Breaking down Cystic Acne: Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions

While blackheads, whiteheads, and run-of-the-mill pimples can be minor annoyances, cystic acne is another story. Stubborn, deep-rooted and painful, cystic lesions tend to linger. The bad ones leave behind unsightly scars.

For those of us who are prone to cystic acne, managing flares can feel like a constant headache. But it helps to understand the ins and outs of this severe form of acne: What is cystic acne? What are the common cystic acne symptoms? Is cystic acne hormonal? How should you manage flares? Here is essential information on those nasty cysts—everything you need to manage cystic acne.


Ordinary zit or cystic acne?

The average pimple is a small, red bump that resolves quickly with or without intervention. Most pimples won’t leave a mark when they heal (unless you’ve been picking at them, which is an absolute no-no!).

Now, what is cystic acne? Take all the signs and symptoms of minor pimples and push them up a few notches. Where pimples are small and fast-healing, cystic lesions are large, pus-filled, painful… and they just won’t go away! Sometimes the cysts form deep below the skin’s surface, which makes them harder to treat. And when the lesions clear up eventually, because the infection is so deep-rooted, permanent scarring is a risk.

Many people have cystic acne on the face and neck. Most often, you will find cystic acne on the chin and jawline, although some get cystic acne on the cheeks, forehead, and nose. The condition is not limited to the facial region though—cystic acne lesions on the back or chest are quite common as well.


Cystic acne causes: What’s triggering the flares?

Topping the list of cystic acne causes are hormonal fluctuations. When the body produces high levels of certain hormones like testosterone, the sebaceous glands produce more sebum (a natural oil) than you need. This becomes a problem for skin cell turnover, whereby dead skin is shed and new skin is formed.

When excess oil sticks to the dead skin cells, the cells are harder to shed. Dead skin, oil, and dirt form tiny clumps which block the pores, trapping acne bacteria like P. acnes inside. Clogged pores offer the ideal environment for acne-causing bacteria to grow and thrive. If bacteria start proliferating, white blood cells jump in to control the infection, which leads to the inflamed and pus-filled lesions of cystic acne.

Who is at risk of developing cystic acne? Anybody who is experiencing hormonal fluctuations due to:

  • Puberty
  • Menstruation
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause

In each of these cases, the flares tend to go away once hormonal levels normalise. Other risk factors include stress, oily skin, and a family history of cystic acne. Some steroids and hormonal medicines can also be triggers.


Solving a problem like cystic acne

While there are no miracle cures for cystic acne, a cystic acne management plan could be just what your complexion needs. When putting that plan together, consider checking in with the dermatologist. Better to do this sooner rather than later because cystic acne may not resolve on its own. Months of experimenting with over-the-counter products and DIY cystic acne remedies could do more harm than good.

A skin specialist can save you the trouble (and the constant acne anxiety) by suggesting a more nuanced skincare roadmap. That includes the right medicines, procedures, and cystic acne management tips.

(When to see a doctor for your severe acne problem)

Cystic acne treatment suggested by the doctor may include antibiotics or hormone pills.

  • Antibiotics fight the infection-causing bacteria and may reduce
  • Hormonal medicines like birth control pills are prescribed to restore hormonal balance and prevent new flares.

If your cystic acne does not respond to antibiotics, hormonal medication, or other prescription medicine, the doctor may suggest in-office procedures. For example:

  • Corticosteroids may be injected directly into the lesion to speed up healing.
  • The doctor may extract pus from the lesion manually using specialised tools.
  • Chemical peels may be used to remove the outer skin layer and unclog pores.

When the dermatologist lays out a cystic acne treatment plan for you, consult them on what might be a good skincare regimen for you. A simple routine is to cleanse, tone, and boost your skin’s defences with an acne-defying product like Clearica Anti-Acne Cream. A light application controls oil levels, inhibits acne bacteria, and reduces inflammation. Finally, follow up with moisturiser and go about your day.


Cystic acne care: Don’t rush it

Healing takes time when you have cystic acne. In some cases, it takes time to find a treatment plan that works. Don’t get disheartened for you are not alone. You just need to be patient, persistent, and committed to cystic acne management. Clear and healthy skin is possible when you have the right acne care plan.







Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.