Cystic acne is a highly intense form of acne that displays painful and pus-filled lesions that extend far beneath the skin’s surface. This specific type of acne can be complicated to treat, but there are effective methods to help manage and prevent cystic acne breakouts. Our team of Skin Health Experts has hand-picked the top five techniques for addressing cystic acne, like changing your skin care products to add acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and hydrocortisone.

What causes Cystic Acne?

Severe acne, specifically cystic acne, can be particularly inflammatory, causing more substantial and uncomfortable outbreaks than other types of acne. Similarly to different types of acne, cystic acne is brought about by various factors:

  • Overproduction of oil from overactive oil glands
  • Excess dead skin that gets trapped in the pores
  • Acne-causing bacteria on the skin

Cystic acne, in particular, is often associated with changes in hormone levels within the body, which can trigger outbreaks during puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, or other types of hormonal conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Cystic or hormonal acne isn’t a struggle you’re facing in solitude. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, nearly 40 million citizens in the U.S. grapple with acne cysts and are looking for ways to treat them properly. However, the treatment method for cystic acne differs from that for traditional black or whiteheads. To manage cystic acne effectively, it is crucial to establish the fundamental cause of the condition before commencing any treatment. By identifying the root cause of your cystic acne outbreaks, you can take proactive measures to mitigate the chances of future breakouts. Numerous treatment options are available for cystic acne once the underlying cause has been determined.

Use a Cleanser Containing Benzoyl Peroxide

If you’ve ever tried acne treatment products, you’ve probably already used benzoyl peroxide. FDA-approved benzoyl peroxide products are available over the counter and may be produced in stronger prescription strengths. To help minimize breakouts, use a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide twice daily. Our Anti Bac(r) Acne Clearing Lotion is an excellent option for those extra pesky cystic acne flare-ups, as it contains 5% benzoyl peroxide and is formulated to help clear acne-prone skin.

Apply a Spot Treatment with Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is an ideal ingredient for deep skin exfoliation and works wonders at diminishing the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads. Because of its ability to sweep away dead skin and clear pores, it’s a valuable treatment option for managing cystic acne. Apply a spot treatment containing salicylic acid to any areas where you experience breakouts. The EradiKate(r) Acne Treatment contains 10% sulfur and 2% salicylic acid, making it a powerful spot treatment for cystic acne.

Use a Moisturizer with Non-Comedogenic Ingredients

Ensuring your skin is properly hydrated is crucial for any skincare routine, but it’s essential when battling cystic acne. Facial moisturizers with oil-free, non-comedogenic, and water-based labels are usually a good sign that the product contains ingredients that will not clog your pores. When analyzing the ingredients in your moisturizer, consider opting for one that includes both ceramides and hyaluronic acid to alleviate and hydrate acne-prone skin while easing inflammation associated with breakouts.

Consider Using a Hydrocortisone Cream

We know how painful inflamed cystic acne spots can get, and hydrocortisone cream is a great OTC product to help relieve that pain and redness. We recommend applying a skinny layer of cream to any cystic acne bumps to help soothe and minimize the appearance of blemishes. This cream should be used sparingly; overuse can thin your skin and make it even more susceptible to scarring or redness.

Take an Oral Medication as Directed by Your Dermatologist

In severe cases of cystic acne, oral medications may be necessary to help manage breakouts. If you’ve tried the traditional methods to curb your cystic acne, it could be time to talk to a dermatologist about more intensive treatments. A dermatologist can determine which medication would be best for you and your unique skin concerns, whether through antibiotics, hormonal drugs, or isotretinoin (Accutane). If you and your doctor decide an oral medication is the best route for your treatment, it is super important to use the drug only as directed by your dermatologist. Some medications require more closely monitoring specific vitals, so confirm with your doctor before taking any new medicines.

In addition to these methods, there are a few other things you can do to help prevent cystic acne breakouts:

  • Avoid touching your face: this can quickly transfer bacteria and oil from your hands to your skin.
  • Cleanse your face twice daily with a gentle cleanser: avoid those super abrasive facial peels or exfoliants so you don’t over-irritate your skin.
  • Be sure to remove your makeup before bed habitually: leaving makeup on overnight periodically can clog your pores and lead to even worse breakouts.


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