Getting to the Root of Cystic Acne

December 2, 2022

Getting to the Root of Cystic Acne

As the most common skin condition in the U.S., acne affects up to 50 million Americans annually. Although acne is usually correlated with puberty and most often occurs in teenage years, many adults face it as well. 

While there are many forms of acne (such as blackheads, whiteheads, and nodules), cystic acne is the most severe and the most uncommon. But if you face cystic acne, have no fear—it is treatable and manageable.

What’s So Different About Cystic Acne?

Cystic acne is distinct from other acne types and more severe because it is rooted deeper in the skin and causes uncomfortable cysts on the skin’s surface. If your acne feels tender, inflamed, or even painful, it could be cystic acne. Like other acne, it can develop on the face, but can also be found on the back, chest, shoulders, and upper arms.

Unlike most other acne types, cystic acne often doesn’t manifest as singular lesions here and there. Cystic acne most often occurs in concentrations of either papules (1 cm. wide or smaller) or nodules (2 cm. wide or larger). 

Cystic acne demands different and more intensive treatment than how you would treat typical blackheads or whiteheads. Unfortunately, cystic acne is very unlikely to clear with just a simple swipe of benzoyl peroxide or a pimple patch, and this is why you should see a trained dermatology provider to help you take care of it.

How Does Cystic Acne Form?

All types of acne are caused by excessive androgens (male hormones) in the body, specifically testosterone. All human bodies produce testosterone, and this is why virtually everyone faces some kind of acne at some point in their lives.

Excessive androgens in the body cause an overproduction of sebum (oil), causing pores to become clogged. When bacteria get involved, acne becomes more severe. If the clogged pores get infected with bacteria, this forms what is known as cystic acne. Inflammation then occurs because the body tries to fight the bacteria in the pore, resulting in the visible redness on the skin’s surface.

Help! How Can I Treat It?

Cystic acne is usually painful, as well as difficult and stubborn to treat. For many people, the condition is also emotionally taxing and can lead to self-esteem issues due to its effects on the appearance. Luckily, the condition is well-understood and well-studied by the dermatological community, and trained providers like our team at Paradise Dermatology can create a safe and effective treatment plan for you. Cystic acne can also lead to scarring—all the more reason to have a professional help you take care of it in a healthy, proper manner so you can avoid as much scarring as possible.

Depending on the severity of your case and any sensitivities you may have, treatment for cystic acne often includes some combination of:

  • Antibiotics (either oral or topical) to kill bacteria, calm redness, and reduce inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid injections to shrink large and painful cysts.
  • Incision and drainage (I+D) procedures to open and drain cysts.
  • Oral contraceptives to better regulate overall hormone levels in females.
  • Retinoids (either oral, like isotretinoin, or topical) to help slough dead skin cells that contribute to clogged pores.

Can I Do Anything Else to Keep Cystic Acne Away?

If you’re facing cystic acne or any other type of acne, there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can make to help keep breakouts at bay. 

  • Wash your face with a mild, foaming facial cleanser and lukewarm water. Use your hands rather than a washcloth, as a washcloth can be abrasive and harsh on the skin.
  • Use oil-free moisturizer.
  • Non-comedogenic makeup is a must, and don’t ever sleep in makeup.
  • Avoid touching your face during the day, especially with unwashed hands.
  • At all costs, avoid picking at or popping cysts or scabs—this is very damaging and can lead to scarring.

Get Set Up with a Treatment Plan at Paradise

Cystic acne can be difficult, painful, and frustrating, but treatment is possible. Our expert team at Paradise Dermatology is equipped with the knowledge and resources to get to the root of your situation and craft a personalized treatment plan with your health, self-confidence, and well-being in mind.

Book your appointment here!