Everything You Need to Know About Cystic Acne Treatment

Cystic acne is an eye-popping woe of young adulthood. According to the National Institute of health, eight in ten people develop acne between the ages of 11 and 30. When you take a quick survey of a subway, everyone does not have the same acne type.

The painful, swollen, and red pimple is cystic acne - the type that leaves scars. Unfortunately, researchers have not fully understood the causes of acne cyst. However, there are new and improved cystic acne treatments, and a lot you can do at home to tame and prevent scars on your pretty face.


Quick Facts About Cystic Acne

The following are key points about cystic acne. More supporting information and details about cystic acne treatment are in the body of this article.

  • Acne is common and easy to identify. Cystic acne is relatively more severe and less common
  • While cystic acne is caused by many factors, pinpointing a specific cause might be impossible, it is mainly caused by hormonal changes in puberty or during menstrual cycles.
  • Greasy foods, nuts, poor hygiene, masturbation, or sex does not cause acne cyst.
  • Cystic acne can be emotionally distressing considering its effects on facial appearance.

What Is Cystic Acne?

cystic acne treatment at home

Cystic acne is an acne-type found deep in skin tissues, which never actually develop a poppable head. It is a skin infection, which looks more like having a kneel scrape which gets red and infected. It is a large, fluid-filled cyst under the skin surface which is painful to touch. Cystic acne can last 1-4 weeks if left untreated and new ones may continue to form.

In most people, cystic acne appears on the shoulders, upper arms, chest, and back. It is different from the commonly observed whiteheads, and blackheads as the cyst are formed deep in the skin layer, with inflammation, hence the scarring. 

Causes of Cystic Acne

Causes of Cystic Acne

The moisture on your skin and the apparent smoothness is a result of oil glands attached to the skin pores. The pore is where dead skin cells leave the body, and the generation of new ones occur. Whiteheads, blackheads, and other acne types pop up when your skin pores get clogged with dead skin and oil. It goes a step further with cystic acne, as inflammation - i.e., bacteria are trapped within your skin pores causing pain, swelling, and redness.

Sadly, this condition occurs to almost everyone, and there are many factors which trigger the risk of cystic acne. Pinpointing a specific cause is practically impossible, cystic acne might pop up during menstrual cycles. There can be an outbreak due to an increase in hormonal activities associated with that time of the month. When hormonal shifts characterized by this period occur, it can send your oil-producing glands into overdrive.

When the oil gland becomes filled with hardened excess oil, it becomes swollen and engorged. Your jawline and chin are most likely to be affected as it has many oil glands, this translates to a higher number of clogged pores and breakouts.

Your diet can also play a significant role in the breakout of cystic acne. I recommend you audit your eating habits to identify culprit foods responsible for your cyst formation. Eliminate specific group of foods and document how your skin condition turns out each time. 

The natural balance of your skin may be altered by the daily intake of certain foods, bringing about inflammation, a precursor to cysts formation. For instance, to determine if dairy intake is responsible for your acne cysts, cut it out of your diet for three weeks. If there is no cysts formation during this period, you might have solved your cyst problem.

Consuming a diet that ranks high on the glycemic index increases the susceptibility to cystic acne. Scientific evidence has shown that a high glycemic diet can trigger acne because sugars are inflammatory. You must reduce the consumption of your favorite foods. You do not have to remove it from your diet completely.

Simply introduce the food slowly into your diet, note when you develop acne breakout, this is your body tolerance level.

Others Causes of Acne Include

  • Greasy cosmetics, clothing, lotions, and cleansers
  • Genetically, some people are more prone to acne than others
  • Some chemicals and drugs such as isoniazid, phenytoin, lithium, corticosteroids, which may trigger breakouts like acne.
  • Pregnancy, the use of hormone therapy, birth control, stress
  • High humidity and sweating.

How to Identify Cystic Acne

How to Identify Cystic Acne

As mentioned earlier, cystic acne is a more severe form of acne, it is larger and occurs in deep layers within the skin. Every other type of acne develops on the surface of the skin. A cyst may come across as a boil on the skin; the following are helpful identifiers.

  • Large pus-filled cyst
  • Large white bump
  • Redness
  • Tender or painful to the touch

Cystic acne appears mostly on the face, they are also readily found on the shoulders, behind the ear, arms, chest, and neck.

Cystic Acne Treatments 

Cystic acne is a stubborn acne type like any other, most over the counter treatments are not strong enough. It is recommended you see a dermatologist for prescriptions, and most treatments may not give full results until the eight weeks. The following are recommended cystic acne treatments, talk to your doctor as some acne outbreaks require combinational therapies.

1. Oral Antibiotics

If you develop cystic acne which covers a large area of your skin, a doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic. It is effective in eliminating bacteria and inflammation implicated in the cystic acne formation. On the other hand, antibiotics will not expunge dead skin cells nor alleviate excess oil.

Because of the associated condition of bacterial resistance, antibiotics should be used only in the short term. If after its use, there is no improvement in your condition, it is likely you are advised to start using isotretinoin.

Antibiotics may have the following side effects

  • Vomiting
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

2. Isotretinoin 

Cystic Acne Treatments

Isotretinoin (Accutane) is considered the most potent cystic acne treatment. It is made from a powerful vitamin A derivative, taken orally every day.

A study reported about 85 percent improvement of cystic acne cases within four to six months after isotretinoin prescription. Isotretinoin is effective in treating cystic acne, however, please see your doctor if you experience the following:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Blood in your urine
  • Skin inflammation
  • Bruising
  • Persistent headaches or nosebleeds
  • New or worsening mood disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

3. Spironolactone

Spironolactone is a diuretic used to treat high blood pressure and edema. It is also highly effective in cystic acne treatment. It functions by maintaining excess androgen levels which could be a contributory factor to acne inflammation. Spironolactone is effective only in women with cystic acne on their lower face and jawline.

Do not take spironolactone if you are planning a pregnancy; it may cause congenital disabilities. People with kidney infection should also stay away from spironolactone.

A study reported that doses of 50 to 100mg milligrams daily works best. However, some prescriptions go as high as 200 mg daily. It reduces side effects such as:

  • Menstrual irregularities
  • High blood potassium (Hyperkalemia)
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Breast tenderness

4. Topical Retinoids 

Topical retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A, but they do not have the strength of isotretinoin. Topical retinoids solve your cystic acne dilemma by unplugging hair follicles. When your hair follicles are unplugged, there is a lesser risk of developing acne cyst.

Topical retinoids are one part of a combinational therapy, mostly with antibiotics, which increases its effectiveness. Topical retinoids come in the form of lotions, gels or creams used daily. However, the over the counter retinoid (adapalene) may not be effective; as cystic acne only responds to specific prescription length formulas which include:

  • Tazorac
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Some people complain of skin redness and peeling after using topical retinoids. However, these sides effects are temporary; you may experience it as your skin get used to the medication. Retinoids can increase your sunlight sensitivity; therefore, you need to spend less time under the sun and wear sunscreen.

5. Steroid Injections

Some acne treatment involves the injection of a corticosteroid called triamcinolone into the cyst. This procedure is done by a dermatologist to reduce inflammation and prevent scarring. There may localized side effects after the injection, but it is short-lived, and you should feel better afterward.

In some cases, the dermatologist may also create an incision on large cyst for drainage. Do not try this at home, as you would create more significant skin problems, infections, and scarring.

Homemade Cystic Acne Remedies

The conventional treatments listed above are expensive and might cause undesirable side effects such as irritation, redness, and dryness. It has led many to source for alternative, inexpensive natural acne treatments readily available at home. The internet has many suggestions, but do they work?

Below are scientific backed inexpensive homemade cystic acne treatments.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Cystic Acne Treatments: Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is an effective cystic acne treatment which combats many types of bacteria and viruses. It is made from fermenting apple cider or from unfiltered juice from pressed apples. Studies have shown apple cider vinegar contains organic acids which eliminates acne.

Furthermore, the succinic acid in apple cider vinegar suppresses inflammation and prevent scarring. It also contains lactic acid which helps improve the appearance of acne scars – while also drying up excess oil that causes acne in the first place.

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Purchase apple cider vinegar, mix ratio 1 to 3 with water (apple cider 1: water 3). For more sensitive skin, use more water.
  • Clean your face or affected body part, and gently wipe your skin with the mixture using a cotton ball.
  • Allow to sit in for 5 – 20 seconds, rinse with fresh water and pat dry
  • Repeat this process as needed, 1 – 2 times daily is advised.
    Please note, using apple cider vinegar without dilution can cause irritation and burns to your skin. Only use small quantity diluted with water.

2. Honey and Cinnamon Mask

Cystic Acne Treatments: Honey and Cinnamon Mask

Honey and cinnamon are rich in antioxidants. A study gives credence to the cystic acne treating ability of antioxidants, showing that it is more effective than retinoids and peroxide. These two medications are scientifically proven to have antibacterial properties.

The antioxidants in the study were linoleic (omega-6), vitamin b3 and sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP), a derivative of vitamin C. These antioxidants are not present in cinnamon or honey, but it is possible other antioxidants have similar effects.

Honey and cinnamon are effective in reducing inflammation and inhibiting the proliferation of bacteria. These factors are complicit in acne outbreaks. While the antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of honey and cinnamon is beneficial to acne-prone skin, there exists no proof of their ability to treat acne.

How to Make Honey and Cinnamon Mask

  • Form a paste by mixing 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of honey.
  • Clean your face and apply the mask to the affected skin surface
  • Allow to sit in for 10 – 15 minutes
  • Rinse off and pat your face dry.

3. Tree Oil Treatment

Cystic Acne Treatments: Tree Oil Treatment

Tree oil is a proven essential oil for fighting bacteria and reducing inflammation. It is an extract of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, native to Australia. Studies have backed the acne-reducing ability of tree oil.

A study which involved a comparison between tree oil acne-killing ability to 5% benzoyl peroxide, showed tree oil was not as fast as 5% benzoyl peroxide, but 5% tree oil concentration did improve acne condition after three months use. 

Fewer cases of burning, irritation, and dryness were also reported compared to benzoyl peroxide. Tree oil is highly concentrated, it is advisable you dilute with water before use.

How to Use Tree Oil

  • Dilute one-part tree oil to 9 parts of water
  • Apply the mixture to affected skin using a cotton swab.
  • Use moisturizer if needed
  • Repeat the process as needed.


You should take care of your skin and prevent cystic acne by:

  • Gently washing your face one a day before bed. With the aid of a cleanser, remove excess oil and dirt. Stay away from harsh or drying cleansers.
  • Do not pick your skin. Picking mild acne can lead to severe cystic build-ups.
  • Avoid makeups as much as you can, and select oil-free and noncomedogenic products when looking to buy.
  • Protect yourself from sunburn by wearing sunscreen every day. Acne medication can make your skin sensitive to sunburns as well as skin cancer.
  • Remove all makeups before going to bed.

Following the Healthy Lifestyle

  • Avoid food which ranks high on the glycemic index. These foods include sugary treats, rice, pasta, and white bread.
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    Avoid unnecessary stress. Stress is complicit in acne breakouts.
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    After workouts, gently wash your face to remove bacteria and oil

How to Prevent Cystic Acne Skin Scaring

People often ask how to prevent scarring from acne cyst. The best way to prevent scarring is to leave all cysts alone. Do not pick! Do not pop! While picking or popping a cyst can lead to scarring, it can also lead to the spread of infections.

Having scars from acne can be emotionally draining, and its best to prevent the formation of scars in the first place, however, there are some available treatments which can help reduce acne scars. Please note, you need to treat the cystic acne first before looking to address the scars. Some of the available scar treatments include:

Dermabrasion from a dermatologist

Dermabrasion from a dermatologist

Chemical peels

Chemical peels

Laser resurfacing from a dermatologist

Laser resurfacing from a dermatologist


I hope you have learned something about cystic acne treatment. If you are suffering from a severe breakout, visit a dermatologist. Whether it is surgical removal or prescription medicine the dermatologist understands the appropriate treatment method for your condition. Cystic acne can lead to scarring, which is difficult to treat at home.

A dermatologist can prescribe medications and help prevent recurrence. Whatever the choice of treatment, it can take several months before you see significant results. Furthermore, leaving the acne - no popping - no picking can prevent a recurrence.

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