Cystic Acne: What Is It And How Do We Treat It?

According to the National Institute of Health, up to 80% of teenagers and young adults deal with some form of acne. And although acne is common and discouraging for all, there are different types and severities of acne. One of the more severe types is cystic acne. Which appears as large, red, painful bumps deep below the surface layer of the skin. Our Atlanta team of trained estheticians are here to tell you what we know about cystic acne, where it comes from, what you can do to prevent it and even what you can do to treat it. Let’s dive in! 

What is cystic acne?

Cystic acne most commonly appears on the face, but can also be found on the shoulders, back, and chest. This type of acne is a bump deep under the skin that is often times very sensitive and red. Unfortunately, these pesky bumps are likely to come up in groups and stay far longer than you’d like them to. One reason they are slower to heal is because the body must reabsorb the inflammation and white cell contents deep inside the skin. By contrast, superficial acne (such as pustules and whiteheads) will often release on their own, with extractions, or respond more readily to topical treatments. Also, given cystic acne’s size and location; these bumps are more likely to leave scars behind.

What are the causes for cystic acne?

Acne tends to pop up when your pores are clogged with oil and dead skin. We go into a lot more detail about that here. This same notion applies to cystic acne; however, what sets it apart from the rest is how deep in the pores the infection has set in. This infection is what causes the painful, red inflammation. As we mentioned in a previous post, there is a link between acne and hormones (i.e., testosterone and the female hormone progesterone). Men tend to be more susceptible to cystic acne and women may see this more around their menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, genetics are a big contributor to cystic acne.

What can we do to prevent it?

In order to fight against acne and hopefully prevent future breakouts, here are a few helpful tips:

  • Clean your skin with a gentle cleanser, or the cleanser recommended by your esthetician, in the morning along with evening before bed. 
  • After sweating, either wash your face or use a pad soaked in toner if you find yourself in more of a time crunch.
  • Avoid overexposure to the sun by applying SPF every day. Wear a hat when you know you will be directly in it.  Sunburns are dehydrating to your skin, and dehydrated skin is a haven for acne bacteria.
  • Try to avoid touching your face, especially popping. This can often push bacteria further into your pores rather than clearing them. It can also bruise the surrounding tissue, meaning more inflammation.
  • Some people find modifying their diet, or eliminating certain foods, will help their acne. If you think your skin might be sensitive to certain foods, try following a clean diet for six weeks. “Clean” means eating mostly plant-based foods and lean meats while avoiding dairy, gluten, refined sugar, and processed foods.  If you notice any improvement, you might be onto something. Then, try adding back foods slowly, one at a time. 

These steps can help to ensure normal acne does not become cystic. However, genetics and hormones may result in cystic acne even after prevention measures. 

What can we do to treat it?

If you do find yourself facing cystic acne, seek professional help. Clinically Clear Atlanta is here to help reduce or eliminate your acne. Professional help will also minimize the likelihood of scars. Another professional our female clients may reach out to is a doctor. As we discussed here, combined oral contraceptives (a.k.a. the pill) can also help to reduce acne frustrations. For some people, the strong medication isotretinoin may be the only option for clearing cystic acne. However, the medicine comes with significant side effects so should not be taken without exhausting all other options. In addition to professional help, here are a few home remedies you can add into your day-to-day schedule:

  • Do not wash too often – this can result in overactive sebaceous glands. Which means more oil, oh no! 
  • Avoid exfoliants when washing. These can be harsh on your already sensitive skin and can further irritate already inflamed spots.
  • No picking or popping! Just like when we talked about preventing cystic acne, the same applies for treating it. Cystic acne in particular typically cannot be “popped” at home without making the situation worse.
  • Avoid heavy makeup or keep a clear face altogether if you can. As well as make sure to remove it before bed.

Acne is stressful as is, and cystic acne can add more pain into that mix. Know that you have options when battling acne. Clinically Clear is here to help you in your fight against breakouts, without breaking the bank. Take the leap to discover healthy, clear skin. Schedule your appointment today.

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