There are various types of skin breakouts people experience but cystic acne is one of the most painful and difficult to treat. Cystic acne develops when an infection forms deep in the skin tissue but does not come to a head like pimples. Cystic acne also doesn’t heal with over-the-counter (OTC) medications like other forms of acne.
Anyone can develop cystic acne, but some things may make it worse. A family history increases the risk of this type of acne and external factors such as stress, hormone changes, and diet can exacerbate the condition.
There are several over-the-counter treatment options but most are designed for other types of acne.Non-prescription, OTC products don’t penetrate the skin to get to the infection source, and, if left untreated, cystic acne may cause permanent scarring.Therefore, it’s important to see a dermatologist.
There are different medication options your dermatologist might prescribe to help clear up the cysts and prevent possible complications, including:
- Oral antibiotics – these medications kill the bacteria that are the source of the infection allowing cysts to heal from the inside out
- Birth-control pills – a treatment option for women who develop cystic acne due to hormones
- Prescription-strength topical treatments– creams, lotions, or soaps are often used in combination with other acne treatments
- Spironolactone – a diuretic that also works as a hormone blocker
- Cortisone shots – medication injected into individual cysts by your dermatologist to clear them quickly Note: this won’t work for more widespread cystic acne
- Isotretinoin (Accutane) – an oral treatment given once or twice a day
Even though OTC treatments don’t get rid of cystic acne, there are some things you can do at home to aid in the healing. When a cyst develops, do NOT pick or squeeze it, since this can lead to possible infection, increased pain and inflammation, a sore that takes longer to heal or even permanent scarring.
Advil and ice packs can also help decrease inflammation and pain while the cysts are healing. Reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep, and exercise can prevent your body from releasing extra hormones, which might help prevent future breakouts.