antibiotics combat the bacteria on your skin that is causing the breakouts and the inflammation. The treatment can last up to six months. It’s important to mention that oral antibiotics often come hand-in-hand with a couple of side-effects, such as digestion problems and nausea - sometimes even a yeast infection. In addition, they can also lead to antibiotic resistance, so your body will get less affected by them, even when you would need them for other infections and diseases. Not to mention that in most cases, antibiotics are only a temporary solution. For some patients, acne tends to come back after you go off them.
Women are often prescribed birth control pills by their dermatologist or gynecologist to help with hormonal acne. The pill can help balance out your hormones. It can also be used in combination with antibiotics. Make sure you give a detailed medical history to your doctor beforehand.
Spironolactone is another hormonal treatment prescribed to women that can help with acne caused by hormonal imbalance. It works by lowering testosterone levels, which in turn reduces oil production.
In case none of these treatments work, your case will probably be considered for an Accutane treatment. Accutane is an oral form of vitamin A that kills the bacteria that’s causing the acne, removes excess oil and unclogs the pores. It’s one of the most effective and permanent solutions for cystic acne. It shrinks your oil glands, which changes the quality of your skin in the long run. Most patients don’t relapse after the treatment. Your dosage will depend on the severity of your acne. The recommended daily dose is 0.5 to 1.0 mg/kg/day, taken with food. The treatment lasts from 15 to 20 weeks. The most common side effects include dry skin, redness, itching, and dry lips. While severe side-effects are very rare, you should think about starting Accutane carefully, since it comes with a few risks.
With the help of your dermatologist, a well-established skincare routine is crucial for winning the battle against cystic acne. A gentle yet efficient cleanser that removes excess oil and bacteria is a must! Follow up with a moisturizer that treats the acne, but one that is not too drying on the skin, since that can be counterproductive.
If you are a regular makeup user, make sure to avoid comedogenic makeup ingredients such as oils, silicones, petrochemicals, perfumes, colorants, parabens, phthalates, alcohols, acrylics, and talc. Yes, reading makeup ingredients can be a bore, but you should think of it as an investment in your skin.
Also, make sure to take your makeup off before going to bed. Wear sunscreen underneath your makeup to prevent sun damage.
Wash your hair regularly, since the oil can get on your face, and tie it in a loose bun before going to bed. An easy habit that can be picked up is touching your face with your hands, which can be detrimental to your skin. If you want to get rid of those pesky cysts, avoid touching your chin with your hands.
Drink lots of water on a daily basis. Green tea is another an excellent option because it can lower the androgen levels in the body, and the antioxidants it contains are crucial for a clear complexion. Monitoring your diet is also important. Avoid food that has a high glycemic index like white bread, pasta, processed sugar, and dairy. Instead, opt for as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can.
Manage your stress levels by exercising regularly, doing yoga or meditating. When you exercise, you release endorphins, which minimize stress. In addition to keeping your skin clear, exercise also promotes blood flow in the face, which nourishes your skin and provides the cells with oxygen and nutrients, while also helping collagen production. The sweat cleans your pores inside out.
A topic that’s rarely discussed is the psychological effect of cystic acne. Due to the sensitive nature of the condition, teenagers and young adults who suffer from cystic acne are prone to certain mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Their lowered self-esteem can lead to problems in the long run, which is why it’s important to get to the root cause as soon as possible and treat the acne thoroughly and effectively.
And last but not least, don’t get discouraged - nearly everyone has had some trouble with acne, even celebrities!