Like with most problems in life, the challenge of dealing with acne depends on its severity. Sure, Sure, the occasional rash, redness, or pimple or two might make you feel self-conscious. But if you get such a mild type of acne inflammation, you should really be thanking the heavens. You're part of a large and fairly comfortable majority that doesn't have to deal with the plight of cystic acne. This type of acne is the worst you can get.
But before we talk about treating cystic acne, let's learn more about what it is.
Yes, and consider yourself lucky if you haven't heard of it.
If acne was a video game, cystic acne would be the end boss. You have to use everything at your disposal and try hard to beat it.
Acne usually begins with clogged pores, which form either whiteheads (closed comedones) or blackheads (open comedones). These are easy to treat and fairly harmless - even popping them won't lead to scarring. But if they end up infected by bacteria, or they simply become too clogged by sebum (skin oil), these blackheads and whiteheads can turn into pimples.
Now, pimples are already unsightly and a problem. But they are still somewhat easy to get rid of.
However, when pimples turn to pustules and those to cystic acne, we have a serious problem.
Cystic acne resembles large, irregularly shaped, sometimes wobbly nodules. They are large and irregular because they have damaged the lower layers of the skin, and they are wobbly because they're filled with pus and blood. Try to pop them or squeeze them, and not only will you be in intense pain, but you'll also risk causing yourself lifelong scars.
Depending on the underlying cause of cystic acne, your body will respond to some treatments better than others.
Sometimes, acne cysts can be caused by a bacterial infection. But other times, this form of severe acne can be due to genetics or hormonal changes in your body. For that reason, it's always necessary to consult your doctor and dermatologist before going forward with any cystic acne treatments. Medical professionals will be able to tell you precisely what kind of acne you're dealing with, as well as the appropriate treatments for it.
Cystic acne can sometimes appear on oddly specific areas of the body. Usually, they appear on the face, the chin, or the neck, but the back and the chest aren't spared too. For those who wonder how to deal with cystic acne in a specific area of your body, consult our articles on how to treat cystic acne on the chin and cystic acne on the neck.
For clarity, the solutions in this article have been organized into two categories: medical treatments, and other treatments (including home remedies).
Science is trying hard to find a miracle cure for acne, especially clear, severe acne, but so far, it remains out of reach. However, there are several effective cystic acne treatments that can be very beneficial for treating this condition.
Also known as Roaccutane and Isotretinoin, Accutane is one of the most powerful weapons modern medicine deploys against cystic acne. It's a retinoid, a variant of Vitamin A, which is one of the crucial vitamins in maintaining skin health. Besides Accutane, there is a class of weaker and safer substances called topical retinoids, often used in skin care and anti-acne creams.
Take Misumi's Retinol Intense Repair PM Creme, for example. This acne treatment will unclog pores, clear acne-causing bacteria, improve hyperpigmentation, and reduce acne breakouts.
But why is Accutane so powerful? Well, because the effects it has aren't merely constrained to the superficial level. Accutane works on a deep cellular level, affecting the DNA of the cells themselves. This is why Accutane is also one of the strictest medical treatments to use. Its sheer power and deeply restorative properties can cause serious side effects. From depression, persistent headaches, and swollen and painful joints, all the way to birth defects, Accutane is not to be trifled with.
However, the payoffs are totally worth it, according to most people who have tried Accutane. The therapy is difficult to endure since it involves months of waiting and many anxiety-inducing challenges. But with a success rate of 85%, we'd say enduring some routines and dealing with some bearable side effects is a fair price.
When successful, Accutane transforms people's faces from crater-ridden surfaces resembling the Moon to buttery smooth, clear skin. For more in-depth information on all the details and aspects of this treatment, visit our article dedicated to Accutane for acne.
These may be less effective than Accutane but are still helpful in the overall treatment of cystic acne. Antibiotics such as tetracycline, clindamycin, erythromycin, metronidazole, and others are often prescribed by doctors or dermatologists. Most of these antibiotics can often be applied in two ways - either as topical products or taken orally.
Most often, your doctor or dermatologist will prescribe you a topical antibiotic. As the name suggests, these come in the form of creams, gels, and tinctures and need to be applied to the cystic acne itself. Topical antibiotics can calm inflammation since they kill acne-causing bacteria, making them great for both cystic and inflammatory acne.
Oral antibiotics for cystic acne are your usual pill or tablet - you will need to swallow a dose that your doctor prescribes to you. When taking oral antibiotics, it's crucial to be consistent with the doses and the schedules. An antibiotic needs a few days until it reaches a saturation level, when it can kill bacteria. The skin is difficult to reach as it is, so when dealing with a serious acne inflammation, make sure that you take your prescribed oral medication religiously.
For more on antibiotics and strong medications for cystic acne, head over to our guide covering strong acne medications.
Oral contraceptives don't just regulate your menstrual cycle and stop pregnancy. Sometimes, cystic acne can be caused by hormonal changes. If this is the case for you, you will probably be prescribed estrostep, tricyclen, or YAZ birth control pills.
Oral contraceptives are useful for rebalancing the estrogen and progesterone hormones, eliminating the root cause of hormonal cystic acne. However, be very careful when taking any hormone therapy since the consequences can drag on for a long time.
Under "other," you'll find any procedure, cystic acne treatment, or remedy that doesn't need a doctor's prescription - you can purchase them over the counter. These can range from DIY solutions to topical treatments and face masks. Let’s see.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and sometimes those measures can be a little gross. But what would you do if you woke up with an especially large, painful, and, well… gross acne cyst on your face? And there is an important meeting on the very same day? Or, God forbid, a date!
Right, we're panicking too! But there's no need - you're in safe hands. Of course, it's always best to visit your dermatologist and let them drain your cyst professionally. But when you're out of time, you can safely drain a cyst on your own too.
To learn how to do it, check out our article on how to drain a cyst with a needle.
So, there you are, going through yet another cystic acne inflammation. You need to do something about it, but the doctor isn't available, and your dermatologist decided to take their summer holiday.
So, what are you going to do? Sitting on your hands is not an option.
Lucky for you, we have taken the time to research and provide a list of some of the best DIY spot treatments for acne. From crushed aspirin to face packs, ice packs, clay masks, honey, tea tree oil and more, these acne treatment options can - at least - alleviate your cystic acne, if not cure it.
For more information and a dozen recipes, visit our article on DIY spot treatments for acne.
Don't let the phrase "chemical peel" put you off - it's a pretty safe and controlled procedure. It involves the application of an exfoliating substance, such as salicylic acid, to the skin. The purpose of a chemical peel is to remove - and rejuvenate - the skin's surface layer, which can remove excess oil, and dead skin cells and decrease inflammation. This is why chemical peels are mostly used in the treatment of acne scars, something that is a much greater problem for people with severe cystic acne.
The body regenerates the surface layers of the skin after a period of recovery, smoothing out wrinkles or uneven areas. There are three types of chemical peel procedures organized by their reach: light chemical peel (or 'superficial peel'), medium chemical peel, and deep chemical peel.
Before trying an over-the-counter chemical peel for your cystic acne, you should consult with your doctor or a dermatologist. After all, you don't want to hurt yourself, right?
For more details on chemical peels and whether you should get one, check out our article on chemical peels for acne.
From cystic pimples and painful bumps, acne flare-ups are the worst, impacting not just our appearance but our mental health too. Adopting a good skincare routine to help keep your skin clean and healthy will not only treat acne - it will also help prevent cystic acne.
Those with acne-prone skin and similar skin conditions must opt for certain products, such as an oil-free moisturizer or a gentle cleanser. Other products may cause you to develop acne. Whether you suffer from mild acne or severe acne vulgaris, opting for non-comedogenic products is essential to treating acne. Otherwise, you may worsen acne and end up with more severe cystic breakouts.
Misumi offers a range of skin care products that are specifically designed to improve oily skin and curb painful pimples. Try the Complete Clear 3-Step System or the AHA 10% Skin Perfecting Cleanser, which is designed to reduce excess oil, remove dead skin cells, and prevent pore clogging, resulting in fewer cystic acne flare-ups.
Serious problems require serious solutions, and that might be the case for cystic acne. It's considered the most severe type of acne inflammation, the causes of which can vary anywhere from genetics, to hormones, to a nasty bacterial infection.
While there are a number of DIY solutions and remedies you can try to make it easier (ice packs feel great), you should really think about speaking to your doctor and board-certified dermatologist. Whether you have teenage or adult acne, it doesn't have to last forever.
Science has some very powerful tools at your disposal when it comes to dealing with cystic acne and acne cysts, so you shouldn't hesitate. Sometimes, letting professionals take care of us is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
American Academy of Dermatology - Acne Clinical Guideline
A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients
Acne: more than skin deep
Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.