Cystic Acne: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment (2024)

How is cystic acne managed or treated?

Acne cysts can be difficult to treat. Because they can scar, you should seek help from a dermatologist instead of trying over-the-counter acne products. A dermatologist can teach you how to treat cystic acne.

It can take three months or more to clear up acne cysts. Treatment often involves taking oral antibiotics and applying prescription-strength topical gels or creams to the skin.

Cystic acne treatments include:

  • Antibiotic creams, gels solutions and lotions to kill bacteria and decrease inflammation.
  • Azelaic acid (Azelex®, Finacea®) or salicylic acid to kill bacteria and get rid of excess dead skin cells.
  • Benzoyl peroxide to reduce the number of bacteria on the skin.
  • Retinoids (adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene among others), vitamin A derivatives that help slough dead skin cells.

What are other cystic acne treatments?

Other treatments for cystic acne include:

  • Corticosteroid injections: Used to quickly shrink large, painful acne cysts.
  • Incision and draining: Helps to open up an acne cyst and drain the pus.
  • Birth control pill or spironolactone: Used by women to lower hormone levels that cause cystic acne.
  • Isotretinoin: An oral retinoid (most commonly called Accutane).

What are the complications of cystic acne?

Opening up acne cysts — by popping or picking them — increases the risk of scarring and bacterial skin infections like cellulitis.

Some people develop pigment changes (light or dark) spots at the site of the acne cyst after the skin clears up. These spots may be pink, purple, red, black or brown. They eventually fade away, but it may take more than a year.

Cystic Acne: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment (2024)


Cystic Acne: What Is It, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment? ›

People with cystic acne develop pus-filled acne cysts (pimples) deep under the skin. The acne cysts are often painful and can be large. A dermatologist should treat cystic acne to reduce the risk of scarring and infection. Antibiotics and prescription-strength topical (skin) creams can help clear up your skin.

What is the cause of cystic acne? ›

Cystic acne is the result of your body attacking infection. It starts when oil and dead skin cells collect inside your hair follicles. These materials block the pores, creating the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria. These bacteria cause infections.

How to treat an acne cyst? ›

One way your dermatologist can get rid of a painful cyst or nodule is to inject it with a corticosteroid. This helps to quickly reduce the size and pain. Another procedure is called incision and drainage. It's used to drain a large, painful acne cyst or nodule that medicine cannot clear.

What diseases cause cystic acne? ›

Here are some acne-causing medical conditions to be aware of.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs among females and commonly affects the menstrual cycle. ...
  • Cushing's syndrome. ...
  • Androgen-secreting tumors.

What causes cysts on the face? ›

Cysts can develop as a result of an infection, clogging of sebaceous glands (oil glands), or around foreign bodies, such as earrings. Some cysts don't require treatment, but others can progress. Talk to your doctor if your bump grows or causes pain. They can prescribe medication or do procedures to treat the cyst.

How to pop a cystic pimple? ›

What not to do. While a cystic pimple heals, it is important to be gentle with the skin. Do not try to pop, pick, or squeeze a cystic pimple. It may be tempting, but popping a pimple can introduce more bacteria to the pore, slow healing, drive the infection deeper into the skin, and increase the chance of scarring.

Can cystic acne be caused by stress? ›

Stress does not cause acne, but it can trigger or worsen it by changing a person's hormone balance. Stress can affect a person's hormonal balance and the skin's immune function. When a person is stressed, the body releases cortisol. This may lead to a worsening of acne.

How to shrink a cystic pimple overnight? ›

How to get rid of cystic pimples
  1. Warm compress. A green tea bag or other compress soaked in warm water may help soothe your cyst. ...
  2. Cold compress. A cold compress may help decrease inflammation, but avoid putting ice directly on your skin. ...
  3. Advil. ...
  4. Cortisone. ...
  5. Prescription skincare (like Curology!).
Jan 27, 2020

How long will an acne cyst last? ›

Acne cysts are filled with pus, which means they are often softer than nodules, and they typically last for around one month without treatment. By contrast, acne nodules will remain intact under the skin's surface, and they may be skin toned. Nodular acne can persist for weeks or months without treatment.

How do you unclog a cyst? ›

Apply moist heat to the area
  1. Soak a clean towel or washcloth in warm water.
  2. Wring the water from the cloth.
  3. Place it gently on the cyst. Leave it in place for up to 10 minutes.
  4. Repeat the treatment 3–4 times each day, using a clean washcloth each time.
Jul 25, 2019

What deficiency causes cystic acne? ›

A 2013 study investigated the blood levels of zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin E in people with and without acne. The researchers found that the levels of all of these vitamins and minerals were significantly lower in the people with acne. They concluded that a diet rich in these nutrients could help prevent or treat acne.

What drug causes cystic acne? ›

Drug-induced acne, or drug-induced acneiform eruption, is an adverse effect of a series of systemic drugs, such as corticosteroids, lithium, vitamin B12, thyroid hormones, halogen compounds (iodine, bromine, fluorine, and chlorine), antibiotics (tetracycline and streptomycin), antituberculosis drugs (INH), lithium ...

What foods can cause cystic acne? ›

You're more likely to have acne if your diet is full of foods and drinks like soda, white bread, white rice, and cake. The sugar and carbohydrates in these foods tend to get into your blood really quickly. That means they are high on the glycemic index, a measure of how foods affect blood sugar.

What is the root cause of cystic acne? ›

Cystic acne — the most severe form of acne — occurs when oil and dead skin cells build up deep within hair follicles. The resulting rupture within your skin may form boil-like inflammation. Acne signs vary depending on the severity of your condition: Whiteheads (closed plugged pores)

Why am I getting cystic acne all of a sudden? ›

Cystic acne causes include: Age (teenagers are more prone to cystic acne). Family history of cystic acne. Hormone changes during the teenage years and sometimes during menopause, and stress.

What can I put on a cyst to draw it out? ›

Apply warm, wet face cloths to the lump for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day. If you prefer, you can also use a hot water bottle or heating pad over a damp towel. Be careful not to burn your skin.

What hormone causes cystic acne? ›

Androgens. Androgens represent the most important of all hormones regulating sebum production. As of puberty, androgens stimulate sebum production and acne formation in both sexes. This androgen-dependent secretion of sebum is mediated by potent androgens such as testosterone and DHT and likewise with weaker androgens.

How long do cystic pimples last? ›

Acne cysts are filled with pus, which means they are often softer than nodules, and they typically last for around one month without treatment. By contrast, acne nodules will remain intact under the skin's surface, and they may be skin toned. Nodular acne can persist for weeks or months without treatment.

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